tv Andrea Mitchell Reports MSNBC November 20, 2015 9:00am-10:01am PST
earlier today after a standoff that lasted hours, security services in mali indicate that attack is over, but many details remain unclear, including who is responsible and how many people were killed. for the very latest, i'm joined by nbc's ron mott, who is in london, msnbc's ayman mohyeldin in brussels, nbc's jim miklaszewski is at the pentagon and laura haim, washington bureau chief for france's canal plus, is in washington. ron, let me start with you. i know this remains a very fluid situation but what do we know? >> as you know, good day, first of all. as you know, the numbers of dead and wounded are likely to fluctuate greatly in the aftermath of a crisis like this and so we can tell you we just reported off the top of the hour here that it was at least three confirmed dead. now one of the french press agencies is reporting that the death toll is now at least 18 and what we can tell you is the hostage crisis itself is over. there are no more hostages being held at this hotel but teams are
going through room by room, looking for more victims in the hotel. we can also report that two alleged terrorists have been killed in this operation to rescue these folks out of this hotel and they may be the only two who were involved in all of this. there were some wild numbers earlier in the morning, about 10 to 12 or 13, even, alleged gunmen storming this hotel but it looks like it may be a much smaller number and may in fact just be these two. we can also tell you that the hotel was hosting some sort of conference and one of the dead is, we have got this confirmed from the belgian parliament, was a civil servant who worked in the parliament building there, was on a three-day business trip to mali when this all took place friday morning down there. so the latest again is french press agency reporting at least 18 dead, there are a number of wounded being taken out of the hotel now and jim miklaszewski will report some u.s. troops on scene there to help with the evacuation. chris?
>> ron mott, thank you for that. let's put all of this into context of ayman mohyeldin. what can you tell me about islamic extremism in that part of africa and obviously, there's a lot of speculation at this hour about any possible connection between this attack and paris. >> reporter: yeah, chris. mali has been struggling for some time with a stubborn rebellion insurgency in the northern part of the country that dates back some years. to put it in context, it began roughly in 2012 when the civilian president of that country was overthrown by the military of mali. it was a coup that was carried out. shortly after that, a sudden explosion of several militant groups, islamic militant groups, some affiliated with al qaeda and other groups in the northern part of mali, managed to take control of that country and it led to an international condemnation, led by france, that followed that with international air strikes.
now, france launched a military operation in early january 2013 and managed to drive out some of the rebels that were in control of the northern part of the territory, bringing it back under this central government. why that's so important is because for the last two years or so, those militant groups, some affiliated with al qaeda, others not, have been launching attacks across the northern part of the country and in the capital bamako. but today's attack was a very brazen attack, targeting a soft target right in the heart of the government district. a lot of government ministries nearby. this is a hotel that is considered a western hotel, a brand name, visited by a lot of westerners, international businessmen, diplomats and government officials. so it was a highly symbolic target to go after. we were talking about the claim of responsibility. as of yet, the claim of responsibility that has come out is from a group known as al mourabitoun, a group considered to be islamic extremists with
affiliation or close affiliation to previous al qaeda groups in the western part of africa. so again, the claim of responsibility believed to be credible but not independently verified by nbc at this stage. it gives you a sense of the complex political landscape that exists in mali. the country continues to deal with a wave of terrorist attacks over the past several months including as recently as march of this year. but this by far would be the most brazen and sophisticated attack taken place. it also highlights a very important point. mali used to be a french colony, has very close relationship with france. it was france that led that international coalition, particularly of air strikes to expel some of these militant groups from the northern part of the country, and france out of any other western country had the largest military presence in mali. they had about 1,000 troops on the ground as of this morning. so there are very close relationships between mali and
france. that cannot be excluded from the context of what happened today. >> ayman, thank you very much for that. now let's go to the pentagon. jim miklaszewski is there. i know you have been looking into the u.s. troop involvement, especially u.s. special ops. what have you found out about their presence there and who might have actually been in the hotel when all of this was going down? >> well, the latest announcement just recently out of the pentagon is that all 22 u.s. defense and military officials who were in the city of bamako at the time that those hostages were taken there at the hotel are all accounted for and there were no injuries. now, according to officials here, there were six americans inside the hotel who managed to evacuate safely. that's the only number of americans we know for sure about that were in the hotel. now, one special operations soldier, an american, was there at the hotel in the vicinity and
we assume from what we are hearing that he was in civilian clothing, was not armed but nevertheless, pitched in and helped in the evacuation of the hotel. there was one other special operations soldier, an american, at the command center where mali security forces were putting together an assault operation. we have to emphasize here there were no u.s. military involved in the assault operation that eventually brought this hostage crisis to an end. it's not clear even though six americans did evacuate the hotel safely, it's not clear whether there were still americans who could be among the casualties. chris? >> obviously a lot of people who have to do work there. thank you so much, jim miklaszewski. laura haim, you heard the mention by ayman mohyeldin about the long sort of ties between france and mali. what are you hearing from your sources in france and the
ability to ascertain whether there's a connection between this attack and paris? >> i am hearing two things. that france is definitely the target but also anyone fighting al qaeda or isis in africa. the strike this morning, bamako, when the president of mali was not there, he was at the g-5 summit in a neighboring country which is chad, and those countries wanted to fight terrorism and organized a small summit to try to find a solution against the islamization of their countries. the terrorists who attacked today at the hotel choosed also this moment so the president of mali is on his way back to bamako. the second information is a lot of groups are now welcoming responsibility. there was a message sent to the french government in october by
an al qaeda affiliate group saying we are going to do something against france in mali, we are going to do something against what hollande did in mali in 2013 and we are going to attack a target and we are going to take hostages. that's a group which again, this message has been identified last week. then there was another message which arrived a few hours ago, a group which in a way, americans involved in the fight, and what emerged was a leader who in 2013 attacked in a horrible way americans in north algeria and killed seven americans. so if they are responsible for what happened today in bamako it means that it was not only
france but also america which was targeted. again, you see in these type of things that a lot of groups want to claim responsibility and it's definitely something to study, but the fact that when there's an attack against civilians, a lot of groups are calling right away to claim responsibility. >> laura haim in washington, thank you very much. i'm joined here now in paris by richard engel. you have been to mali, you have stayed at that hotel. i want to ask you a bigger picture question, if i can. people were waking up this morning and want ting to hear t latest on the investigation of the paris attacks. instead they are getting another terrorist attack in mali. they are hearing warnings about the possibility of chemical and biological attacks here, about threats against washington and new york city, about threats against rome and milan and italy. what is going on? why -- does it just seem as though there is this --
>> did the world go crazy overnight? >> with islamic terrorism. >> right now, you have a base and it really goes back to iraq and syria. you have islamic state, isis, which has set the tone and this attack in mali, very unlikely to be linked to isis but the reason i say you have to focus on iraq and syria is right now, islamic militants have a country of their own. and they are excited about it. they are active on the internet. they are carrying out attacks in paris. >> they are bragging about it. >> they are bragging about it. it's turned up the volume worldwide. so this group which is a relatively small group which has a grievance internally in mali which france is involved in because it was a former colony and france intervened to help save the government of bamako, it's really sort of a local grievance. they took over this hotel, there have been attacks in mali in the past. but what we're seeing worldwide is these islamic militant groups feel empowered right now.
they feel like they are winning. they feel like they are getting the publicity and they are not all linked but they are all part of a similar fraternity, if you will. they feel a solidarity with one another. sometimes a rivalry but part of the same movement, if you will. >> that's my question. do they feel a solidarity or do they feel a competition? >> it depends. on the leadership level, they feel a lot of competition. the difference between baghdadi and zawahiri, they don't agree but it's about who's in charge, the mafia boss. but the foot soldiers move around. >> it's all about ideology. >> it's about ideology but within the group, sure, it's a power struggle. they are fighting for the same recruits, and since they are fighting for the same recruits, the recruits can pick and choose. you meet militants that were with one group and moved to the other group and there's a lot of these organizations that have changed their affiliations. but going back to the larger question, what is going on right
now, these militant groups have a country, they have money, they feel very confident. so everyone is coming out of the woodwork to join the band wagon. this was what would normally be described as a local incident, a militant group with a grievance against the government taking hostages, trying to carry it out, trying to get a lot of attention, but not surprising at all that was an islamic militant group. >> a deadly grievance it is. you will come back later in the hour. we will have much more with you. thank you. we will continue to follow the latest updates from mali. plus after the break, more on the investigation into the paris terror attacks. one week later, the death toll now stands at 130. plus what we're learning about the seven-hour siege in saint-denis that killed the ring leader of the attacks. how you doing? hey! how are you? where are we watching the game? you'll see. i think my boys have a shot this year. yeah, especially with this new offense we're running...
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and now to the latest here in paris. nbc global correspondent bill neely has just spoken to a member of paris' s.w.a.t. team. they are known as the bri. these are the guys who led the seven-hour siege on the apartment in saint-denis that killed the ring leader of the paris attacks, abdelhamid abaaoud, and two others. bill joins me now on the phone. bill, what more did you learn about the raid from your interview with the s.w.a.t. team leader? >> well, it was an extraordinary account of a seven-hour battle. the man who was -- wanted to be known only as hugo was the captain who led that assault who went in at around 4:15 in the morning. they went up to the second floor of the apartment building, one floor above where the terrorists and that's where the shooting started. they thought, they had been told
there were four people inside, two of whom were key figures. he said it was clear quite early on that they had military training, that they were very militarily capable. the way they fired, they knew where to shoot, they knew how to manage their ammunition, they knew where to hide. he said they were very organized and cold-blooded. he spoke about the woman suicide bomber, hasna aitboulahcen. he said she tried to fool them, to lure them into helping them by saying help me, i'm scared, i'm scared. then suddenly, he says, there was a flash, a blinding flash, then came the shock wave of her blowing herself up. he thought the building would collapse, it shook so much, then there was complete silence. he led a team of about 30 men. they and their police colleagues fired in all about 5,000 bullets. i said why did you have to fire
that amount? he said it was quite clear that they were well-trained. we had to shoot as many bullets as possible because we had very few moments when we could actually see them. he showed us a bulletproof shield that one of the officers was carrying. it was peppered with half a dozen bullets. there was shrapnel marks from a grenade that exploded. in fact, the policeman that was carrying that shield was injured. he showed us a helmet that had shrapnel injury. in fact, a bullet had passed through the helmet, went right through and out the other side. the policeman who was wearing that, extremely lucky. at the end of the siege, the wooden floors of the apartment had collapsed as they saw one of the bodies of the terrorists and then they withdrew when they knew there was no one else alive inside. everyone either dead or arrested. an extraordinary account from a fairly young man who was very professional and you could tell, very proud of what he had done
just days after the massacres. abaaoud, the man who was inside that apartment, clearly had organized very personally. chris? >> bill neely, let me ask you really quickly about aitboulahcen. what this guy told you would seem to be at odds with what we have learned about her. people say she only was radicalized very recently, she was not able to travel to syria and yet what you're saying is their impression was she was very highly trained. >> well, they said the people inside who were firing the weapons were highly trained. i asked did he ever see, did he ever get eyes on her, and he said no. there were other accounts that she was seen firing a gun. he did not say that, but he was under the clear impression, he said very directly that she had tried to fool them, that she had
tried to pretend that she was innocent by saying i'm scared, i'm scared, and then she blew herself up. we do know from friends that she in her previous life, she was a young woman, that she liked to do the things young women do. she was a young woman who liked to go to parties, who liked makeup, who liked dancing and music. her family are completely astonished at the transformation. she only left home about three weeks ago and disappeared to a friend's house. so it's not entirely clear whether she had military training but he was quite clear that she was part of this group and that she was, you know, not an innocent party in the flat by mistake. i think we have learned that the police were led to the flat by her. they were following her and
sometime in the late evening before the assault, she led abaaoud into the apartment building. so clearly she had a direct connection with the man who was known as the person who organized and coordinated the paris attacks. chris? >> absolutely chilling account. we will look forward to more of it. bill neely, thank you. coming up, u.s. state department spokesman admiral john kirby with an update on the situation in mali. the citi double cash® card comes in very handy with cash back twice on purchases. earn once when you buy, and again as you pay. that's cash back now, and cash back again later. it's cash back déjà vu. the citi double cash card. the only card that lets you earn cash back twice on every purchase with 1% when you buy and 1% as you pay. with two ways to earn, it makes a lot of other cards seem one sided.
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enjoy the go with charmin. i want to express my deep sympathy and personal concern for all of the guests and employees affected by the terrible events which are happening today at the radisson blu bamako in mali. i speak on behalf of the entire hotel group in extending our deep sympathy to the families, colleagues and friends of all
those touched by today's events. at this point, we are monitoring developments locally and are in close contact with the authorities as well as offering them all possible support. the safety and security of our guests and employees is our top priority. >> that was the hotel ceo wolfgang newman with a message regarding the attack at the radisson blu in mali. let me bring in admiral john kirby, spokesman at the state department. good to see you. i know everything is still developing there but what do we know about americans in mali? does the state department have a clear channel of information and do we expect to hear at some point today from secretary kerry? >> well, winde may hear more fr secretary kerry about this very tragic event in mali. we are obviously staying in close touch with our embassy there as well as malian authorities as they continue to work through this. we do know that there were some
americans at the radisson. we are still trying to do a proper accounting of all of them. i can't say with certainty right now that we have that proper accounting. we do know all embassy personnel are accounted for. we are still watching this very, very closely. >> there have always been americans who have been posted at dangerous places in the world but i wonder given this more recent heightened concern over terror attacks, what's your message been to foreign service officers with all these attacks and threats? >> i would say two things. first is we want them to continue to do the important work of diplomacy around the world. you are absolutely right, some of them are posted in places that are far off and far away and in many cases dangerous. it's important work. representing the united states and furthering our interests around the world. we want them to keep at it. secondly, we want them to stay vigilant and we want all americans frankly overseas to stay vigilant. particularly at this time. we just, you probably saw some messages we put out yesterday to
americans in europe. we want people to keep their head on a swivel, if they see something strange, to say something, to report it. that's the same message we have to our foreign service officers and diplomats around the world who absolutely have to stay engaged and will stay engaged. >> is there a concern or how high is the concern within the department, especially again in places that are unstable, places that are known to be hotbeds of terrorism, that american workers or embassy staff, even ambassadors could be targeted? >> that's always a concern. in many places around the world, it has been for much of the last 15 years, as you might imagine. but what you don't want -- you have to continue to be engaged and be out there. you don't want to send a message to the terrorists that you're so afraid to operate and to engage and to do business, whether it's government business or commercial business in places around the world, to allow them to play on those fears. you don't want that to happen. our message is you got to stay out there, you got to stay
engaged. you got to send a message to the terrorists that they're not going to beat everybody down. aur he not going to surrender to fear. on the other hand, you have to be mindful of the threats and challenges out there and make sure you are constantly informed. we do a really good job at the state department of making sure we do it through our website and messages we push out to americans that are traveling, we do a good job making sure we keep them abreast of any concerns that we have from a security perspective anywhere in the world. >> so what can they do if they have questions about that? if you go on some hotel web sites and you are looking for a hotel in northern mali, that state department warning which is frankly pretty scary, is posted. now we have seen concerns about other places, as you say, across europe. people know what's happened here in paris. they are hearing it, maybe the vatican, st. peter's square could be targeted, the opera house in milan could be
targeted. what do they do with that information? there's concern here, for example, as i know you are probably not that surprised, this has already had a tremendous impact on the very significant tourism industry. >> we understand that, certainly. what i would tell people getting ready to travel is go to www.state.gov. there's a lot of travel information on there that we constantly update and refresh. you can also check in if you are overseas, check in with embassy personnel. you can do that through the web as well, to find out what the latest security messages might be and rest assured that as we know information, that we want to give to our government employees, we are also going to have to give it and will give it to american citizens over seas. we will push that information out. you can sign up to get these messages if you want privately and directly. you can do that. but we will constantly keep that refreshed. the other thing i would say, we kind of talked about this a couple minutes ago, while you have to be vigilant and careful, and we do urge you to check in
with our website and our security messages before you travel and while you're on travel, also have to be mindful that business still has to get done. if you want to take that trip it's probably going to be okay to take that trip still. don't surrender just to fear. certainly stay informed but we shouldn't surrender just to fear. >> yet i don't want to say that there may seem to some people to be a disconnect because that's probably too strong a word, but we heard the secretary who told lester holt a little earlier after these attacks in paris happened that he was shocked but not surprised so if there's no surprise, i guess i wonder if people would say well, they are telling us to go about our business but just be vigilant but is that understating the threat? >> i don't think so, no. again, i certainly understand the concerns about safety. we share those concerns. there's no greater responsibility for the federal government than to look after the safety and security of americans, whether here at home or overseas. we take that very seriously.
when we say we're not surprised, we know that this group, particularly isil but other terrorist groups as well, are intent on inflicting damage and harm and sowing fear, and that they can do that by attacking western targets. now, this mali wouldn't consider a western target necessarily, but certainly they try to sow fear by attacking soft targets and in particular, western targets. so we're not surprised when we see the manifestation of these intentions. we take their threats very, very seriously. on the other hand, though, you can't be so frozen into fear and panic by this that it stops business all together or it stops the pursuit of u.s. national security interests in vital places around the world. that's the way these guys win. we can't let them win in that regard. >> state department spokesman john kirby, thanks for taking the time. >> great to be with you. thank you.
up next, we'll have more on the siege in mali with msnbc military analyst general barry mccaffrey. how you doing? hey! how are you? where are we watching the game? you'll see. i think my boys have a shot this year. yeah, especially with this new offense we're running... i mean, our running back is a beast. once he hits the hole and breaks through the secondary, oh he's gone. and our linebackers and dbs dish out punishment, and never quit. ♪ you didn't expect this did you? no i didn't. the nissan altima. there's a fun side to every drive. nissan. innovation that excites. and sometimes i struggle to sleep at night,blind. and stay awake during the day.
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a disaster for several years. the collapse of the libyan regime had a cascading effect in which terrorists suddenly had access to some very sophisticated weapons, including potentially ground-to-air missiles, and it really became a watershed event. u.s. special operations forces operate throughout the region, mostly on training, advise and assist missions, but specifically in this case, we should anticipate that if the crisis goes on long enough, they will be called upon for potentially direct action in hostage rescue situations. >> general barry mccaffrey, thank you so much for that call. appreciate it. now all the events of this past week in paris and in mali today are playing out on the presidential campaign trail as well. for more on that, we turn to peter alexander in washington. good afternoon, peter.
>> good afternoon to you. we want to talk about the major global political players responding to bwhat we have see in mali and paris. chuck todd, obviously national security has become sort of the primary focus point of this election right now. donald trump even within the last few minutes saying he is the most militaristic person in terms of this debate but some of his recent remarks have obviously raised eyebrows most notably when he at least wouldn't deny some interest in some form of registry for muslims. let's listen to that. >> there should be a lot of systems beyond data bases. we should have a lot of systems. today you can do it. right now we have to have a border, we have to have strength, we have to have a wall. we cannot let what's happening to this country happen. i would certainly implement that. absolutely. >> muslims specifically, how do you actually get them registered? >> it would be just good
management. what you have to do is good management procedures. we can do that. >> you got donald trump, you got conversations comparing syrian refugees to rabid dogs out of the mouth of ben carson. how do you cast this last week in terms of rhetoric? >> it's been a horrendous week in the search of american political leadership. obviously what we have seen from trump and carson, this is stuff that is going to cost the eventual republican nominee in the long run. those remarks are going to get used, going to get thrown back and you know, conflating it with immigration. it's just going to be comments that i think that those candidates will regret. interestingly, though, i think there is a vacuum left here for trump to take advantage of in some ways in that you have an american public that some, particularly on the right, don't like the president's tone and rhetoric and the rhetoric that he has done and -- >> americans were spooked and want to hear that someone gets that. >> he was more focused on his
critics in that first press conference he had from overseas, and you know, trump has been able to stoke the politics of fear successfully in a way, and i think in using that strong man tactic, what's been interesting is that this has hurt carson. i think carson, it's a combination of things. one, he doesn't project strength in the same way that trump does, and that i think has been appealing to a certain part of the electorate. the second thing has been i think that carson has stumbled too much on too many national security issues. i think that's why you are seeing what appears to be the post-paris effect hurting carson but so far, not only not hurting trump, but potentially strengthening him at least with his core supporters that he's been able to sort of -- because it feeds into the same message that he began with. when he sort of stoked the fears on immigration, in some ways he's being able to conflate the two issues. >> even as new statistics show the number of hispanics leaving this country is larger than the number coming into this country from mexico right now.
he's tapped into something else. there's a group saying this isn't the america i know. >> you are talking about ben carson, in a decline right now. ted cruz is growing. >> that's one poll. it's ours and it's interesting. let's see if it's a movement. >> broadly it appears he's gaining strength. here's what he said this morning as he filled that vacuum a little bit in response to donald trump. take a listen. >> senator, your reaction to donald trump's suggestion yesterday that muslims be tracked as part of a national registry? >> well, listen, i'm a big fan of donald trump's but i'm not a fan of government registries of american citizens. the first amendment protects religious liberty. >> clear that ted cruz has a calculation here as well. doesn't want to alienate trump supporters because if trump disappears, he hopes he's the biggest one with the inheritance. >> cruz has been very hesitant to criticize trump on any of this over the top rhetoric trump has used. that's as close as you will come
to hearing cruz criticize trump. jeb bush unloaded, i assume a few other candidates might, too. i'm surprised more haven't. i think some trump supporters are saying the media has been asking him this question and he's just responding. then he needs to be more disciplined about this. i'm sorry. the whole registry thing, that just brings images and metaphors that no american, anybody aspiring to be an american president -- >> dating back to world war ii. you mentioned jeb bush. we have john kasich saying trump is trying to divide people. here's what jeb bush said on cnbc. >> you talk about closing mosques, you talk about registering people. that's just wrong. i don't care about campaigns. >> what if that doesn't resonate with enough people to get elected? >> it's not a question of toughness. it's manipulating people's angst and fears. that's not strength. that's weakness.
>> is jeb bush finding his footing on this? >> i don't know. i don't know. the fact of the matter is, we are at a point where there's this kind of leadership vacuum where this is working. we all need to ask ourselves how is it that trump is finding so much success being able to do what he -- what governor bush just said, stoking this fear and using it as political strength. now, you know, i think -- i don't think it's bigger than what he has, but i think it goes to the heart of we have an overall leadership vacuum inside the republican party in american politics in general right now, to the point that this is effective. that ought to be a wake-up call to a lot of people in washington. >> you have a full plate this weekend. see you sunday. coming up, more of msnbc's live coverage after a short break. we will take you back to paris and chris jansing. and more on how the attackers in paris were able to slip through the fingers of european intelligence. [meow mix jingle slowly and quietly plucks] right on cue.
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we're back live in paris, continuing our coverage of the breaking news out of mali as well as what's been going on here in paris. the ongoing investigation into the attacks that are now one week old. we have a terror analyst and managing director of a risk aben security firm here in paris. good to see you. let me talk about mali first and what happened. mali's president made kind of an ominous statement to french television, saying, and i'm quoting, no one nowhere is safe. what do you make of that? >> well, every country that has been hit by such attacks, such terrorist groups, they all can say that it's not because of their failure that they have been hit, because everybody now is hit. it's also a justification of this. but it's the view that now there's a kind of new dynamic
because with the french attack, with the paris attack, that gave power to could be isis or al qaeda. finally they have the same objective. so maybe it's not connected, the two stories are not connected, bamako and paris, but that gives the other groups a kind of energy and determination to go further, to do more than usually. >> let's talk about what was done here. obviously the ringleader is dead now. so are two other people who were in that apartment in saint-denis. you still have salah abdeslam missing, we don't know where the bomb maker is. based on what we know about terrorists and how they operate, is it likely they went underground, are they in syria? what do you think? how hard will it be to find them? >> i think they will do the maximum not to be caught, of
course, but they have nothing to lose now. the risk is if those guys are still in paris -- >> that's got to be the worst case scenario, yeah? >> the worst scenario because the security will finally find them so they will, as i said, they have nothing to lose so they will be ready to much more operation and much more violence, of course. >> that's raising a lot of questions here, including conversations with the eu, what to do about open borders, where do you see that going? >> well, imagine the case if the two attackers, the french one are still in france and you just closed the border. that means even he wanted to go out from the european territories, now it's become harder. so that will push people, sleeping cells to act because it knows it cannot any more synchronize between the countries. as a base, europe, it was up to
now a rare base. now it's really a kind of front. >> always good to have you on the program. thank you for coming out in the cold on this rainy evening here in paris. much more ahead on the terror attack in mali, the latest on the ongoing investigation here in paris as well. staying in rhythm... it's how i try to live... how i stay active. so i need nutrition... that won't weigh me down. for the nutrition you want without the calories you don't... introducing boost 100 calories. each delicious snack size drink gives you... 25 vitamins and minerals and 10 grams of protein. so it's big in nutrition and small in calories. i'm not about to swim in the slow lane. stay strong. stay active with boost®.
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live again in paris, we have some fascinating new information out of a homeland security committee hearing in the senate today. richard engel, our chief foreign correspondent, joins us. they were looking at the 4500 westerners who have joined jihad. let me read to you some of the statistics that came out of this hearing. women represented in unprecedented number. the average age of recruits, 24. the ones drawn to syria overall the average age is 21.
many have f ashamilial ties to jihadism. >> 4500, the previous estimates have been around 5,000. that's just from western europe. the overall number, according to estimates, are closer to 30,000 people who have gone to fight with radical groups in iraq and syria. that's basically what this is all about. you have a population that are drawn from communities here and all across europe that feel disenfranchised, angry, like they are not part of the french system, not part of france, and they have been angry for a long time. this is not new. but what's new is they are going to this safe haven in iraq and syria, they are getting real-time experience in bomb making, at killing and coming back changed, far more dangerous. that's what we saw here. this was not an isis plot that came out of syria and came here out of nowhere.
these were local boys from france and belgium who went actively, they sent themselves to syria, got their training, at least the mastermind, then came back here to show the world what he had learned. that's what we saw here in paris. >> i don't want to draw you into the middle of a u.s. political debate but when they are debating the refugees, they seem to draw a lot of comparisons between what happened here and what could happen in the united states and there are those who are arguing look, the situation on the ground for a syrian refugee is very different. is that fair? >> there are two issues here. is isis interested in attacking the united states, absolutely. this group was born in iraq. this group was born fighting u.s. marines. i wouldn't be surprised if somebody carried out an attack on the united states from isis happened to be from fallujah because that was the city that u.s. troops attacked and devastated twice. so isis and the people behind it
have a score to settle with the united states. isis' first leader, the founder of the group, if you will, abu musab al zarqawi, who really bought this murderous butchery to the mainstream, was killed by americans. does isis want to attack the u.s., yes, absolutely. are all the refugees that are trying to leave their country dangerous people? these are people who are leaving by and large terrorism. they are leaving because they are terrified and cannot stay home. but, but -- >> less disenchanted than the refugees here? >> look, refugee populations, you can't summarize them all. 7 this is a fluid population. the vast majority, the overwhelming majority are people who are leaving violence. are there some wolves hiding among the sheep, yes. there seems to be. but there's a difference -- what the debate in the u.s. fails to understand is that it's very
different in europe than it is in the u.s. so people arrive from turkey, that's the main gateway out, they go to greece, no real regulations, no controls, and then once they're in europe, there are no controls anymore in europe so they end up here or back in brussels and go under the radar. the refugees that will be taken back to the u.s. are filtered. they are people who were going to go through repeated security checks. they aren't getting in a raft to cross the atlantic ocean. one place people have said, security experts said they should be more worried about is the canadian border because that's a large land border. you can get into canada somewhat more easily, then cross in. there is reason to be concerned. it's not like you have no reason to be concerned. but you shouldn't paint all the refugees in this brush. these people are victims. >> always great to talk to you. thank you. that does it for this edition of "andrea mitchell reports." thomas roberts is up next live from paris.
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hi, everybody. i'm thomas roberts live in paris, where it's 7:00 p.m. here, 1:00 p.m. back home on the east coast as we continue our breaking news coverage. very fast-moving developments coming out of mali all day, where grenade-throwing gunmen stormed the radisson blu hotel, taking hostages. i want to go straight to ayman mohyeldin with the latest on this attack. are security forces saying this is over, the gunmen are neutralized? >> reporter: yeah, all indications suggest that the operation now has come to an end and assessment is taking place of the situation inside that hotel. for the most part, the country's security minister has been quoted as saying there are no more hostages. that's perhaps the biggest indication that the security operation has come to an end. as you recall, this began in the early hours of the morning.