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tv   News  Al Jazeera  March 22, 2016 5:00am-5:31am EDT

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possibly going to lead to a security clamp down in france? are there concerns that we might see another attack there? >> reporter: they're already under a state of emergency with security levels at the very highest level possible. there's nowhere else for them to go. there will be a high-level meeting where francois hollande called in his interior minister, other security officials to assess what's going on in belgium and to figure out some responses necessary. as i said, when you're already under a state of emergency and you already have thousands of troops who might be on assignment overseas actually deployed on the streets of the cities, all over france, it's difficult to see where you can go from there
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french is as worried as the belgium that a series of coordinated attacks, at times within moments of each other that it's possible to carry out that operation at a time when someone has the i'm recollection that brussels is on the lock down and i was in brussels until saturday evening covering the arrest of salah-abdeslam and military presence the street was noticeable because clearly they were aware this is a sensitive time because according to the way that intelligence agencies understand these networks there -- when one cell goes down and one could perceive the arrest of salah-abdeslam being closed down another cell will automatically be activated so there already was awareness that other cells
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could automatically be activated the hours and days following the arrest of salah-abdeslam and despite the police warned about it and intelligence knew it was a possibility it happened and leaves the french authorities and authorities all over europe and not to mention ordinary people who take trains and use the under ground really wondering what more can be done to try to anticipate and prevent these kind of incidents. >> as you say there will be a meeting with francois hollande later on and jackie when you get some detail from that we will come back to you and this is what we know so far there has been one explosion at malbik station at the metro under ground network and media says the brussels metro is being closed down, that station really is in the heart of the city, very close to eu institutions
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and many high-profile people going through that station. around 8:00 a.m. local time explosions went off at the airport, one was in the departure area and one was outside the terminal building. according to local television ten people are dead and 30 injured, actually that has been upgraded to 13 dead and 35 people injured. the belgium prime minister has been reacting to the news. he says we are following the situation minute by minute and authority given to the victims and people present at the airport and emron-khan has the report. >> reporter: this video taken a few moments after the explosion at brussels airport. eyewitnesses say they felt the blast at the airport.
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>> it was coming towards us. >> reporter: one killed with local media reporting more casualties but that has not been confirmed. the blast took place after 7:00gmt with another an hour later near a metro station in the city. belgium on high alert in brussels last week since salah-abdeslam an and said it could have been a planned attack. >> if they have an operation in the later planning stages they bump up the timeline before they planned to and this could have been the case right here. the two explosions this morning, reports that there may have been other ieds or improvised explosive devices recovered at
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the airport that did not detonate and says this would have been planned and not necessarily complex but would have been planned. >> interior ministry raised the threat level to the highest and rail services to the airport have been cancelled. al jazeera. >> also want to show you what it looks like where this is unfolding so you can get a sense of what is going down this morning and the first two explosions were at the airport about 12 kilometers northeast of brussels. then about half an hour after that an explosion at the melbik train station in the city center, the under ground metro is situated close to eu buildings including the european parliament and james base is in geneva and talks on syria's future are underway there and james i believe you have been getting more reaction to what has happened. >> yes. reaction coming in from european
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leaders, most of them using twitter to give their instant reaction to the events and we have the first reaction from a senior member of the european commissioner who is vice president of the european commission and tweeted shocked by the terrible events in brussels this morning. my thoughts are with those effected and stay safe and a later tweet jane from a very senior eu official from bulgaria and secretary-general and following the situation in brussels eu institutions working together to ensure the security of staff and premises and she goes on with direct advice to those in the area, please stay home or inside buildings, that is from kristina the vice president of the eu. hearing from other european leaders steffa nshgn prime mini
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of sweden and carl built has been tweeting and he is suggesting that he knows who is responsible for this and he says da'esh network now striking hard after brussels arrest and known they still have assets and some are down but still might have more and one final tweet coming in the last few minutes david cameron the uk prime minister shocked by the events in brussels and will do everything to help and moments ago he tweeted again i will be chairing a cobra meeting later this morning. cobra is the equivalent in the uk in number ten do you knowing street the prime minister's office of the situation room in the white house. it actually stands for cabinet office briefing room a where the uk deals with any major emergency so this strike on brussels, not just the strike on belgium but the strike on the european institutions deemed
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serious enough that crisis meetings are happening in various european capitols. >> james, do you think it will impact the talks in geneva considering how many ties there are between what is happening in syria, what is happening in europe at the moment? i.s.i.l. which was brought up as you know one of the major perpetrators here the fact that so many fighters are leaving europe to go and train syrian fighters? >> i'm not sure it will directly impact the negotiations because the focus is supposed to be on a political transition in syria but clearly everything here is interconnected, i.s.i.l. control a large swathe of land in syria and excluded from the process and cessation of hostilities and it will take a great deal of time i think to see whether the perpetrators of these attacks are actually directly ordered by i.s.i.l. or influenced by
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i.s.i.l. but certainly among the discussions taking place at these talks there has been talk about the whole terrorism issue and certainly the syrian government side keep raising that and say it's too early to talk about political transition, they need to raise the subject of terrorism. in fact, in a long speech to reporters here on tuesday the syrian ambassador bahar el jeffrey that says when there are attacks in european countries the news media call those who carry out the attacks terrorists and says when it happens in his country syria they are called opposition or rebels and he is certainly making points about terrorism and i'm sure this attack in brussels or these attacks in brussels are likely to be referenced in these talks in the coming days. >> all right james we will leave it there for a moment but we will talk to you again when you get more response from world leaders about what has been happening in belgium this
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morning over the last couple of hours. we are looking at live pictures coming from the brussels metro station which also experienced an explosion. the malbek station and we don't know how big this explosion was, how many people effected and everybody has been evacuated or still being evacuated from the station and very busy station right in the heart of the city. i was asking james about the foreign fighters, the learns between europe and syria, the fact that so many fighters travel between the different countries and let's go live now from the border between syria and turkey. omar what do you know about the fighting, there are large numbers of fighters from europe and where do they go and get their training from? >> well jane since start of the war in syria since 2011 the
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fighting started peacefully and then it quickly transformed to an armed conflict, a lot of fighters from globally basically from around the world were converging on syria. they had forces with a number of groups and then when the syria dragged on we had the biggest group, the most powerful one which is islamic state of iraq and i.s.i.l. and that played a huge part in bringing in a lot of foreign fighters. we are talking about thousands. now it depends on who you believe and who you want to believe from the intelligence services around the west. they say the number of those foreign fighters range somewhere between at looeast 2500 up to
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7,000 or 10,000 fighters. they are all, a lot of them are from africa decent but what is interesting about that is they are born in europe so some from britain and some that come through turkey, turkish border and they go to syria to join sources with i.s.i.l. and that is where they are from and central asia and former countries within the soviet union so basically i.s.i.l. played this role of bringing them all under a big banner and that is why i think afterwards the strategy were trying to send those fighters back to their home land, europe and attacks and may be extremely short at this stage with the responsibility of what is happening in brussels and maybe this could be one of the reasons.
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>> all right thank you for that omar with that update on the foreign fighters that increasingly worrying flow of fighters traveling from europe, getting trained in syria and returning back to europe to conduct these atrocities in many of the countries they were born in. we are looking at live pictures coming from brussels airport after two explosions. we are hearing from one of the local broadcasters that one of the attackers was a suicide attacker. we don't know anything more about what the explosives were, how large they were or are they were placed but one was outside the airport, one was inside the area port and also raises questions about how you can secure something like an airport, like an important airport like that at the heart of political europe. the country is now under lock down and certainly that area is
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under lock down and the security level has been risen to a four which says that there are serious concerns about possible imminent threat after these three explosions that have happened around this city over a period of about three to four hours. i just want to show you what happened immediately after the explosions at 8:00 a.m. this morning local time. look at those people running away from there. absolutely petrified and must have been truly shocking that something like this can happen. there were warnings that an attack was imminent in europe considering the investigation into the paris attacks and one of the main suspects being arrested over the weekend. let's bring in our correspondent
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nieve barker at the airport and people were being evacuated from the airport and hearing more about the explosions and what happened? >> steady stream of people being evacuated from the airport and they are walking past me now, pulling their luggage. about a few seconds ago we did see an airport bus that had been comendeered by the military police or the military school and on board that bus there were dozens of people wearing thermal, tin foil had been wrapped around them and saw a few people with blood stained faces as well. many of them clearly in shock. i did also have a brief conversation with one of the airport staff who was in side the departure hall at the time
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the blast happened and he heard a very loud explosion at the other end of the hall and actually hid underneath the baggage conveyer belt for several minutes before he could make his way down under the airport itself and out of one of the emergency exits and described it as being one of the most freightening moments of his entire life and says something interesting about the level of security at the airport at the time the blast happened and he said there were only ever in the last couple of months a few armed military patrols but that level of security he believes was no where near enough to avoid this kind of attack. airport staff member said it would have been as simple as pushing in a luggage rack with a suitcase and all it had to be left alone for a few minutes to allow a bomb or explosive device to go off so an assessment from people here on the ground as i said though the airport is
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evacuated. >> we are hearing that all of the rail way stations in brussels have been closed. you can understand why that has happened considering a explosion happened and we don't know more of what happened and what kind of explosion and people affected but it's certainly a busy station and it makes sense that the rail way stations have been closed throughout brussels. nieve, the warning, the security levels have been raised to four, that is the highest level that a country can experience. are there concerns that something else is oing to happen considering we have seen three in relatively quick succession? >> that is the most immediate concern for the authorities and what looks like a series of coordinated blasts as you said, three confirmed, two here at the
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airport and one in central brussels and the authorities, police, investigators will be doing as much as they possibly can to pool their intelligence and pool their resources to try and avoid an osability of another attack happening in central brussels or elsewhere. of course in belgium and i imagine the same will apply to the authorities in france and other european cities. because since the arrest of salah-abdeslam on friday both brussels prosecutors said this is on going investigation and the intelligence they glean in the early stage of questioning of salah-abdeslam authorities say it has given leads and intelligence and they have warned of the possibility of more imminent attacks. it had prompted already a heightening of security at the
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borders and beefed up security between several european borders over the course of the weekend but of course what we are seeing now here though despite that level of security and despite that level of concern and the increase in the number of investigators on the ground trying to piece together new leads and act upon new intel agains incidents like this have still happened. >> authorities are warning everybody in brussels or keying with them to remain where they are after the explosions at the airport. i guess and confirming what you are saying they are very worried that more attacks are imminent and an emergency cabinet meeting is taking place and makes you wonder what it is they can do now, what they can say, nieve? >> yes, that is right and the belgium prime minister a short
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while ago convened top level staff and raised the security level from level three to level four which is a maximum, in the wake of paris attacks it was immediately four but reduced back down to level three a couple of months ago and despite the fact that there was this on going concern, this ongoing security threat and despite at the time that the likes of salah-abdeslam was still on the run and of course it's very early days but questions are asked if it was wise to reduce the security level and despite the fact security levels have been reduced there those are very strong military espresence the street of brussels with heightened police presence too and all more visibility at places like train stations and airports but as we heard from the eyewitness i spoke to a little bit earlier on it has
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been very, very difficult indeed to avoid a situation like this despite the regular patrols that were present here at airport. and that really is a crucial question that the authorities here in belgium need to ask themselves, what can they do next and how can they height enthings further and immediately what they need to concentrate on is avoiding any further attacks in brussels and that requires pooling intelligence and resources. >> thanks for that nieve and france is under state of emergency as we know after its paris attacks. this is we are looking at the picture outside the metro station. nieve was saying and posing the question what can be done from a security point of view but we are hearing that despite the state of emergency that the heart of paris has been evacuated. obviously a threat has occurred
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there. this is important station and connects to the euro tunnel which takes people to london and you can see the spread here immediately, really concerns that there may be more attackers out there. let's bring in mohamed who knows a lot about fighters who live in europe, travel to syria, the flow of fighters and what it is that drives them to go to a place like syria, to join groups like i.s.i.l., why does that happen? >> jane in the wake of paris attacks my team and i spent a chunk of time in the south of france in places where there is a real problem of disenfranchised members of the muslim community and most being north africa and a small town and in the last two years in the space of two weeks 6-8 people of a town of citizens i believe only number 30,000 had been killed fighting in syria which
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really shocked a lot of people in transcript -- france and in a country like france does feel marginalized and feel disenfranchise and in wake of paris attacks we went to mosques in the areas and talked to people and said it's a problem in europe and especially france and although the french dpov says there are outreach programs and continues to say they will focus on the programs to be more inclusive members of the communities and all of whom we spoke with condemned attacks whole hardly and felt they had been ignored their entire lives and felt if they had french citizenship since birth because of heritage did not feel included in society and felt looked down upon by elites. >> i have to interrupt you but we have somebody on the line i would like to bring in, steve clemmons is a foreign policy analyst for the atlantic magazine and is on the phone from brussels and steve tell me
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where you are now, where you were when these explosions took place, what you saw. >> yeah, i had just gotten to brussels airport. i had a flight scheduled there from brussels to washington and had arrived and them essentially didn't hear the bomb but saw the chaos after and had just been there and saw smoke and then we were immediately sent back downstairs where the train is and basically forced to leave and we went back to the brussels north station and i dizzy not remain in the malee but i was there in the beginning of when the chaos started and we get back to brussels. >> sorry, what were people saying and what is the speculation? >> i think at the time people knew immediately what had
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happened. i mean it was just very interesting, will is an fragility that happened since last friday when of course there were the terror raids and salah-abdeslam was captured and awareness here and what i saw people were orderly and not screaming but everybody knew, the police and authorities were firm and people complied, everyone went to the train station but then as we got back to brussels north station began to hear rumors that bombs had gone off in the subways. the police were talking to and about the closer at the area port and what not and then began to amassing in the larger train station i was in and police began to show up everywhere and had a sense and i have been told the train station i left moments agoas been closed.
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i just caught a train out of brussels to amsterdam and may be one of the last trains leaving the city today so that is where i am at the moment. >> do you feel extremely lucky? >> i do. i feel shaken. i tweeted out an interview with a gentleman who was much closer than i was to the action and he said that he had been stopped to discuss papers and he would have been in the line where the bomb went off and he was literally 100 people from where this happened and he was obviously shaken, kind of giddy but at the same time he told me he felt very lucky and he was much closer than i was to what had happened and i think a lot of people felt that. numbness that hits you after you are in something like than i feel like i was no where near as close as many others were but
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given the frustration and given the fact that brussels now has bombs going off with the transportation system everywhere and public transport is essentially shut down except buses right now and that is scary to be in the middle of and get out of town. so i have to say despite what people think of terror what was interesting to me while i was observing this is just how callel everyone, everyone just sort of accepted what was going on and there is awareness of what was happening and that was something i would not have expected. >> calm from everybody and steve are you surprised and i know you were saying it seems inconceivable this can happen in the heart of europe and it has and saw it in france, are you surprised something like this happened? >> yes.
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on friday i was participating in the brussels forum which is sponsored by the german marshals and the president of the european commission and senators at sessions and u.s. trade representative and quite a number of top-level intelligence and national security officials from nato and as we met there 30 kilometers aware is when a major police raid and attack on salah-abdeslam and various raids on attacks were going on and that was friday and have so much going on and we had president francois hollande there and he was in brussels and so you know where a lot of the action is happening is not remote. it was a kilometer and a half from my hotel i just stayed in so it's a very central and that is what feels strange and like
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having a major terror cell right in the center of washington if people can imagine that. >> and steve with your foreign policy knowledge and way governments operate, how do you think this will affect countries like belgium, france, other places in europe? i mean, will this affect foreign policies at all? >> i think it is affecting and i think before it affects foreign policy it affects identity and affects way people see what it is to be european and what degree of openness, we are generally quite open societies and i think that there will be some inter-spection and say criminal and intelligence can take on and another part will say trying to become more of a
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melting pot has some edges that are uncomfortable and need to figure it out but clearly a rise of new kind of dark nationalism and some of the countries affected by this is happening in response to this. when you look at internal security places like brussels and france you add to that the refugee crisis and you add to that the economic essentially inside europe in greece and germany you take off those things and they are making a very toxic meks of defensiveness many europe and i felt it when you talk to regular people here. >> and i really appreciate you talking to us about your experience in the airport when the explosions went off, thank you, i really do appreciate it. let me just remind