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America Under Attack: Police In Boston Raiding Westin Hotel

Aired September 12, 2001 - 12:56   ET


AARON BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As Congress works on that, investigators continue to work on who is responsible, we want to join our coverage, the coverage of our affiliate in Boston WHDH for more on the investigation.


CHRISTINA, WHDH-REPORTER: Relatively calm inside the hotel except of course on the 60th floor where the activity is suddenly taking place. I was there briefly and so also were EMS standing by on that floor with stretchers, also police officers making sure none of the guests or anybody else in the hotel was going to be getting off on the 16th floor. And also federal agents standing by.

They were obviously very intent in efforts taking place whatever the operation was, however they have not shut down the elevator to floor as of 15 minutes ago. Seems to be still some confusion among the guests, confusion among emergency personnel responding here. Much what is happening in the hotel seems to be business as usual, certainly outside of extraordinary events now focused on the 16th floor.

QUESTION: Are you in the lobby right now?

CHRISTINA: I won't tell you exactly where I am, Jonathan, but I'm upstairs in the hotel.

QUESTION: Can you get to any authority or anybody in charge we might be able to interview on the telephone?

CHRISTINA: We will try to do that right now. We've been trying to reach those people. I have talk to a few of the people. They are slowly beginning to understand what is happening, watching television sets where they can sneak into a room and see something going on. Very concern for their safety, although nobody officially told them there's any threat to any of us inside the hotel. However, maids and some of the other staff get word of this. They are just taking it upon themselves to leave and make sure they are watching all of this from a better advantage point.

QUESTION: Tell with Julie outside. Christina, why don't you take a walk around and see if you can get anybody to speak with you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Curious what really might be going on because if you think this is a bomb threat, that the hotel would immediately evacuate everybody. But Christina is saying it appears there's guests there, and the maids are walking around and they didn't know anything about what is going on.

QUESTION: It's a tale of two scenes from Christina. Inside it seems to be business as usual, but outside, Julia, this picture is anything but normal day.

JULIA, WHDH-REPORTER: Anything but normal, Jonathan, and as you may be able to see there's more and more people gathering, they were across the street all through out Coffee Square, everyone wanting to know what's going on in the Westin Hotel at this point.

As we mentioned, still dozens of police officers. They have the street blocked off just in front of the Westin Hotel. Tactical response team still inside, the entry and apprehension team, as I mentioned, going in with full gear, with their shields up, with their guns drawn up to the 16th floor where Christina and the tenants are.

They brought in this fiber-optic equipment, they want to look under the doors to see what they are getting into before going into the rooms.

We got word few minutes ago that possibly some suspects were in custody. That is not confirmed, but that they had gone back in to see if anyone else was in the rooms. I can't tell you how many people out here, people standing on top of cars, just trying to get better look. But as Christina said, it seems to be business as usual.

I'm not sure what floor she's on, but at this point I can see into the lobby, still people milling. Employees still inside trying to do their best to keep people calm, let everyone know everything is okay for the time being. No evacuation at this point.

But again, two ambulance waiting outside, the armored truck that the tactical team came from. They are going back and forth to get more equipment. The last time they came out they did get that fiber optic equipment and they haven't come back since. But there is a huge police presence as they wait to see exactly what happens inside.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The wires the Associated Press crossing the flash that dozens of police officers have pulled up outside the Westin hotel in the back. A tactical team is seen running in and out of the hotel, as we've been reporting to you for about the past 15 or 20 minutes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Julie, do you see from the glass doors of the entrance to the hotel, a lot of plainclothes people just walking out slowly, almost like there really isn't a rush to get out of the hotel. Are you near the lobby able to see inside the windows there to see what's going on inside the lobby?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Julie, are you still with us?

JULIE: I'm still hear. I heard that, but I'm having a very difficult time. I didn't hear the question.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, we're just wondering as you walk around, whether people are rushing in and out of lobby, whether people are able to enter the hotel, or has it been blocked off at this point?

JULIE: No people are apparently still entering the hotel.


BROWN: We continue to look now at the scene outside the Westin Hotel in Boston, as some considerable operation law enforcement operation has gone on. We heard reporters on the scene talk about police officers moving in with full shields, essentially riot gear, with guns drawn. Whether they're going into search rooms. searching for suspects that may or may not be in the building.

CNN's Kelli Arena, who covers the Justice Department for us joins us now.

Kelli, can you tell us anything about arrests that have been made or pending?

KELLI ARENA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Law enforcement sources are telling CNN that this moment they do have several people in custody. They will not describe those people as suspects. At best, they said these are people may be able to provide important material information regarding the case.

When asked what does "in custody" mean, arresting or just in for questioning, they couldn't elaborate no that point, but they also add that there are also people in custody in Florida, in Southern Florida, people who not described as suspects but may provide material information regarding yesterday's terrorist attacks.

As I said, Aaron, we don't know what information led them to these people. We do know that there have been several investigative leads that have lead them to certain flight schools. We do know there's Huffman Aviation School. FBI officials are there. They are interested in particular in one student there we are told by sources. So we do know that investigative leads have led to FBI to various flight schools and facilities that have flight simulator training equipment, and we do know that those passenger manifests on the plane have led investigators to both Boston and Florida. There were people identified on those lists as either people who had been sympathizers with Osama bin Laden's cause or people that for one reason or another raised a flag with INS or with federal investigators -- Aaron.

BROWN: Kelli, just help me with one thing. This first group -- we won't call them suspects, I'm not sure what we will call them. They are in custody in Boston, is that correct?

ARENA: That's right. Several in Boston and several in Southern Florida as well. BROWN: In South Florida. Then let's go to Bill Delaney who is our bureau chief in South Boston.

Bill, tell me what you are hearing and what you know?

BILL DELANEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Aaron, what we hearing very much is what Kelli Arena is reporting. For about an hour or so now, reports flying around here now of imminent arrests. We have heard rumors of that sort of thing. Even from the sources in the Middle East earlier this morning, it now appears that the material -- these people that may provide some sort of material information, as Kelli said, they're not being specifically described as suspects have now been arrested. Now we had press conference here 45 minutes or so ago, including the head of the FBI here, he could not be drawn at all to confirm any of the many of the reports here in Boston about arrests.

About the most concrete thing we have here, Aaron, is that there's a car, out at an FBI-processing facility in the Boston area. That was taken from the central parking garage here last night, a car, a Mitsubishi Mirage, a rent-a-car, in which we're documents. Many of them has been widely reported in Arabic, including it has been reported a plan for the attack in Arabic, as well as some kind of Arab-language flight training manual. That car gone over at that FBI- processing facility. Also apparently at that processing facility, the FBI going over chairs they took from the terminal building, or one of the terminal buildings, because these was two flights left from two different terminal building, chairs they examine for DNA evidence, which may point to suspects in this.

Journalist John Wells was part of -- Aaron, part of team here, came up with some information overnight about who is suspects may be, who these hijackers may have been. Journalist John Wells of "The Boston Herald."

BROWN: We're having a problem getting the tape. We will continue now with the coverage of our Boston affiliate WHDH.


UNIDENTIFIED WHDH REPORTER: I see at least four ambulances. I see two parked outside from our vantage point. There is one parked right beside the door, and then there is another parked up near the garage entrance. I also see the bomb squad truck here, the special operations truck, so they are onboard here as well.

UNIDENTIFIED WHDH ANCHOR: And as we continue looking at the front entrance, we should probably explain to people, give them a little bit of a sense of what we're looking at. For those of you who are not familiar, the Westin Hotel in the heart of Copley Square. It is bordered by on one side Huntington Avenue. It faces the square itself. And on the other side is Stuart Street, and it's in the slim triangle between Huntington and Stuart, and what we are looking at is actually considered to be the front door. Correct me if I'm wrong.

Ann (ph), are you still with us? ANNE, WHDH-REPORTER: Yes, I am. Just hopping up on an apartment, so I can see if I can get a better view, and one of the passerby is giving me a hand.

I'm trying to get a better vantage point, and I still can't see.

UNIDENTIFIED WHDH ANCHOR: Probably through the camera lenses at this point the best possible angle. But we are looking at the front door, revolving door at the Westin. It is the side of building that faces Huntington Avenue and Trinity Place, the new condominium complex that was recently constructed in Copley Square. And as we get that more -- that wider shot of the hotel, we can see that the ambulances appear to be parked on the street and not actually -- the hotel has an inner circle, an driveway where buses can pull in and drop off luggage and so forth.

UNIDENTIFIED WHDH REPORTER: That's right, Susan, and looks as though police have realized the crowd has grown to the point where it really is hampering this operation. They have formed a police line, and they are gently pushing people away back from the entrance. That has resulted in the road in front of the Westin being completely blocked by people now. They have blocked off the road. It's creating quite a traffic jam here at Copley Square as we await what is happening inside, where tactical police wearing bulletproof vest, heavily armed, strode through the lobby. There was no running. There did not to be a rush. They walked into the lobby. A number of them, and presumably up to the upper floors, where some kind of operation is going on, presumably connected to the hijacking and the terrorist attack.

UNIDENTIFIED WHDH ANCHOR: Folks, we want to bring you up to date for a moment if you have just joined us. What you are looking at is not New York City, is not Washington. It is the heart of Boston, Copley Square, where within the last half hour, SWAT teams arrive at the Westin Hotel In Copley Square. SWAT team identified as members of the Boston police with armored car. Some of them carrying automatic weapons, wearing helmets and masks. also As we heard Andrew Frank (ph) report, there's at least four ambulances on the scene. They're parked on Huntington Avenue, outside the western entrance of the hotel. Not the inner circle where the taxicabs go and the people pull up to unload passengers and luggage, but actually on the street.

There does not seem to be any no real rush or any true emergency out in front of hotel, because as you can see, there are dozens of people milling around, watching, waiting just like everybody to see what's going on. Nor has there been any indication, any visualization that they are putting any sort of police line. Usually at a crime scene, we see yellow tape. But at this location, at this point, we do not. Obviously, we're having a little bit of problem with our audio feed, I'm sorry, our video.

UNIDENTIFIED WHDH CORRESPONDENT: We're just trying to get some the passerby to sit down -- everybody wants to figure out what is going -- the crowd has grown very, very...


BROWN: Clearly, there is a major operation going on at the Westin Copley in the heart of Boston. It's unclear -- I think fair to say it is unclear exactly what this SWAT team is in that hotel looking for, what they believe is in there.

We -- let me focus on what we do know for a second. We do know that some number of suspects that we don't know how many -- I don't want to use is word suspects police here, because police aren't -- some people have been taken into custody. It's not even clear to us they've been arrested. They are in custody. Law enforcement officials not calling them suspects, at least not yet, simply suggesting they may have information that is relevant. That is in Boston. There is another group, we don't know how many, the people in custody, again, this in South Florida. We don't know how many, and we don't know precisely why law enforcement agents believe they may have information or may in some way be connected to what is going on in Boston.

Boston, of course, was the origination point for flights evolved in this incident yesterday in the hijacking. There were also reports in Boston sometime back that there was some small number of people who may have been involved in a terrorist cell, somehow connected to Osama bin Laden. That's a report some months ago.



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