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tv   World News Now  ABC  March 22, 2016 2:07am-4:01am PDT

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from north africa, for the most part, and an arab neighborhood where there was high unemployment, high discontent, where people felt astraw sized and where isis put down it's roots, and since the attack in paris which was linked to brussels, police clamped down in that neighborhood and have begun raiding houses trying to find the remaining cell and obviously they flushed it out, didn't get all of it, flushed it into an early attack, and i think now that neighborhood will be under even more pressure from police authorities. this is a cycle where there are people in the neighborhood now who will feel resentment because
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of the heavy police presence. this has been a neighborhood, and this has been a source of concern for american and european security people for years because of the support for isis and support for al qaeda in the neighborhood, and the discontent in the neighborhood. >> richard clark, the former counterterrorism official joining us and his take of what is happening in brussels. we want to cross over the english channel right now and talk to llama from london. >> good morning to you. yes, prime minister cameron did tweet saying how shocked he was at the attacks that happened this morning in brussels. we got through to heathrow
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airport and we spoke to heathrow airport that told us there's a heightened -- a visible heightened security offices on patrol at the airport right now. this is breaking news and the details are only just coming in. we are hearing there has been at least one explosion at a metro station in belgium, possibly three, and this, of course, comes after several people have been killed. we are hearing possibly ten in total, and many more injured after that suspected terror attack at brussels airport this morning. two explosive devices reportedly detonated at an american airlines check-in desk, and there are unconfirmed reports that shots were fired, and again, this has not been confirmed but this is what is coming into us, that shots were fires and words of arabic were
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shouted before the blasts were heard and the airport is on lockdown and all flights canceled and rail traffic towards the belgium airport has been suspended and this is day after srinivasan was arrested, and we saw the dramatic arrest on friday after a four-day manhunt. we are hearing the terror alert in brussels have been raised to its highest level, and back in this country the terror alert has been at severe which means a terror attack is highly likely primarily because there have been so many fighters from europe, thousands of fighters
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going to syria, and those would come back to europe and carry out attacks like we are seeing today. >> what other reactions are you seeing in london by other officials or people of note or the media, how are people reacting there to the news this morning coming out of brussels? obviously you mentioned the reaction at the airport? >> i hate to say it, but we were expecting something quite extacka lure, not only in belgium, but the threat level had been raised to its highest in belgium and also here. we have been expecting an attack. you know, when you talk to people, when you talk to officials, and i hate to say it, but they say an attack, it's not
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when it's going to happen, it's not if -- it's not if but it's when it's going to happen, something spectacular, especially -- there was a warning that after he was arrested some big attack would happen. >> while we have been talking with you, we got word that david cameron said he will chair a meeting in response to the explosions in brussels. are you familiar with that and what does that mean? >> they meet with other members of parliament and talk about current issues, especially when it comes to terrorism. they will discuss the attacks today and how to move forward and also how to fan out all the police officers across the city here just in case, to be
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prepared for another attack, because, as we were saying, this country has seen attacks in the past, notably in 2007, so we are expecting something not possibly of the scale, but something quite large to happen in this country, so you can imagine the kind of conversations they are having in that meeting today. as we were discussing earlier when we spoke to heathrow airport that decision to put out more officers visibly, visibly more security officers and a heightened security alert at the terminals here in london, that's one of the responses. >> thank you for joining us and giving us the latest from london. we want to bring in the global affairs correspondent who is joining us on the telephone. >> i would just remind you when
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the attacks in paris happened, we quickly dispatched to brussels, so i spent a great deal of time there during the highest terror alert when they expected an attack and that city was in complete lockdown and i am sure you will see that in the coming days because of the attacks in the brussels airport and at a metro station as well. and this also goes to the fact that terrorists can strike no matter how much security is out there and no matter how high the alert in that city and the city, of course, was on alert as well and still the terrorists apparently managed to attack very high profile places. >> these are soft targets, not only high profile, but fairly soft targets, martha? >> they certainly are soft targets. i know when we woke up and saw
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the airport was hit, a place where the security is extensive, if you are an airport and if you are there before security, almost anything can happen. the airport, too, in those areas is a soft target and certainly a subway or metro station is as well. >> what would you be expecting to hear today in terms of a u.s. reaction? what should we expect here in the u.s. in the wake of this? >> i am sure right now all over washington people are being awakened and are aware of the attack and trying to coordinate with their european counterparts and trying to coordinate with all the appropriate agencies here in the city to see if the alert level here should be raised. again, what is so alarming about this attack is that it was expected, and people were able to carry it out anyway, despite
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the warnings and people going all over that city looking for people that might want to commit an act of terror. the arrests of srinivasan, we don't know the details of where he had been in the interim between the attacks in november and these apparent attacks, but they were looking for him full time. it took many, many months. if people want to carry out an attack, they will. >> we will keep you on the line but we went to go to george stephanopoulos joining us at this hour to continue the coverage. >> we are continuing thissoff ridge as a major terror attack in brussels belgiubelgium. two explosions at the brussels
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airport near the american airlines departure lounge, and another explosion, at least one explosion at the brussels metro station as well, and several casualties reported, and 13 people have been killed, and at least 35 injured. the airports have been closed and you see the destruction right there. the metro system closed and the belgium leader says the whole country is on the highest state of alert and you see the metro station, and let's go to alex who is at the scene. >> reporter: good morning, george. the police have put up a parameter around the area and for the past two hours since the explosions happened, people, thousands of travelers who are supposed to be heading out this morning have been streaming out. we spoke with one eyewitness who
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was on an american airlines flight who said the explosion happened around 30 yards and he thought it was closer to the delta airlines counter because he normally flies delta airlines, and so it was close in proximity. many witnesses say they saw bodies on the floor and we know there are wounded and dead, as you mentioned. the number being reported is 13, and that is according to the belgium federal prosecutor who is speaking to the belgium media, and other eyewitnesses talking about a scene of total devastation. the explosions, one smaller than the other. the other bigger, taking place just after 8:00 in the departure area, and it was near a starbucks. of course this could not have happened at a busier time. this is a tuesday morning, as thousands of people are trying to fly out of one of europe's main airports. this is obviously one of the
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most secure locations in brussels, and then shortly after that news came of more explosions in the brussels metra area which we know now has been shut down. >> he said the metro station has been shut down as well, and there are reports of injuries in the metro bombing and everybody in brussels has been order to do stay in place. >> they have. this is a country that is quickly go into lockdown mode. there's a lot of chaos. the entire city is paralyzed when you shut down the metro system like that. we spoke with somebody from the interior ministry about what we could expect to see and what the fears are in the coming days, weeks and months after the s arrests on friday. they said this would trigger attacks or you will see terrorists go underground and
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wait for the pressure to ease up. what appears to be going on is the first option, and it's not one terror attack but coordinated attacks and we saw that happen in paris, 130 people killed at some of the famous locations in paris. the theater where the eagles of death metal were playing. it was a highly coordinated attack and well planned and the fear by officials since then is something similar could take place, and not just in one city like we saw in paris, but also -- that gives you a sense of the chaos, lots of cars flying by with sirens on. but intelligence officials worried there could be attacks across different cities. the french prime minister warned
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right after the arrest that the risk of an attack is as high if not higher than before paris. this is something that has been expected for quite sometime. >> i want to bring that to our chief global affairs anchor, martha. you were on the scene where it's considered a hotbed, and as alex was saying, we knew after the arrest earlier this week that another attack was very possible. >> yes, in november, george, when we were thereafter the paris attacks the city was on absolute lockdown, and there was fear every minute that an attack was imminent and that's exactly how they worded it, that an attack was imminent at the time throughout the city, and there were armored personnel carries in the square, outside the
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hotels and the city was a virtual ghost town, and nobody went out which is exactly what is going to happen now. and yet these attacks went forward many months later. we don't know the connection certainly, but they were certainly aware and thought an attack could happen any minute in brussels, and, again, these are as highly protected as an airport is. that security is on the inner area, but you can go into a parking lot and bring in explosions and weapons and that's what it appears happened at the airport today, and we have fewer details of what happened at the metro there, and despite the threat of an arrest and despite the threat of all the agencies in brussels loong
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for suspects that might carry out an attack like this. >> i want to go to richard clark, counterterrorism. people are mystified by a couple things, one, it took so long to find the suspect after the paris attacks, and two after the arrest, the cells could be so active they could carry out what could be attacks days later? >> in the postmortem of the attack, there's going to be a lot of criticism for the belgium police and law enforcement people in general in the country, that it took them four months after the paris attacks to find the perpetrator of the paris attacks, and that they couldn't find the entire cell network that he was connected to. obviously there was a cell network, and some of them were rounded up last week, but obviously some of them were still out there. we don't know how many people were involved in perpetrating
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this attack, were they suicide bombers or did they place bombs, how many people had come in from outside of the country, and perhaps from syria or how many people were natives that grew up in mullenback, and when they knew something was going on for months they were unable to uncover it. >> given all the focus on that neighborhood, given the entire security apparatus of belgium and much of europe focussed on there to try and break up the cells to capture srinivasasn. >> the intelligence and police authorities have almost no access to a city in their own country, that they didn't have cooperation from the community, that they didn't have any of their own people on the inside,
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they couldn't break in, and that even electronically with e-mails and telephones, they were unable to make the connections. one thing that could mean is that the cell was very sophisticated and knew it was under surveillance and was using good security procedures, but it's remarkable, and mullenback is not a big city, and for a cell like this to be able to survive all this time when the best of the belgium police and law enforcement, people had them under a microscope, it's remarkable. >> we know the president in cuba wrapping up his trip to havana, what will be happening right now in the white house in the wake of the attack? >> the homeland security adviser will have convened a meeting and probably it's by video conference connecting the headquarters at cia, at the fbi,
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and other agencies, so there will be an ongoing meeting that will last all morning while they, a, try to find out what is going on, and b, try to figure out how they can help, and c, trying to figure out is there anything we need to do in our country. martha mentioned the vulnerability of land side areas of the airport and that's the term of everything before security, so you know when you drive up to the airport and you get out of the cab and go up to the counter or kiosk, all that area is a very, very vulnerable area. we had an attack in los angeles years ago where somebody shot up the area of the land side, and the question is what do we do at our airports if something is planned here, and it's a very difficult job. >> let's bring that question to ray kelly the former new york
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city police commissioner. based on your experience what would be happening here in new york right now after this attack? what kind of measures will be taken to protect vulnerable sites? >> i am sure personnel, the department is suited to put uniformed people, and it's an awkward time right now, and you will have the ability to put more uniformed officers on the street. one of the goals is to raise the level, and the port authority is in charge of airport security, so the port authority will also increase their uniformed presence at kennedy and
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laguardia and newark airport. they will reach out to investigators working closely with the fbi, and there are investigations ongoing and they will want to tweet those investigations to see if there's anything at all that indicates the possibility of something happening here, and they will be checking into chat rooms and websites and that sort of thing to measure the reaction. their number one goal right now will be to increase significantly uniformed police presence on the streets of the city. >> one of the big questions, we deal with the airport, how far can you extent the security without paralyzing the air traffic completely? >> yeah, that's a good point, but i think that the departments themselves are not staffed for emergency situations, so it's
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going to be difficult to increase that uniform presence at the airport to a significant degree. i don't think you are going to see -- at least at this juncture, a lockdown, but you are going to see all available people in uniform at these locations, at least to give out a sense of security, that there are police presence, and you are going to see closer checking. the airport, the land side of the airport is always a concern, and it has access, and you can check a bag that is not being examined, and you can check a case right -- a large package right at the entranceway, and then you can bring it in, bring it into the terminal. it's a significant
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vulnerability, or even a car driving up to the front of the departure area, so let's face it, we have lots of vulnerabilities and lots of vulnerabilities in airports in particular. what you try to do now is as much as possible raise a couple levels for people that have to get to these airports. >> i want to bring you up to speed on what has been a major terror attack in brussels, belgium this morning. two explosions at the airport at 3:00 a.m. hear in the east, and the american airlines departure lounge, at least 13 people killed in these explosions and explosions in the metro system as well and the entire country on lockdown right now, and the metro system closed and airports closed and people ordered to stay in place in belgium.
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i want to go to alex who is on the scene. >> reporter: we're watching still now two hours after these explosions, thousands of people screaming out, some very emotional and others because they were further away, and it's quite cold and lots of people with airline blankets wrapped around them, and people that we spoke with talk about a scene of total devastation. you have seen the pictures of blown out windows and ceiling tiles that have fallen on the floor. this explosion taking place in the center of the departure hall, and many told us it took place near the starbucks, near the delta airlines counter, and just after 8:00, this was peak travel hour, and lots of people checking in and lots of people landing here in one of europe's main airports. >> has there been any confirmation this was, indeed,
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suicide bombers? >> reporter: not yet. at this point, they are looking into it being a terrorists attack, and there's passing acknowledgment there is, and the latest death toll we heard is 13. we don't know what the break down between the airport and the metro system, and there has been at least one explosion confirmed at a belgium metro stop, but there have been reports in the belgium media of more. this is not just a belgium capital. this is what people call the european capital, the base for nato is here and the base for the european union is here, and there are three american ambassadors in this city, so this might be a smaller second european city with places compared to berlin and london and paris, but this is a political hub so that's the significance of these attacks today and it's not something that is happening in a big
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belgium city, but these are attacks against some of the most highly secured areas in a city that is crucial to europe. >> and i want to bring that to our former counterterrorism official with the u.s. government, and that neighborhood in the middle of brussels, a hotbed of terrorists, and srinivasan was there even though you had a lot of people looking for him. >> yeah, you are right, and if this turns out to be an attack and terrorists and san bernardino illustrate how terrorists are involved. they are communicating with other terrorists through encrypted communications channels. the bottom line is security officials are having difficulty finding these people and
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identifying who they are, and arresting them. so you know, this is the challenge that people like the fbi director have talked about and other officials talked about, but we are seeing potentially another example of that. >> we know with the paris attacks some of the people involved were able to move back and forth between europe and syria to keep communications open across those borders. >> that's right. we have built these very robusts counterterrorism capabilities, we, the u.s. and europe, that depends on us picking up communications between operatives and europe and others in other parts of the world, and if operatives in brussels or paris or other parts of europe or the united states can operate without having to use those traditional communication channels that makes it difficult for those officials to identify who these people are. >> how do they go around the
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traditional communications? >> as we have heard, they float around on social media until they find potential recruit candidates and then move them into an encrypted platform whether it's encrypted voice or e-mails or texts, and in some cases there are no communications. we have people living in communities who are becoming inspired by what they are seeing on social media and are becoming increasingly radicalized, and the first time we see them or identify them or hear from them is when they carry out an attack. >> that would be the san bernardino example? >> right. and this is something that has increasingly caused concerned among law enforcement in this country, and security officials in europe and this is the new element of the terrors threat and we can't continue to think
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about it and deal with it the same way we dealt with it in years past >> we don't know much about the attack here in brussels, and according to the french accident, if they were conceived in syria and carried out in france. great cross pourborder capabili here. >> exactly. part of the issue is there's freedom of movement across the european union and it's not that difficult once you are in the european union to get into turkey and syria by crossing the borders. it's difficult to track people. the other difficulty is once you are in the european union, you can move freely throughout the european union. one of the problems that officials are dealing with over in europe is how you bring about greater controls, greater security in the border area, around the european union, so you can prevent this type of
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free travel. >> john cohen, thanks very much. let's go back to alex in brussels right now. we heard the entire train system that would be running through brussels, not just the metro system but the entire train system has been put on hold as well? >> all public transportation just has been shut down, and that's on top of the metro system we knew about, and the buses and the trains. brussels, the trains go directly to paris on the euro star, that has been shut down. from the airport, we had to walk here by foot because the parameter around the airport has been shut down as well and there's traffic that has come to a standstill on the highway, and it's really a paralyzed city,
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george. >> we are learning right now that all european union institutions are at an orange, and all meetings are cancelled concerned with follow-up attacks. >> they told staffers to stay inside as well. absolutely. when people talk about it being the capital of europe, that's because all the institutions are here. obviously this is crucial a capital to the functioning of europe. at the same time you have the enclave that is in central brussels, and the authorities have really no penetration into. the question everybody has been asking, is how has somebody like srinavasan be able to avoid the police and capture. he was in a home of four or five
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yards away from the family is living, and we know he was able to escape from paris the day after the paris attack, and for the past four months he has been moving around brussels. how is that possible? simply because the belgium authorities have no penetration into the neighborhood. it's -- there's a lot of solidarity and animosity towards the police. >> tell me about -- what is the neighborhood like? describe what the streets are like. who is there? you said you felt animosity? >> i am from the middle east, and all of the shop keepers are arabs and many are africans from algeria, a quiet and working class neighborhood and there was animosity towards the journalists and that's because
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there were so many of us, and many of the residents there are a conservative muslim, and security experts have talked about this becoming -- being a breeding ground for jihadists. belgium has sent more fighters to syria, and now the question is how come they don't have the penetration into that neighborhood that you might have in a place like new york or in a place like london? that's because as one former intelligence official told me yesterday, there's less of a sense of civic duty towards -- with the police, and less of a relationship between the residents and the police. you see that famous slogan in the new york subway, if you see something say something.
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that doesn't exist here in europe, and there's more independence and keeping the police at arm's reach. and there's a sense they don't belong, they don't feel they are connected with belgium society. there's huge unemployment. that has been what is furmenting the rise. >> the u.s. embassy has recommended that all american citizens on the scene in belgium right now shelter in place as well, because all of belgium now on the highest possible threat level, the threat of an imminent attack in belgium. >> reporter: that's right, george.
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we are at a threat level four, and it indicates a serious and eminent attack. we have seen shelter in place warnings elsewhere when paris attacks take place, and this is an indication that they believe that more attacks could take place. right now, what we know, we had the two explosions at the airport just after 8:00 this morning, and then at least one attack on a brussels metro station. the entire public transportation of brussels now shut down. >> to go back to the attacks at the airport, the two explosions at the airport, give us a sense of the extent of the damage that you have been able to gleam from eye witnesses. >> reporter: one said it was a scene of utter devastation, and they were upstairs when the blasts happen and they came downstairs and they saw debris everywhere, and i asked whether
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there was dead and wounded and they said there were bodies that they saw, and in fact, we have seen some of the wounded coming out. i saw a man wrapped in a blanket with a gash in his leg. so this was a double explosion. one was larger than the other. one was flying on american airlines, and he said the explosion took place around the area of the american counters. you have the american airlines counter next to the delta airlines counter which he would normally fly, and he thought it was about 30 yards away from where the delta airlines counter was. >> i want to go back to ray kelly, the new york city police commissioner. the new york city police developed their own networks including with the europeans?
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>> yeah, that's true. obviously, there was a network where information flows in europe despite the fact that we don't have people in every major city. it's a important conduit for the department. it's proven to be very effective. i think, you know, hindsight is 20/20, but you will see a lot of police departments in europe not having sufficient representation in some of these minority communities, and as we said before, being they don't have the connectivity they would like to have in some of the minority neighborhoods. >> that's something you had to work on at the new york city police department building a more diverse force so you could
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be active and really in the middle of these communities. >> precisely. there were new york city police officers born in 106 countries and that gives us an awful lot of capability to talk to people and to bring those people into the, you know, continue to bring those people into the department. so it's something that i think has to be looked at very seriously in europe, because they will admit to you that it's a deficit, something they need to do a lot more of. >> ray kelly, thanks very much. i want to go to our chief global affairs. martha, you spent time in the neighborhood after the paris attacks several months ago and we just heard alex describing the real animosity they felt inside the community which appears to have been harboring terrorists for several months. >> it sure does, george. truly when you go into the neighborhood, we were there careful and there's animosity
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when you go into those neighborhoods and to commissioner kelly's point, what has to happen is better intelligence in those neighborhoods. there's the protect our own, and there's also, i should bring up, people may be under threat. if this terrorists attack was planned in that neighborhood or elsewhere around there, there may have been the threat of death if anybody turned them in. this also points out, as we said again and again, the vulnerabilities, no matter how much attention you put on some sort of imminent terror attack, no matter how many police officers you spread throughout a city, spread throughout europe, there are these soft targets and an airport indeed can be a soft target on the outer parameter, when you enter an airport, there's really no security other than the presence of guards and sometimes -- and it's apparent this morning, it's too late before they can do anything. >> that is what is so chilling
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about this, you were talking about earlier, the take down on sri srinivasan earlier, a trigger of an attack and nothing can be done to stop it. >> true, and we don't know how large a network this could be and we don't know how many people are involved in planning and carrying this out and brussels and europe on alert and officials here talking about what to do next and to do what they can to try and stop this. when i was there in november shortly after the attacks in brussels, that city was shut down. there were armored personnel carriers on the street, and was there an attack planned for that period of time and that was stopped? we just don't know that. at the time they said they thought an attack was imminent and it didn't happen. so maybe that stopped the attack
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then, but it didn't stop a terrorists attack months later >> you just returned from the middle east and the fight is being taken to iraq, and even as we are seeing some progress against isis there and their inability to completely control them throughout europe and maybe here in the united states? >> it points out the military alone is not the answer. there were very dynamic attacks against isis in syria, in iraq, and we tracked missions from beginning to end, and we watched spy planes go up in the air over syria and we were on a plane up over syria watching the missions they carry out again and again and there really has an uptick in those missions, george, they are hitting far more targets because the intelligence has improved in the military campaign, but there is far beyond the military campaign.
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you can go after the sources of money and you can go after the fighters on the ground in iraq and syria, but it's the ones who cross the border who carry out these attacks, and there may be a correlation, george, there may be a correlation between the military fight picking up them losing many, many fighters, and them losing -- isis losing some infrastructure and others crossing the border to believe they must carry out terrorists attacks to get more affect, to go after civilians to go after the soft targets. >> one of the theorys and one of the hopes is if isis is crushed in the middle east, that will then take away the source of the inspiration around the world. >> well, the source of inspiration is really hard to stop. you only need to look online and you only need to hear stories from john cohen and others talking about the recruitment online and talking about the inspiration, and when isis is
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successful, that, unfortunately, inspires people as well. >> i want to bring john cohen back, and thank you, a view you were talking about earlier how they can communicate using encrypted networks as well, and that's going to re-open the debate here in the united states over how much the government should be able to get into our phones in order to try and crack this encryption. >> yeah, absolutely, george. we have a tough problem as it relates to encryption. on the one hand, legitimate companies and even our own government depends on it to protect our economic and national secrets, and on the other hand, we are seeing terrorists organizations and criminal organizations use the same technologies to mask their communicatio communications, so industry and government are going to need to come together on this one and it's a tough problem but they need to solve it. >> what are some of the possible solutions? >> well, i mean, i think you are
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starting to see -- that's going to be for the technologyists and the operational folks on the government side to come together and talk about it. there are real concerns about building backdoors into these encryption capabilities and there are those that feel that would compromise their legitimate use, and on the other hand, the -- we have just witnesses the apple fbi discussions and the fbi was seeking to have apple relax one of its security measures that would wipe the data clean so they could use their techniques to break the encryption. what we need to do is bring the technologyists and the business leaders and government leaders together and come up with solutions. >> talk about what will be happening at airports here in the united states and other airports across europe in the wake of this attack? >> well, as richard indicated earlier, i suspect that already
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you have seen homeland security and law enforcement officials getting together and talking about what they know and talking about if there is any additional intelligence. dhs will be considering whether there needs to be an increase in security at airports in this country out of an abundance of caution, but as customs and border protection are looking at flights that have left europe already, and are rescrubbing those passenger manifests just to make sure that nobody slipped through the cracks and who may have connections with terrorists organizations. we may see increased screening of cargo and passengers at last points of departure points in europe as an abundance of caution to insure that people are not able to put things on planes that could potentially cause an aviation type of
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incident. >> that has always been one of the biggest concerns that explosives could be put in cargo holds and go undetected? >> yeah, tsa are working closely with the authorities and security organizations in the last points of departure points, and that's a key perspective for the u.s. planes traveling directly to the u.s. from a european or other city. again, with this incident, and particularly since this incident involved the use of explosives, tsa, i imagine, is already coordinating with their colleagues in europe to see if there are additional security measures, and even if they are temporary. >> john, we also have seen efforts in the united states to get to the cells before they can carry out any kind of activity,
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to have homeland security engage in communities where young people might be inspired to violence? >> this is a major priority for the fbi, and a major priority for state and local law enforcement right now. we have seen several examples. there was san bernardino and stabbings that took place at the university of california campus fought too long ago. it requires a different approach than the one we have used in the past and it requires local police working more closely with others in the community, and i know that there has been a lot of effort by the fbi to expand their abilities in that area, again, working with local communities. >> i want to bring that back to alex in belgium, and you were talking about the animosity in the community towards westerners and perhaps towards the police as well, and this is going to
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reignite the entirety ba debate the migration, and you already have seen backlash across europe? >> reporter: absolutely george, and we saw several defectors were able to slip into europe on the refugee routes. abude died in the raid in paris just two days after the november attacks and he had bragged to an eyewitness who he spoke with that he had come into europe with 90 would-be suicide bombers. this is already before this prospect of more terror was ignited was a controversial issue. this will do even more -- this will do more damage and provoke the conversation even more.
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we are seeing that play out now because of the millions who have poured into the countries, and now one by one these european countries are turning around and saying we can't take anymore people, and that's because the support system isn't there, and they can't cope with this many people, and as you say, things like this will reignite the debate over whether some of the people -- >> i am going to be going into -- >> we are hearing from the british prime minister, and he is saying that britain is going to do everything they can to help and the threat level in britain is severe. and the french president holding an emergency meeting this morning, and france has been under the state of emergency since the paris attacks? >> they have and they extended it twice, so we have the warning from the u.s. embassy here in
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brussels to americans citizens to shelter in place. they have noted the threat level in brussels have been raised to 4, which means a possible imminent attack. what we know now from the belgium prosecutor is 13 people have been killed in these attacks this morning between the two explosions at the airport and in the metro system. the entire metro system has been shut down along with the rest of the public transportation across brussels, and that includes the trains that go in and out to other countries, so right now brussels has been completely paralyzed, and isolated because nobody is going in or out of this country. >> thanks, alex. i want to go to ray kelly, the former new york city police commissioner -- ray is not with us anymore.
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and we are expected to see a heightened sense of security as we come up on 6:00 a.m. here on the east coast. a major terror attack in brussels belgium, two explosions at the airport in rapid succession which killed at least 13 people and three dozen injured, and one separate explosion in the brussels metro system this morning, and the entire country on the highest state of alert in the wake of imminent attacks and britain raised their level to severe right now, and across europe, fear after these explosions in belgium. this morning, abc's chief correspondent with me, and we can expect the convening of the president and national security team this morning. >> you certainly can, george. american authorities across the
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agencies here in washington are going to be coming together to try to figure out what we can do next, and they will be coordinating with european counterparts to try and share intelligence and see if anything is planned for here, but obviously what we have seen here this morning, george, no matter how much attention you put on this, and no matter how hard you try to penetrate terrorists networks, it simply does not always work. >> thank you very much. we will go back to brussels right now, and speaking with tom who is at the brussels airport, and you were at the airport near the lounge when the explosions went off? >> yes, in terminal b. i was on my way to liberia, and i just passed the security where we saw where the bombing took place, and we were being rushed and pushed away to the exit so
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we can evacuate. >> what did you see and what did you hear? >> well, -- from abc news in new york, this is "america this morning." >> good tuesday morning. i'm lauren lyster in for reena ninan. >> this is a special edition of "america this morning." breaking news from belgium where explosions have rocked the airport in brussels as well as metro stations. reports say there are at least 21 people who are dead this morning, several injured. officials are calling it a terror attack. the belgian terror alert has been raise the to the maximum level and brussels at the center of the hunt for suspected terrorists linked to the paris attacks, salah abdeslam captured there last friday and belgian police have launched another man -- manhunt for a suspected accomplice. we spoke with abc's alex
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marquardt moments ago. >> reporter: the explosions taking place at the airport as you noted, the main international airport. it's what the airport spokeswoman is calling a double explosion. one right after the next around 8:00 in the morning, of course, that is peak travel time. people traveling all over the world. we understand that flights into brussels have been diverted away from brussels airport. that flights out of brussels have been canceled. this is -- they're still in the process of being evacuated from the departures hall where that took place. thousands of people taking flights this morning leaving from that departures hall. the airport spokeswoman has said that there were wounded. they have not put a number on that wounded and the federal police here have confirmed that at least one person has been killed. there are reports of a higher death toll but thus far, nothing more is confirmed. now, we're on our way to the airport right now and understand
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the highways heading there, this is about ten miles outside of brussels are -- have been blocked so the authorities have set up a primm around the airport, obviously there's police on the scene. we know that the fire services have also been evacuated. dark plumes of smoke rising from that terminal. right now it's unclear what happened in terms of motive, cause of these explosions, but it obviously comes at an extremely sensitive time, just a few days after eighth paris attacker salah abdeslam, the only surviving member of that terrorist group that carried out the paris attacks was arrested. and we spoke yesterday with someone from the interior ministry which runs security here in brussels and the spokeswoman was telling us the fear is that arrest could
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trigger more attacks. she said that either more attacks could take place or they'll wait for the pressure to ease up. so, of course, right now, the immediate fear is that this is a terrorist attack. >> and, alex, as you were talking we were looking at some really gripping images coming on screen of the terminal. you can see many blown out windows and you also saw something fascinating. you saw hundreds of passengers i would say out there on the tarmac of that airport right now. obviously those folks are -- appear to not be injured but it is an interesting scene to see them out there. i'm told the airport has been evacuated and all the flights have so far -- no flights are going in or out of the brussels airport and alex, i know you've been in brussels for the last few days at least, what do you know of this airport? i imagine it's fairly popular because this is a capital for the eu and for nato. >> reporter: absolutely.
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this is a very important european capital that is absolutely right. this is where the main european union offices are as well as nato and, of course, every major embassy is also here. this is also a country that has been on high alert for quite some time. especially since those attacks in paris and in november where a number of the people came from brussels, remember the attackers from this neighborhood of molenbeek. now, belgium as a country has sent more fighters per capita to join isil. there are around 5,000 to 6,000 european jihadists fighting for isis in iraq and syria, around 1,000 of them are belgians so the great fear is obviously not only could some of those fighters then come home to carry out attacks but also that they could radicalize people who are already living here. someone like salah abdeslam who is now in police custody being held in a maximum security wing of a belgian prison. he never went to fight in iraq and syria but, of course, was
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radicalized enough to become a key member of that isis team that carried out the attacks so this is no small european airport we're talking about. this is a major international airport that services as you say not just an important country in europe but dignitaries and officials who are traveling all over the world. this is a prime target for anyone who wants to disrupt europe and, of course, european officials have been warning for quite some time especially since november that more attacks are coming. they said it was not a question of if but a question of when. >> you know, alex given that i'm curious in the u.s. we're so used to the stepped up security at airports with tsa and the measures that were put in place after 9/11, what is it like there? you mentioned the city is on high alert. have security measures been stepped up at the airport. have there been responses to the attacks that we've seen in europe in the form of security and passengers go through when
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they get to the airport. >> reporter: the terror alert is still at 3 -- the second highest. it has not yet been raised to -- so this is -- >> we are having a breakup with your phone line. we were talking to abc international correspondent alex marquardt who is on his way to the brussels airport right now from downtown brussels. that's roughly about six miles north. of the center of the city right now where reports started coming in within the last hour of two explosions in the departures hall there at the airport. brussels is roughly about six hour as head of the east coast here of the u.s. so this coming during the morning rush hour. alex is back with us and, alex, i can imagine as i mentioned this is during the morning rush hour. this is when many international flights from the u.s. might be arriving and a lot of people might be heading out to other european destinations. >> reporter: absolutely, for
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example, there's a brussels to newark flight at 10:00 in the morning in about an hour but that will be one of the many flights that has been canceled this morning. we understand that all flights have been grounded leaving brussels. there were a few that were able to land after the attacks happened. just after:00 in the morning. but otherwise all flights going out have been canceled and flights coming in have been diverted to other airports. now just before i lost the signal there, you were asking me about the mood in brussels and whether it's brussels or france or other european capitals, everyone is keenly aware of the fact that the next attack is coming but they do try to go about their normal lives. there is a sense of people being on edge and of nervousness and inevitability but people do try to continue resiliently their normal lives but if you're in paris or brussels you will see large numbers of police, security forces have been stepped up by the thousands since those attacks in november
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at the main tourist sites and sensitive targets like jewish facilities, jewish schools, jewish museums you will see the army out in the street so ev a about having fun and taking pictures lurking in the background there is a heightened security presence that does remind you that this is -- these are countries, this is a continent that is still reeling and very much on edge. >> and that was abc's alex marquardt right there on the scene. that was as he was going to the airport. he proceeded to get there and then we had word of another explosion at a subway that abc news has confirmed and here in the u.s. we know that nypd is aware of the situation. and expect heightened security. >> of course, since alex's report the death count has raised -- has been up -- we're now told by local media reports over there in belgium that it's now up to 21 and countless others are injured as a result
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of what appears to be a coordinated attack this morning in belgium. >> and we, of course, know they are looking at this, the possibility of a terrorist attack but hasn't been confirmed. we don't know yet exactly what happened but we know the transportation is shut down in brussels, the metro is shut down, the airport, all of the flights canceled we'll continue to bring you the latest. earlier we spoke with richard clarke. here's what he had to say. >> this is likely to have been provoked at this specific time by the arrests in brussels. it looked like the belgium police after weeks of failure to round up the gang that was still left was finally closing in on them. the people who perpetrated these attacks today probably thought they had very little time left to do it before they were caught because of the evidence that the belgian police were getting from their raids earlier in the week. but if there are multiple
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attacks that means there was still a rather large cell still out there and the belgians only lately said that publicly and this is obviously evidence that there was. >> the analysis from richard clarke, the former counterterrorism official giving us the latest right now that as you mentioned this has been a very long morning. the first two explosions starting about 3 a.m. local time. our new york city time. about 8 a.m. >> in the morning there in brussels. >> and, of course, this attack is continuing. right now we'll join a special report from abc news in progress actually. let's trike that as you can under? stand things are a little chaotic as we continue to cover this situation. these are some of the scenes that we saw right after the explosions took place at the airport. >> passengers being evacuated from the airport, everything going into lockdown, after these explosions which happened in the departure area so an area as
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many people have been emphasizing on abc news this morning. the experts have been saying this is an area where there isn't a high level of security to get to just the departure area. this is where this attack or explosion, the two explosions took place. we saw the shattered glass and the scenes of the people coming out of the airport. many injured, several wounded and then the reports of deaths. >> we should tell you why belgium. this was a coordinated attack we believe and it was very targeted in that belgium is the eu capital, nato is headquartered there. you have some 23 million people who pass through that airport every year, so while it is a relatively small airport, it is a very critical one when it comes to europe. >> and we've also seen a knock-on effect of the people reacting to this, the officials and the other public transportation areas that are responding. we've seen other airports report that they're going to be having heightened security today including london's heathrow, and
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also in brussels, you have people being told to stay home, the u.s. embassy in brussels recommends sheltering in place, avoiding all public transportation. we saw a similar warning from the european commission telling people to just stay home. their employees and the people that work and so many of the governmental functions that go on in brussels which is really an international capital of so many of the european operations that go on with the european union and nato as well. >> these are the shots we're getting from downtown brussels where as we mentioned some metro stations were attacked, as well. there were explosions that took place roughly an hour after the explosions at the airport. there were >> announcer: this is an abc news special report, now reporting, george stephanopoulos. >> and we are we are coming back on the air right now with our coverage of a major terror attack in europe this morning. it happened at the brussels
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airport, shortly after 8:00 a.m. there time when two explosions took off in the lounge, and it was the busiest time at the airport, at least 13 people killed and 35 injured in this explosion at the brussels airport. you see the scene there this morning. a separate explosion in the brussels metro system, and the entire country of belgium in a state of alert. everybody has been ordered to stay in place. i want to go to alex marquardt who is at the scene in brussels. walk us through the scene, alex. >> caller: just after 8:00 this morning, two explosions went off at one of the peak times when thousands of people are both
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traveling out of brussels and into brussels. we understand one explosion was larger than the other and we spoke with an eyewitness who was flying to the states on american airlines. he said the explosion happened about 30 yards away from him coming from the direction of the delta airlines counter which he normally flies, so he would know the layout of the airport. and we heard from other eye witnesses this took place near the starbucks so it was where so many people were traveling from today. over the course of the past two hours, people have been streaming out of this -- out of the airport, talking about scenes of total devastation, debris absolutely everywhere. some people were clearly in a state of shock and very emotional and we saw airport staffers embracing each other and people coming out of the airport wrapped in the airline blankets we all see on the planes, and there's a state of
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confusion, and some trying to get directions from the police officers, and some people getting on buses presumably to go into brussels or elsewhere trying to get away from the airport and other people waiting for rides. there's a lot of confusion. there is not much chaos at this point and not pandemonium, but it's confusion and concern. you can imagine at this point everybody at the airport has started to learn about the attacks -- reported attacks taking place downtown in brussels. everybody here at the airport -- >> what do we know about the attacks on the metro system? >> reporter: it's unclear how many people were killed in those attacks, and we know that two of the stations that were reportedly attacked were near the area of the european union. pwrusles not a huge city, like
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paris where those attacks in november took place all over the place, and brussels is relatively concentrated. what appears to have happened is the number of coordinated attacks at different metro stations in the center of brussels near all of these important buildings, and so not long after we got word that the aviation system was shutting down, we got word the entire metro system was shut down and all of belgium and brussels public transportation. the only way in and out of the country right now is by road, and we have seen lots of traffic on the highway, bumper to bumper traffic as people try to figure out what is going on and get to safer places. >> as you point out, belgium is a smaller city and not just the capital, but not just the capital of belgium but in many ways the capital of europe?
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>> reporter: it's often called the capital of europe and it's no exaggeration. this is the center of operations for so many of the political bodies whether it's nato, whether it's the european union, and i was mentioning to you earlier that america itself has three ambassadors here, one for the country and one for nato and one for the european union. this is very much a city that politicians turn to to direct the business of europe and this is where the european parliament is. while many might consider this to be a second european city after places like london and berlin and paris, this is an extraordinary crucial country to europe. >> we want to go to martha radic as well. one of the things we learned since the paris attacks and you were on the scene in brussels
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after, that neighborhood has become home to a network of sympathizers. >> when you walk into the neighborhood can you feel animosity when you get there, but this is the neighborhood where police have concentrated. this is where sri srinivasan was arrested just the other day, very near where his mother lived. this is what is astonishing. all this concentration of police and military over these month, they thought an attack was imminent. when we were there in november, they had the armored personnel carriers on the street and yet an attack was carried out. we don't know the connection and we don't know whether he had anything to do with this, but certainly authorities suspected something might happen that he or others were planning to carry out a large attack. one of the things that i think will happen now, george, if this was a suicide attack and we don't know, they will figure out
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quickly who those people were and they are no doubt doing forensics as soon as possible on the bombs in the airport and guns in the airport, and we don't know yet where the suspects are and who carried it out and whether they were killed or they escaped. those are the kinds of things they are dealing with now on the scene. u.s. authorities certainly getting involved and authorities wanting to know what is happening a happening a happening and pwrugsle authorities want to know what happened. we saw this shut down for days and days and days when we were there, the city in lockdown at the time. i am sure that's what you will see now. the u.s. embassy telling people to shelter in place and they can't get anywhere because the metro system is shut down as well, and i believe this airport will probably be shut down for days and days. they will want to know whether there are any other bombs planted someplace, and how the
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terrorists galt ot in there. they will want to know if anybody perhaps penetrated any other part of that airport, any other part of that metro system. this is going to take a very long time, george. >> martha, thank you. let me bring in richard clark who is encounter terrorism. martha said we are not positive this was a suicide bomber, although there are reports that the belgium prosecutor confirmed the explosions at the airport were carried out by a suicide bomber -- i guess richard clark is not with us, and thomas is with us. there are similar methods to what we saw in paris. >> we spoke to a european law enforcement official a few months ago and he talked about the fact there were hundreds if not thousands of young men that had gone into syria and perhaps made their way back into europe.
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they knew isis had been trying to develop cells to do what we saw take place in paris, and now u.s. law enforcement officials have stepped up operations here. i think in the next few days you will see stepped up police presence throughout cities like new york. the tsa and other law enforcement officials will be looking at security here and you will see more dogs and heavily armed law enforcement at airports just to make sure they have a show of force to tap down anything here in the way of copy cats. >> david, what are you seeing on the ground? >> reporter: george, i just lost you but i heard you ask what am i seeing here. let me give you the big picture overall. new york airport authorities saying they are aware of the situation and it's a wait and
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see in mass transit areas here in the united states. they know what has happened and they are assessing whether or not they need to add on additional security at this hour. i can tell you in new york, at some of the metro stations, nypd has said they will have additional officers out. i have talked to one major airport in the united states and they said already out of an abundance of caution they are going to put additional officers, additional k-9 units in the airport, so you may see an increased presence. at this point, security officials at airports and mass transit are trying to figure out what happened in belgium, was it an attack that pose a risk to the homeland and they are trying to assess that before they ramp up security significant and i lost you george so i will send it back to you. >> we have heard from the new york police department there
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will be an enhanced security across the city, and the explosions occurred out side of the security set up by officia s officials, and how far can you extend that parameter? >> they wanted to get an attack out quickly after the arrest, and that's what the law enforcement officials were assuming this morning when i spoke to them, and how to do it and make a big splash, if you will, they couldn't get through the security so they did it on the outside, the so-called soft target. >> they could be inspired by the attack, and they see and take matter into their own hands. >> u.s. officials i spoke to have no specific information anything is planned here and what they are most concerned about is copy cats and
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sympathizers here in the united states. >> they can learn to communicate in a way that is kept secret and can go dark? >> yes, the garland, texas, attacks from last year, and to this day law enforcement officials cannot get into the phone that was used by one of the suspects and in the san bernardino attacks, there's a fight between the fbi and apple about with a is inside the suspect's phone, and we heard the fbi is pursuing another route but it's stunning that u.s. law enforcement with all the technology available cannot get to the encryption on the phones. >> i want to go to our reporter, and england and france are raising their threat levels as
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well. >> reporter: yeah, the threat level when we woke up was 3, which is high alert, and then shortly after the attacks happened it was raised to 4, and this is something they do not do casually, and it's in light of what happened because of the fears of possibly more attacks, and soon after that the u.s. embassy triggered by that warning from the belgiums took out a note to the citizens that the threat level has been raised to 4, and what that means already in cities like brussels and paris, you have an increased police presence and military presence, and we have not seen that in years in europe, and to see soldiers in camouflage with automatic weapons patrolling things like the eiffel tower, and that's not jarring just for those visiting the cities but
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also for the residents. what you will see with the terror threat raised to level 4 is a more vocal and stronger presence, and checkpoints around times square in brussels, and people will be checking bags and ids and checkpoints on the roads in brussels, and the belgium authorities are not taking any chances. >> alex marquardt, thank you very much. he is at the airport. and also an explosion in brussels on metro, and i want to bring in an eyewitness. >> can you tell us what you saw and heard? >> yeah, i was at a metro station which is one stop away from where the bomb was detonated. i just got off the metro when we
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heard a loud muffled noise and a cloud of dust went up into the air and people started to pick up the pace and tried to leave the station quickly because there's a lot of construction that goes on and sometimes there's loud noises that we can't give reason to, but it was when we started to get to the top of the stairs that we noticed the soldiers eagerly evacuating the metro station at which point more panic set in and some people started running and some people started crying and some stood still in disbelief and tried to make sense of whatever was going on and lots of confusion, i have to admit. >> could you tell in the confusion, was there one explosion or two? >> i have to admit i was not sure it was an explosion. it was a loud and muffled thud and a shake throughout the
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station. there was nothing clearly for us to say it was an explosion, and at the time we still didn't know. i only heard one loud muffled sound like that, and you have to realize the metro stations are quite close to each other in pwr brussels, and so we're only a stone's throw from the explosion itself. people were just trying to get information, and they were trying to quickly evacuate all of the stations. the area itself, you can see, it's known as the european quarter and it's where the parliament and council are all based. there's quite a high security presence anyway especially in light of what happened back in november, and obviously the capture of sri srinivasan on friday in brussels here would have led to heightened security
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measures. >> from where you were, did you see any injured or casualties? >> no, i didn't because it was slightly further down. obviously we had been keeping a close eye on what is going on is social media and a colleague of mine, in fact, was at the next station down and she was sending us messages and she is seeing a lot of injured people being taken from the station, and she is distraught at the moment. >> what has she told you about what she is seeing? >> we are on lockdown at the moment and everybody being advised to stay inside the building and one of the european commission buildings has been evacuated completely by the station, and most have people in them and they are -- at the time they are being advised to stay away from the windows and now they are being advised to stay indoors and the police and the
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army are assessing the situation as far as we are aware. >> thank you very much from brussels. coming up on 6:30 on the east coast, and we are continuing our coverage of a major terror attack in brussels, two explosions after 8:00 a.m., and 13 people have been killed and several dozen injured and separate explosion at the brussels metro, and we were just talking to a witness to that explosion. let's talk about the precautions being taken here. >> reporter: as i mentioned earlier a. lot of security officials here in the united states is waiting to see what has happened and what the target was and what the motivation was and you will see additional security at airports and mass transit ear kwraareas today out
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abundance of caution. this is you tawalk into a tournament in a u.s. airport where the ticket counter are, and the bomber may have been looking for the biggest crowd of people and may have detonated a bomb there. delta airlines, it had two planes go into brussels. one from atlanta has landed and it has been moved to a remote area and is waiting to deplane. a second flight from new york has been diverted away from brussels and landed in amsterdam. the planes that are there are off to secure areas and planes being diverted. >> what happened to the planes that took off from brussels, what kind of screening will they go through now?
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>> reporter: the screening will probably be the same. everybody is on heightened alert. when you hearing is like this, the tsa and the police officers and k-9 units that work in the airports will be hypervigilant and you will see that all across the country. the question is how many flights will go to brussels, the ones that have not taken off to brussels, will they stay on the ground to the u.s. or will they go to other airports in europe to get people close to where they needed to go in belgium. >> it appears the attackers went to a major point of vulnerability, at the airport before you get to security? >> reporter: this is the nonsterile area that security officials call it, and i am here at reagan national in washington, d.c., and yes, right now anybody can walk through those doors into the ticketing area, and that's true with just about every u.s. airport, and most airports around the world,
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you get to the security point and into the sterile area where you are checked by airport authorities, and they are not checking everybody go into an airport as you and i have seen every time we fly. >> we want to go back to brussels right now and joining us by skype is somebody who was in the metro when the explosion took place. are you with us now? apparently we don't have her yet. i want to go back to martha, our chief global affairs anchor right now, and martha, still trying to run down who perpetrated this, whether or not it was, indeed, a suicide bomber. we know it was a great concern after taking down sri srinivasan this could have a follow-up attack. >> they were worried about that, george, and i believe they will find some correlation between
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those two events, whether his arrests triggered these attacks or whether they were going to wait to carry out attacks and because he was rested, whether or not they thought they would get information from him they may have gone ahead and carried out these attacks. i am watching the pictures of the police presence back in november, in the arrest of sri srinivasan, when you see the police presence, back in november when they had police all over the streets and soldiers all over the streets, it seems like an attack that was supposedly imminent at the time was prevented, but what happened is the terror cells go dark and go silent and they don't communicate anymore because they know that people are trying to track them down and they are trying to listen, but eventually they come out and try to carry out the attack that they probably had planned for sometime. if those were suicide bombers,
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if there was a suicide bomber, they will know who those people are, undoubtedly within days, within hours, if they can track that, and that's the real problem here, george. you think about terrorists attacks, a long time ago, you think about hijacking. it's so difficult in this day and age because people do not seem to care whether they die in the process, whether that's a suicide bomber, whether that's a gunman who knows he will get killed, and that is the kind of threat we are facing now, and is that why this is so so difficult. >> if somebody is willing to die you cannot have perfect security, and that's an excellent point. i want to go to thomas here, and homeland security here monitoring those that they think might be setting up attacks here in the united states. what kind of scrutiny will they have after an incident like this? >> as of december there were
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about 100 under intense surveillance and they will go back and look at the people and look at the threat matrix and all the information. i was speaking to an official recently and he talked about the fact that europe faces a threat, and think about this, in a year we had the "charlie hebdo" attacks, and then the paris attack last november and now this. they are looking at a new normal in europe and u.s. officials are thinking that could spillover here. >> brian, our chief investigative correspondent joining us as well. brian, one of the things that has differentiated the attacks in europe from those we saw here in san bernardino, we know the attacks from the french president was something
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conceived and organized in brussels and carried out in france and it took a network. >> yeah, it was organized out of syria. in fact, isis organized its foreign fighters based on language and country of origin, so there are french brussels, belgian and german units, and even an american unit and the great concern is the other units at some point could be activated as well. george, you know the airport areas before security have long been considered one of the most vulnerable targets because of the people that were in the area, but no real hard security. anybody can have access to an airport lobby. so the lines back up at security and as people go to the line to check in, those are vulnerable areas. >> let's bring back matt olson, and talk about the kinds of precautions that are going to be
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taken across the united states right now in the wake of the attacks in europe? >> certainly, george, the fbi will be working closely with their counterparts in belgium to learn as much as they can, and that will mean, as you suggest, security precautions taken here, and airports, i think we will see stepped up security at transportation hubs and the kinds of things we have seen in the united states when there have been attacks similar to what we saw late last fall after the paris attacks. >> what kind of coordination was it with the european intelligence? >> well, certainly there's a longstanding relationship between european services and the united states services and that's been going on for a long time and it has been stepped up with the threat in syria and in response to the foreign fighter flow, which is acute in europe
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where you have thousands of fighters traveling to syria and back into europe. >> let me bring back brian ross as well. investigations, these kinds of connections, there's so much concern that what we learned from the paris attackers, they were able to go back and forth between the syria and europe. >> that's the astounding thing. a number of the people, the french attackers were wanted by the french police, and they were able to go back and forth into syria traveling primarily through turkey, and putting themselves through all kinds of things and some of them came in as refugees coming out of syria into greece and then turkey, so there were serious issues about the ability to control the borders, and they talked about tightening the borders and making it less easy for the terrorists to find a way into the country, and the ability to go back and forth is something i think you would have a hard time for the terrorists to do in the u.s., but in europe, the borders
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there are very porous. >> i want to go with john karl traveling with the president in cuba. the president was expected to continue his trip, and what do we know about what the president has been told and his plans? >> reporter: no official word from the white house yet but this is something that has become all too common. i am certain he was informed immediately of this, and he is here traveling and going on to argentina, but he does have many of his top national security advisers with him, including white house national security adviser, susan rice, and secretary of state, john kerry, on this trip here as well, so i am sure this is something that is front and center for the president here, although there's no expectation that the actual schedule of his trip will be changed. in fact, i imagine in the course
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of those remarks we will hearing is from the president of what happened in brussels. >> we are now getting a report from the brussels transport that at least 15 people were killed, and 55 injured just in the metro attack this morning, and that means the death toll is likely to climb. >> it looks like the death toll is looking closer to 30. we are waiting for final numbers. what we do know is that there were around 13 killed here at the airport, which is just behind me, and can you see a stream of people still coming out. now, this is almost three hours since these explosions happened and these are still travelers who are either landing or leaving still coming out. you can see it's very ordinarily and not much chaos, and there's a lot of confusion of where to go. this is as close as we can get. everybody has been pushed away from the airport and there is no
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traffic come into the airport so the police are trying to direct people away from the airport and then put them on buses or at least take them somewhere where they can leave. that's going to be a bigger problem, because it's not just the airport that has been shut down but the entire brussels transit system. after the attack in the metro where we understand 15 people were killed, the entire metro system was shut down. everybody is usually using it at this time of day to get to the work. so this is -- there's a lot of chaos on the highways around the airport, and absolute gridlock. the belgium authorities at the airport raising the terror alert level from 3 to 4, the highest, indicating they believe there could be a serious and imminent attack, george. >> alex, we saw the crowd
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streaming out of the airport, relatively calmly just now, and you were talking about scenes of real chaos at the airport after this explosion -- after these explosions were heard? >> reporter: total chaos. we understand from eyewitnesses inside that the explosions happened one after the other. there was one that was smaller and then one larger. we spoke to somebody checking in at the american airlines ticket counter and he said the explosion came from the direction of the delta counter about 30 yards away, so we are trying to figure out now if it was some kind of targeted attack, targeting where the american desks were, and it's unclear and what is clear is it happened in the heart of the departures hall, the area outside where the security was, where you would take off your shoes and go through the x-ray machines. that happened right back there, and people have been streaming
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out this way and the people who we have been speaking with, they are telling us there was carnage and blood on the floor and people lying dead and wounded, and tiles from the ceiling, debris everywhere, and scenes of absolute chaos, george. >> thank you very much. >> do we have richard clark with us from counterterrorism in washington. if indeed this was a suicide bomber at the airport, what would that tell you about the nature of the attack? >> well, the brussels authorities are now saying it was a suicide bomber, at least one. that is indicative of the isis mode of attack. it probably means there was also a suicide bomber in the metro. what this points out, george, is the need to get these cells before they act and the near impossibility of defending
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targets like metros and like the land side of airports. that's why intelligence is key here, penetrating these cells is key. if you don't penetrate them, catching them while they are about to do the attack, stopping people going into subway stations and patting them down, it's near impossible. the new york city police tried for a while to do random screenings of people go into subway stations, and it was a very small percentage of people, very small percentage of stations, and you really can't protect a metro system. you can't protect the land side before security at an airport. what that points out, if you don't have a good intelligence service that can either, through looking at telephones and e-mail or through human activity, penetrate these cells you can't really stop these things. >> there has been so much focus on this, richard, since the paris attacks and especially in
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the neighborhood of the arrests, why can't they do more? >> there's enormous cooperation from arab neighborhoods and mosques where we have parents who are concerned, talking to authorities, apparently in many of the european countries, particularly in belgium, that's just not the case. these immigrant communities from africa or whatnot, even if they have been there for a generation or more, they still feel alienated, and they feel isolated, and in the united states people can live anywhere they want, but in europe this tend to concentrate in poor suburbs of the city, and there's high unemployment particularly among young men, and there is a
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traffic between these neighborhoods and syria, and they are able to slip across the turkish border in both directions, to go there and to get training and to fight and then to come back and become sleeper cells. the belgium police have not proven very adept to penetrate these cells. >> the notion that this suspect that was arrested this week was able to fade away and not be captured until four months later. i spoke to u.s. officials, and he was stunned and could not imagine that happening, that a terror suspect can disappear for four months and that speaks to the level of support the suspect had but also a sign that the authorities in belgium have work to do. >> one of the most wanted men in the world. and general, thank you for joining us right now.
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what does this tell you about the capabilities of isis and what has been done to contain him? >> we suspected for a long time we would see isil attacks occurring more broadly outside the region where they concentrated in iraq and syria. it stands to reason they would seek to attack in the capitals of the coalition particularly the key areas to attempt to sew terror and attack the cohesion of the coalition. this is something that was expected, a strategic move, and brussels is a strategic target because it's the capital of europe in so many ways, so it's not unexpected. >> how would you describe the state of the fight against isis
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in the middle east? >> well, there's pressure on isil in the core areas. its financial assets have been reduced dramatically, and in the information sphere countering their message and narrative, so it's not -- it should not be unexpected that they attempt to dissipate the concentration and our efforts to fight them in the core area by attacking in the capitals of the coalition, and belgium would be a very symbolic attack in brussels. >> do you believe isis is being weakened in syria in iraq? >> i do. yes, i do. the military campaign there is picking up momentum. yes, i do. in syria, of course, we have had some notable successes that empowering the syrian elements
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in the northeast, particularly the kurds pushed daesh well off the border from roughly iraq to the euphrates river. >> we want to go back to our chief global affairs anchor. martha, you said this could be a strategic response and we are hearing from the belgium prime minister saying what we feared happened, and they struck us in a coward leeway and confirmed the two terror attacks, and we know 28 have been killed in the attacks, 13 at the airport and 15 at the metro. >> i am sure they are bracing for more, george, right now, and that's the real fear whether another attack is coming after these two horrendous attacks at such high profile targets. we will fined out what we can hear in the united states, and
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the president has been briefed, and other authorities here and other agencies are being briefed as well and will look at any possible attack here, although there is no information, none at all, that any sort of attack here is planned, anything specific in the united states, but what you always want to do is redouble your efforts, try to gather more intelligence and share intelligence with authorities in brussels. it's what we have done in the past, and they are coordinating that as well as possible at this point, george. picking up on general allen's point, too n. syria and iraq, as you know, i recently returned from the persian gulf where they were carrying out one after another air strikes and 50% of the aircraft would return to the aircraft carrier without dropping bombs and it's hard to find targets in syria and iraq because they do not want to cause civilian casualties but
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there has been a big increase in the air strikes over the last couple of months, and my own experience going to an aircraft carrier months ago and now, and they are really upping the number in which means they have better intelligence, which we said may be pushing across the borders to try and carry out this kind of spectacular attack. we know they searched about 100 houses in brussels and around the area since last november's attack and since brussels was in lockdown because of the fear of an imminent attack there, but these networks clearly have gone underground and there is some sort of support system while they are underground protecting one another, and enabling these attacks to be carried out. >> martha, thank you. let me go to former counterterrorism official and homeland security official.
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how do you deal with the dynamic of what they are talking about, the progress we make against isis in the middle east, the more that could create counter threats here in the united states and across europe? >> it's an excellent point. for several years isis has been employing sophisticated social media campaigns to inspire and recruit people across europe and austral australia, and there are thousands of people out there across europe and the united states who are inspired by the isis ideology and willing to act on its behalf. while our intelligence capabilities are tremendous, they focus on communications and interactions between potential attackers and the command and control structure of isis, and fbi and others are working with local law enforcement to create better capacity so people identify or witness behaviors that may be reflective of
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somebody inspired by isis, and they report those people to authorities and those authorities can take action. >> it's difficult to get that cooperation especially in the molenbeek neighborhood of brussels? >> it's a challenge faced by not only authorities in europe but in the united states. there are communities that are close-knit and a distrust of law enforcement and a distrust of federal law enforcement in particular, so we have to change the way we work with the members of those communities, and start building that trust. >> john cohen, thanks very much. and the united states and the fbi and homeland security monitoring several dozen here in the united states that they fear could carry out attacks? >> they are people that could be most inspired by what they are seeing abroad and across the country, and people are being
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picked off one by one, and the fbi arresting 70 people in the last 18 months who they think had some sort of connection or ties and being inspired by isis, and the numbers of planning to go to syria to planning attack inside the united states, and the biggest concern have not been the sophisticated cells we have seen in europe, but lone wolfs, people like we saw in san bernardino who act on their own, and they swore allegiance to the leader of isis, but no direction and control or finances, as we know of at the moment. >> we want to go to john karl. what more are you learning from the white house? sorry, apparently he is not with us right now. back to martha radic. the president, much of his national security team with him
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in cuba this morning. >> they are, and he has pretty much his entire national security team and it's more difficult when you are on the road and i am sure you are getting updates and they have been briefed and they will be in touch with their counterparts in europe to try and figure out what is going on, and always difficult because they are in the middle of a crisis in brussels and they have to attend to that first, and of course the biggest fear here, george, is that there may be another attack planned at anytime, and they clearly have gone after substantial targets, the airport, the metro, and they have closed those down and they did that in the past, and when there was an imminent threat, that attack in november that they feared did not happen, but, again, these terror cells go dark and they start communicating with much other, probably in person because they know some cell communications will probably be looked at and other kinds of so-called signals
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intelligence, whether it's on the internet or on the phone, but they obviously have ways to communicate. another thing i think will be looked at here is the number of migrants, george, and the refugee numbers are massive out of iraq and syria, and people flowing over those borders very hard to keep track of those. >> thank you, martha. i want to go back to matt olson. we know the president is expected to address the cuban people and we don't know if that will still take place. what are you hearing about how the u.s. government and white house is reacting and what they are doing right now? >> what the white house is doing and what the government is doing is what they have done in the past when these kinds of attacks occur. first and foremost, reaching out to european counterparts and finding out about the facts on the ground and looking inward, how are we postured in the united states and what is the current state of the intelligence, and what does the fbi know?
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how is the homeland security postured to protect sites like subway systems and types of targets we have seen in the past that terrorists have gone after. all of that activity has taken place and there will be a great deal of activity here in washington even though the president is in cuba looking at these questions today. >> dick clarke, you can understand, people here in the u.s. waking up and seeing what is happening in europe and in brussels and their hearts go out to them, and they are thinking about, i have to go to work and school, and the concern here in times square, we are seeing added activity, and what can you say to people waking up and hearing the news here in the u.s.? >> the truth is, there's no threat in the united states that the u.s. government knows of of anything like this happening right now. 83 don't know of the presence of organized cells of isis in the united states. the way we do know there were cells in europe and we did know
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there were cells in belgium planning this kind of attack, and if you are thinking about go into the metro or the t in boston, and that's probably safe. we have not had any evidence of attacks being planned, and even though, let's be frank, it would be relatively easy to do. that's why, as i was saying a moment ago, you have to get inside these cells and detect these cells before they become active, because if somebody wants to walk into the new york subway, the metro in washington, nobody pats them down, and there's no airport screening and no bomb-sniffing dogs on a regular basis, so the u.s. relies on intelligence and intelligence so far in the u.s. has been very, very good. ? >> it has, thankfully. all right, dick, thank you very much. we will take a short break to bring in the rest of the stations across the country for
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special report from abc news. good morning, america. at least three explosions rocked the capital of brussels this morning. a suicide bomber reportedly targets the crowded airport. >> there were explosions in the main building. >> ceilings collapsing. running for their lives. another blast rocks a metro station. just days after a major suspect in the paris terror attacks is arrested. americans in europe told to shelter in place. nypd set to ramp up security here in new york. the hunt is on right now for who's behind these blasts. >> announcer: live in times square, this is "good morning america."


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