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CNN BREAKING NEWS
British Police Sweep Notting Hill Area of London
Aired July 29, 2005 - 8:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back, everybody.
Let's take you right away to London, because we've got some breaking news there to tell you about.
There is a major anti-terror operation. It is underway right now. It's taking place in the Notting Hill area of West London.
Nic Robertson is there.
He joins us live by phone -- Nic, we've seen, at least I've seen about a dozen police officers or so in just the few moments that we've been watching this videotape coming in.
Give us a sense of what's going on.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I arrived here about 20 minutes ago, Soledad. And a few minutes after that, the police cordon tape was lifted up and four high speed plainclothes unmarked police cars left the area. Inside each of those police cars were plainclothes policemen, heavily armed. They looked like special forces policemen, heavily armed. One of the vehicles that drove out, the driver was, indeed, wearing a gas mask as they drove out.
Police describe this as an armed operation that's currently in progress. At the scene here now, the streets are still cordoned off, the police -- there are many policemen on the streets here.
One eyewitness described to me what happened. She said about an hour-and-a-half ago, she was walking up the street and she saw three smartly dressed young men with black backpacks on their backs. They were surrounded by policemen. That was the first indication she had that some -- that something out of the ordinary was unfolding here.
What we know -- what the police are confirming is that this is an operation linked to those failed bombings last week. There are indications possibly -- and it is only possible at this stage -- possibly that it may involve some of those, the three most wanted suspects who have been on the run since last week.
Police haven't confirmed that, but this is still an operation in progress. There is -- a surveillance helicopter has just moved into position overhead.
This is a relatively upscale neighborhood of London here. Not clear what drew the police to this particular area. What we have seen is that when the police have advance information of where suspects are, they tend to try and mount an early morning raid. That's how they netted one of the bombers two days, the suspect bombers, two days ago in Birmingham.
This operation seems to have developed as the morning has progressed. This happened in broad daylight. This happened on the streets of London. It does tend to indicate that the police received some very new and fresh time sensitive information. It does appear at this stage that they've acted on that information.
Again, details from the police are still not forthcoming -- Soledad.
S. O'BRIEN: Nic, a couple of questions for you.
Have you seen anybody in custody in those vehicles that you talked about speeding away with the special forces folks or any information that you've gotten from the scene that anybody has been taken into custody?
ROBERTSON: You know, I looked very closely at those vehicles as they drove away and it did seem to me that all the occupants were the sort of plainclothes special forces type police. They did not appear to be somebody I would -- somebody who was sort of easily identifiable as a suspect, although one of them -- one of them may have been.
There is an indication that perhaps one or two people have been arrested at this scene. Again, we're only just beginning to get the details. This situation really has only begun -- only been unfolding here in the last hour-and-a-half or so.
Since we have been on the scene in the last 20, 25 minutes, a helicopter has moved in overhead. They've had these armed police moving away from the scene. And perhaps one of the biggest indications of the importance of this operation, that in the half an hour or so, the hour or so before this operation took place, in fact, just as I was reporting it an hour ago, just after reporting it, we received calls from the police saying look, we want to maintain a media blackout on this situation. We don't want anymore information. And I think this is perhaps a very, very good indication that, for them, this is a major operation of very, very significant importance.
But, again, Soledad, we need to wait and hear the details from the police.
S. O'BRIEN: A residential area that we're looking at, Nic? Or is it -- is there businesses, as well? I mean can we assume that they've gone in and gone into residences?
ROBERTSON: This -- yes, this is a residential neighborhood and it's a reasonably affluent neighborhood. It's mixed. Some of the larger houses here are occupied, it would seem, just one residence. Some of the larger houses, four story houses here, seem to have multiple doorbells, indicating that they are subdivided into many, many smaller flats.
So in that regard, it is a mixed neighborhood. But it's wide tree-lined streets and a far more affluent neighborhood than we've seen any of the recent suspects or the suspect bombers living in -- Soledad.
S. O'BRIEN: Yes, I think it's one of the neighborhoods that certain Americans who haven't traveled to London know about, obviously, from the movie of the same name.
The folks that you've been talking to on the street, are they just utterly stunned or is there a sense that it's finally come to this, that the, you know, there are going to be arrests everywhere around the city in this day and age?
ROBERTSON: Surprised. I think people are getting used to that sort of growing reality that these things can unfold around them. As we drove here past the tube station, there were four uniformed officers standing around one small door to the local tube station. People are getting very, very used to seeing that high a level of security, and, indeed, the realization that it can happen close to them.
But I think that the people we've talked to so far here this morning are still very surprised that it actually has happened to them in their neighborhood. It does, at this moment, potentially the ramifications of the July 7th and 21st bombings do seem to be rolling out all across this country -- Soledad.
S. O'BRIEN: Interesting.
All right, Nic Robertson for us.
He's obviously going to continue to do reporting from the area.
We'll check in with him again on updates.
As Nic mentioned, there have been eyewitnesses to what's happened.
Let's listen to what woman had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the first thing I heard was a very loud and controlled (UNINTELLIGIBLE), a very controlled explosion. And the -- I put my head out of the window to see what was going on and the policeman said get to the back of the building. So, obviously, I did that.
I went into the bathroom for about 15 minutes. After that time, obviously, I was -- I needed some cigarettes. So I decided to come out. And he said you might not be able to get back onto the block. So, here I am.
And then I heard six loud bangs, which I found out from a policeman, I believe, were stun grenades. And then I heard what could have been two shots. And that's about as much, really, as I know, apart from the fact that everybody has been going down the road terrified.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
S. O'BRIEN: And eyewitness from the scene, a man obviously saying that everyone there is stunned and terrified, confirming what Nic said, as well.
He also reported hearing two shots and two bangs, which he described as maybe some kind of stun grenades.
So obviously much happening. This investigation unfolding, really, right before our eyes.
We're going to continue to update you on what comes out of this in just a few moments -- Miles.
M. O'BRIEN: You know, this comes on the heels of the arrest of Yasin Hassan Omar, who...
S. O'BRIEN: On Wednesday, right?
M. O'BRIEN: And he is, of course, being interrogated by the authorities. You have to wonder if some of this information is what's leading to what we're seeing there right now.
S. O'BRIEN: That could well be.
M. O'BRIEN: So, we'll be tracking it for you, of course.
A serious blow to President Bush expected today from a top Republican. CNN has learned that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist plans to announce support for more federal funding for stem cell research. Frist now saying "the president's policy should be modified." That's a quote from him.
Dana Bash live at the White House with more on all this.
Interesting political implications to this one -- Dana.
DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No question about that, Miles.
But we are told that the president did get a heads up from Senator Frist last night. He called him to say that he was going to do this. We are told from an aide to Senator Frist that it was a very good conversation, without hostility or irritation.
Senator Bill Frist is a physician, of course, a close ally of President Bush and was instrumental in helping Mr. Bush craft policy four years ago that is the current law, and that is to allow federal funding for embryonic stem cell research but on a limited basis.
The president has made clear that he still supports those narrow limits and said he would veto legislation to expand it. Now, Senator Bill Frist says he disagrees and he will say the following later today on the Senate floor. He will say: "The limitations put in place in 2001 will, over time, slow our ability to bring potential new treatments for certain diseases. Therefore, I believe the president's policy should be modified."
Now, by all accounts, Miles, Senator Frist's, this move could have a huge impact on this debate, on the dynamics surrounding the debate. I talked to one Republican earlier this morning who said that he could bring six or seven votes along with him by making this kind of statement because he is a physician, of course; because he is a pro-life Republican and a leader.
Remember, this bill to -- a bill to expand the limits on embryonic stem cell research passed the House of Representatives about two months ago with about 50 votes from Republicans. But it was not enough to override a veto. The White House strategy has been to keep that vote number down or even to, perhaps, try to push off a vote altogether in the Senate.
That is not going to happen now. Clearly, the big open question is whether or not, ultimately, there will be enough votes in Congress to sustain the president's veto or to override it -- Miles.
M. O'BRIEN: Well, and the other question, I guess, is why would he want to distance himself from the White House? There's a lot of rumors that he would -- is seeking the Oval Office himself and will make an announcement eventually on that front.
Is he trying to differentiate himself and how will he reconcile this position with the far right of his party?
BASH: Well, that is really the key question, Miles. Senator Frist is rumored, and certainly has made moves that would indicate he does want to run for president in 2008. The base of his party has made clear that they support the president's position to keep those limits very low. Some of them didn't want to have any federal funding at all.
What Senator Frist's office is saying is that he made this decision based on the science and based on his knowledge as a physician. And we do know that the broad majority of the American people do support the Frist position now.
M. O'BRIEN: Dana Bash at the White House.
Thank you very much.
We're going to take a break.
When we come back, we'll tell you what the commander of the Space Shuttle Discovery has to say about that falling foam we've been telling you about. She says she's surprised it happened.
Stay with us for more AMERICAN MORNING.
S. O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody.
We've been showing you some pictures and you're looking at live pictures, as well, from West London. And we've been telling you about this major anti-terror operation that is now, at this hour, underway in the Notting Hill section in West London.
We have seen at least a dozen police officers in front of a residential neighborhood and there are reports from the British media that one or two of the suspects from the failed July 21st bombings might actually be in custody now from this operation.
We're going to get more information on that ahead this morning.
We heard from Nic Robertson, as well, that special officers -- special forces officers, including one wearing a gas mask, was on the scene. They've left, speeding out in their vehicles. And also an eyewitness reported hearing sounds of at least two gunshots and some kind of a concussive device, almost like a grenade, that would be a stun grenade.
So lots happening at this hour and this is clearly some kind of major anti-terror operation happening right now in West London.
We're going to bring you the very latest on this as we get more information -- Miles.
M. O'BRIEN: Thank you, Soledad.
Discovery astronauts are using a robotic arm and a camera equipped with some lasers today to get a better look at any possible damage to the orbiter during Tuesday's launch. They're looking at a number of specific spots on Discovery's nose, landing gear, right wing and underside. There you see some pictures from inside the Destiny lab.
NASA is now saying a piece of falling foam -- not that big one, but one shortly thereafter much smaller -- may have hit the wing of the orbiter after all. If that's true, mission officials say they don't see any damage, however.
Discovery astronauts have been notified about the problem and had this reaction about it just a couple of hours ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EILEEN COLLINS, MISSION COMMANDER: Well, we did get word on what the shuttle program knows at this point. We were actually quite surprised to hear that we had some large pieces of debris fall off the external tank. It wasn't what we had expected. But, you know, fortunately we have a good plan in place here to observe that we did have such an event and to inspect the orbiter to see if we have any damage.
ANDREW THOMAS, MISSION SPECIALIST: All of us on the crew, I think, were very surprised to hear that. We weren't surprised from the point of view that we think there's a risk to our own entry. We were surprised that it had happened after so many good people had worked so hard to mitigate the problems with foam release and to make sure that it wouldn't happen again.
So, as you can imagine, to find that it had happened on this mission was a great surprise to us all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
M. O'BRIEN: You can really hear the disappointment in their voices. Of course, falling foam at lift-off is what led to Columbia's demise two-and-a-half years ago.
NASA remains confident the Discovery crew is safe and that a rescue mission will not be necessary, however.
My next guest is all too familiar with the fears facing the NASA family right now, much less the direct families of the crew.
Daniel Salton lost his sister, astronaut and Dr. Laurel Clark, in the Columbia tragedy.
He joins me from Milwaukee, Wisconsin this morning.
Daniel, good to have you with us.
DANIEL SALTON, SISTER KILLED ON COLUMBIA: Good morning.
M. O'BRIEN: When you heard about falling foam on Discovery, what went through your mind?
SALTON: Well, it wasn't so much surprise. I guess I didn't think -- I don't think a whole lot of people really thought that they were going to solve all the falling foam problems. I don't think that they are ever going to completely solve those problems. I think what you have to do is have a vehicle that will not be vulnerable to the falling foam. And unfortunately that's -- I just don't think that's possible completely with the shuttle.
You hope you can minimize the possibilities of it happening and do what you can to make the shuttle safe. But it's never going to be as safe as an entirely new vehicle could be.
M. O'BRIEN: Well, clearly, there are some fundamental design issues. But let's just go back for a moment before we talk about that.
NASA did say it had licked the issue of big pieces of foam. They didn't say that they would stop debris from coming off. It's just the bigger pieces. And here you have a big piece, which, if it had fallen earlier, would have gone right into the air stream, right into that wing once again.
That is surprising.
SALTON: Well, we don't know that 100 percent for sure that it would have hit it. But, yes, certainly the potential was there that if that had happened at the same time that -- or earlier in the flight, it could have been disastrous, again, once again. And, yes, that -- that sends a chill up my spine to think about that and what that could mean.
I hope that they solve this -- another problem. Maybe they need to get rid of some more foam. I think they did the right thing with the -- they did some great stuff with the bipod area, where the foam came off, that doomed Columbia and I hope that they are able to do the same type of thing for this PAL foam that came off and find some way to either get rid of it or keep it on the external tank.
M. O'BRIEN: Well, and as a final thought here, of course, there were a few pieces that actually came off of that, you know, radically redesigned bipod area, which is troubling, as well. They weren't big pieces, but still some pieces.
A final thought here, then, on the shuttle itself. And your thoughts on that notion you brought up here, that there may be just fundamental issues of design flaw that might make it difficult to press on.
Do you think they should press on or is it now the time to start moving onto that next vehicle?
SALTON: Well, I don't know if design -- design flaw might be a little bit harsh. I mean this was a vehicle that was designed using technology 30 years old. It is, I just do think it is time that we -- if our mission is really to get to Mars, that that's what we need to concentrate on and this technology, the shuttle, I don't think is getting us there. And in my opinion...
M. O'BRIEN: So should the shuttle fly again then?
SALTON: It should fly if it is absolutely necessary to keep the station going. I don't know enough about the program. I'm not enough of an expert to say that the shuttle is absolutely necessary or, at the very least, the shuttle should only fly with the minimum crew necessary to keep the station going. And the station, I believe, is only needed in case you have to -- so that you can practice some dockings in low Earth orbit rather than around Mars or the moon for a future mission to Mars.
It is needed for some -- for the future, but they're not getting any science out of the station right now. They've got two people up there. They're barely keeping the lights on. If -- the station was planned to have seven people on it and they've got two. So I think it's probably best to just let's move forward. Let's decide whether we really need the shuttle or not. And if not, then maybe it's time to put it in some museums and move on.
M. O'BRIEN: Daniel Salton is the brother of the late Laurel Clark. Thank you for your time.
SALTON: Thank you.
M. O'BRIEN: Soledad.
S. O'BRIEN: All right, let's take you back to London.
We can show you some of the latest pictures that are coming to us. You're looking at a major anti-terror operation. It's underway right now in the Notting Hill area of West London. And those are commandos just heading into this area that's been sealed off and it has been the site of this major operation today.
These guys, these commandos wearing helmets and hoods over their faces, leg holsters, carrying automatic weapons, we have seen, and also each one that we have seen so far with a gas mask on his face, an indication, really, of the force behind this raid.
It has been described to us as a major anti-terror operation. And the area itself is a relatively affluent residential neighborhood.
Now, one eyewitness described hearing concussive explosions, in his words. He thought maybe they were stun grenades. Six, he reported to us. Two shots, as well. Also, a woman said that she had seen, a little bit earlier, three well dressed men with black backpacks surrounded by police and then put into a white van that then drove away. She said to her there was nothing particularly out of the ordinary about these three men, who were apparently taken by police.
There are reports in the British press at this hour that there have been maybe one or two men arrested, in custody now, in connection with the failed attempts on the subway system and the bus on the 21st of July. We have not heard any confirmation of that from police so far.
A police surveillance helicopter is now in the air on -- above this site. And police, of course, are still searching for three of these four would-be bombers, maybe five, considering they found a backpack in the west end of London that had just been abandoned and turned in. But they're searching certainly for a handful of would-be bombers.
All this coming, of course, after Wednesday's arrest of Yasin Hassan Omar, a 24-year-old Somalia who has British residency. And some are speculating that, in fact, some of this information that leads to these kinds of operations might be coming from his arrest.
We're going to have more on this story as we continue to cover these events as they unfold, really, right before our eyes. We'll bring you the very latest on what's happening in London and the anti- terror operation that is currently underway in just a few moments.
And, Miles, you know, it's really interesting if you think of the timing. Omar, Yasin Hassan Omar, arrested on Wednesday. Yesterday, you had major operations. Today another major operation. And as Nic Robertson pointed out to us, normally the M.O. for these police operatives and the special forces operatives is to go in bright and early in the morning, sort of startle and surprise everybody. And this is very different. I mean it's the middle of the afternoon in London.
M. O'BRIEN: And perhaps someone, ominously, and I'm just, you know, a little bit of speculation here, but the fact that they had backpacks on them does lead one to believe maybe they had some, as you had put it, you know, actionable intelligence that something was about to happen. So the possibility could exist here that they were thwarting yet another attempt in process...
S. O'BRIEN: Although, I will...
M. O'BRIEN: But we don't know that.
S. O'BRIEN: And also I will say, one of the things that we discovered, certainly, when we were covering -- doing our live coverage out of London, and what is a major source of concern for many Londoners, is that everybody has a backpack, maybe even far more than you see here in New York City. People carry them. They're called rucksacks. People have rucksacks all the time. And that's been one of the things that's been incredibly unnerving, because you get on the subway and one woman described it to us as every -- this guy got on with a big backpack and everyone looked at him as he sort of fumbled with what was inside. And finally he pulled out a book, he pulled out a novel and sat down and read it. And everybody let out this collective sigh of relief, because truly, they're all over the place.
So the idea that they are maybe finding someone, you know, maybe that those three had suspicious backpacks might not really be the case at all, because everybody carries them.
You know, CNN International obviously also covering the story.
And Nic Robertson, I believe, is talking to them.
Let's dip in and listen to his report from them.
ROBERTSON: ... where one of the failed attacks took place. Two, where this very interesting new element, or this interesting element to the police investigation, this fifth bomb backpack was discovered, perhaps raises the prospect that the men taken into custody here may be linked to that suspect package.
But all the police are saying at the moment is this is an armed operation, that it is a major operation, that the area is cordoned off for the security of local residents. And they do say it is connected with those failed bombings last week on the 21st of July -- Jonathan.
JONATHAN MANN, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Do you know how many people were evacuated? Where those people are? What they have been told?
ROBERTSON: Not clear. The cordon is up. The residents on this side of the cordon, outside of the area that the police have sealed off, are free to remain in their houses. We haven't seen large numbers of people leaving the area. This is typical for what the police do. They put up a cordon after the -- after they've begun the operation. They generally tell residents in neighboring houses to stay down, stay back, stay in the back of their houses and stay out of the way. And then if they find suspicious material, potentially explosives or they -- or hazardous material, then they will evacuate residents from this area. And when they do that, often we see buses pulled up for people to be moved on to another area.
We haven't seen that yet so far. The operation took place on a street around the corner from where I am standing right now, so we can't see exactly what is happening on that road. But it doesn't appear, at least at this stage, that there has been a mass evacuation. At this stage, it would appear that -- in the normal lines of police procedure.
They've asked people to either remain in their houses or stay at the back of their houses or at least off the streets -- Jonathan.
MANN: Nic, I'm just going to bring people up to date.
If you're just joining us now, let me tell you that our attention has been drawn to this city because of the terrifying terror attacks in recent weeks. That's not what's underway now.
Instead, police have the initiative. They have raided a house in the northwest of the city, in the Notting Hill area, a tony district, I suppose you could say. We don't know a great deal about what they're after except that they're attaching great importance to it. They asked the broadcast media not to publicize news of the attack, though it was known to us. And when the police lifted that ban, what we learned was simply that there has been an operation underway by police armed with machine guns, wearing gas masks.
Some witnesses describe the police officers as in white coveralls, as well. It would seem from what witnesses are telling us that men have been taken away from the scene in a van, smartly dressed men, three of them. But we don't know their identities. We don't know if they were suspects. We don't know a greatly deal.
CNN's Nic Robertson is on the scene, but even at that, he is being kept away by what sounds like two different layers of police cordons. The police have not only kept journalists at a distance, they have moved some of the residents away in a covert evacuation that was carried out at the time of the raid, which is to say, they got people out of their homes hoping to get them to safety before the suspects in the raid were alerted to the police presence, before the raid could go ahead.
Through all of this, we've been joined by Peter Power, a former senior official at Scotland Yard.
Sketchy details, but something big.
PETER POWER: Yes, without doubt. It sort of reminds me of a statement made many years ago, if my history serves me right, by Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States, that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.
What we've got here is the very embodiment of that vigilance. And this sort of breaks down to three areas...
S. O'BRIEN: You've been listening to Jonathan Mann from our colleagues over at CNN International. He is obviously updating everybody, as well, on what we are seeing here in London this morning for us -- afternoon there in London. Sketchy details, as he describes it, very accurate. But clearly something big going on in the Notting Hill area, in West London.
Police have raided a house. The operation is underway right now. We have seen commandos with military high tech automatic weapons going in, dressed in masks and gas masks, also, and they are apparently raiding a residence. There may be some connection to some of the bombers who are still missing and sought after by police in the wake of the failed attempt on July 21st. Some suspects that are -- may be getting information on these suspects from the gentleman who was arrested on Wednesday, Omar, a Somalia, who may be telling authorities some information, because it seems, as Nic pointed out, this is information coming, obviously, some intelligence that they have on a location and a raid, as Nic said, in the afternoon, quite unusual for the police. Normally these things would be done first thing in the morning, early in the morning, with the element of surprise.
Witnesses, eyewitnesses described hearing six loud bangs, which they speculated were concussive grenades, stun grenades; also, shots, as well.
M. O'BRIEN: And that, does that account for the explosions we're talking about then? These shot grenades, we think?
S. O'BRIEN: I think that is...
M. O'BRIEN: There are reports of a series of explosions and we think that has more to do with the police action than it does anything else at this point.
S. O'BRIEN: At this point, yes.
But as has been pointed out, really sketchy details because this is a raid that's going on right at this moment. And we're showing you some live pictures of the location. A few moments ago, we were able to show you the commandos themselves as they really got suited up to head back inside that residence. And, of course...
M. O'BRIEN: Wearing heavy Kevlar armor, gas masks, obviously prepared for a number of scenarios here. You have to make a presumption here that there are people presumed to be holed up inside some buildings here, and that's what's playing out. Although given our camera angle, it's very difficult to see.
S. O'BRIEN: And certainly they've got concerns about what they might be finding inside, with the gas masks to protect themselves from any sort of chemicals or explosions, as well.
We continue to update you on this story as the police conduct these new raids. And they've consistently been doing these raids based on information.
The timing, though, curious. An arrest and then suddenly it looks like they make some big forward progression their investigation. Of course, lots is not known.
Let's take you right back to Nic Robertson.
Again, he is talking with the folks over at CNN International.
We're going to dip in and listen to him.
JANICE DYSON, NEIGHBOR: I just looked to see what was going on. On my left hand side I saw an ambulance had been parked halfway up. And on the right, there was a large white van with several police officers, some in uniform, some out of uniform. And three men, quite tall men wearing -- with black backpacks seemed to be being put into the back of the van.
ROBERTSON: These three men, we've heard the police operation last weekend. They look -- the police have been looking for East African Somalis, Eritreans.
Did these men look like Somalis, East Africans, to you?
DYSON: Well, I couldn't see. I saw them from the back. And they seemed to be wearing shirts, long sleeves. So I couldn't really see what color -- what color they were. But I mean it's possible. But I wouldn't like to say.
ROBERTSON: The police have released pictures of the suspects that went from the bombing last week. Were you at all in a position to try and -- to be able to see if it was any of those three people?
DYSON: No, I wasn't, because I was crossing the road, and I said, they all had their backs to me. So I wasn't able to see their features. I could just tell that they were tall and they had short hair.
ROBERTSON: What sort of neighborhood is this? Most of us don't know what type of area this is. What sort of people are living here?
DYSON: Well, it's all sorts. It's a very, very mixed area. It's very cosmopolitan. There's all different races, different cultures, different religions, all living happily together. You know, it's a good community to be in.
ROBERTSON: Any indications before this police operation that there was any link at all between this area and the bombings from last week?
DYSON: None at all. I mean, apart from the guy being spotted at the Westland Park (ph) tube station, which -- anybody can come and go there. That's the only kind of link that possibly has been.
ROBERTSON: So again, you saw three men being taken by the police. How many police were there and how were they dressed? Did they have weapons?
DYSON: I couldn't see weapons, but I did -- there was police in uniform. There was police officers kind of standing by the tape, (INAUDIBLE) road. There seemed to be quite a few people around the van. There was some in uniform, some out of uniform. But I couldn't tell whether they were armed.
ROBERTSON: And the men you saw, were they handcuffed? How were the police treating them?
DYSON: They seemed to be treating them very nicely. And they weren't being kind of pushed into the van. They seemed to be going in quite willingly. But I couldn't say whether they were handcuffed. I mean, there seemed to be police quite near them, but I couldn't tell whether they were handcuffed.
ROBERTSON: Julie Dyson, thank you very much indeed for helping us understand what's happened. So the details are only just beginning to emerge and just come in here, Jonathan. The police have confirmed that it was an armed raid. They did call for a media blackout in the hour or so before the operation took place. It did happen in the daylight hours. It is indicative of, perhaps, some very recent information they got.
We do know that in the raids where they have known a suspect bomber was living, where they arrested a man two days ago in Birmingham, they went in in the early hours in the morning to catch him, perhaps, when he was least ready to put up any kind of resistance. This raid happening in the middle of a late morning here in London in a relatively mixed and affluent neighborhood -- Jonathan?
MANN: CNN's Nic Robertson reporting to us live. We want to welcome our viewers in the United States who are watching this unfolding coverage on CNN International and bring you up to date. A major police operation is underway in the British capital in the fashionable Notting Hill area of the center. It involves, according to witnesses, snipers and machine gun-wielding police who have raided a single property in that neighborhood. No word on whether they have carried out any arrests.
But we have CNN producer Henry Schuster on the line, who may have more details for us -- Henry.
HENRY SCHUSTER: CNN PRODUCER: Hi, Jonathan. There actually seems to be some confusion -- because I'm over on the other side from where Nic Robertson is -- about whether they went into one flat or two. I'm talking to some people over here who were in their flats at the time of this raid.
A couple of people who were across the street from one of the places where the police went into -- what they describe is that, first, a police officer on a motor bike, he came in. He was giving hand signals and several cars came up behind him. Police got out, were looking at some of the -- I'm just looking at some camera phone footage. They talk -- they describe some men wearing black hats, what they call balaclaves (ph) here. Some of the others, they describe wearing those white jumpsuits.
But what was interesting and different from other raids is that some of these men are described as wearing gas masks, which is different. They don't -- they cannot tell me, they did not hear any shots fired. They cannot tell me they did not see anybody being led away. But they do describe a lot of activity. They were told to leave their flats.
But I've also talked to another young woman and she described -- she was around the corner and she describes being in a flat above where police went in. She did hear two large -- two loud bangs. She's not sure whether they're gunshots or whether they could have been controlled explosions. Again, she was told to leave her flat. She did not see anybody being led away.
And I'm now looking at some -- one of the residents who had camera phone footage. And what it shows is not much, but it does show the police armed response units outside in the street, inside the cordon where this took place. But again, nobody can confirm that they saw anybody being taken away or anybody being arrested. However, they do describe the families as living in these flats as become of East African origin. No further details except to say that they were only in there a relatively short time within the last year. They seemed like nice people, is what -- is the way one woman described it.
MANN: From where you're standing, Henry, can you hear anything? There have been various reports of different kinds of sounds to some witnesses' ears, gunshots or controlled explosions? Any noise of any kind now?
SCHUSTER: Absolutely not, Jonathan. And you know what's incongruous about this is that if you just -- half a block away on the other side is the Portobello Road Market, which is one of London's biggest and busiest street markets. And over there, life is going on as normal. People are selling trinkets, they're selling fresh vegetables, selling foods. People are shopping as if nothing is going on. A half block away, I've just had one woman come up, though -- she's trying to get back up to her flat. She heard what happened. She's joined her daughter, who was in her flat at the time of the raid. And they just have no idea when they can get back into their house.
MANN: Did anyone there know the names of the people who were living in the flats you described, the names of the families?
SCHUSTER: No, they could only give me a visual descriptions. They said that they looked to be East African, that they were -- seemed to be very nice people and they had lived there under a year.
MANN: I supposed they would have mentioned this, but I have to ask. Did they see anyone they see anyone in those flats who resembled the photographs that have been so widely distributed, the photographs of the three men who are wanted in connection with the botched transit system bombings?
SCHUSTER: No, they did not. That was one of the first questions we asked, obviously. And you're right, they could not describe anybody who looked like one of the people who has been identified as a suspect of the bomber.
MANN: Now, Henry, there are a lot of tourists, a lot of visitors in this city right now. And there were people who are watching this unfold who might be concerned about their loved ones. Are there any tourist areas in the cordoned off area? Is this an area likely to be well-traveled by people who are just casually making their way around the city?
SCHUSTER: Well, some people might be down -- again, Notting Hill is a popular area. And ironically, tomorrow is the Portobello Road Market where they sell antiques. And it's one of the attractions both for locals and for tourists alike. Some of that market is taking place today, but it's outside the cordon, it's a half a block away. And as I said before, what I'm struck by is the incongruity. You have the cordons here on one side. The area seems to be relatively isolated, just patrolled by police and a few residents who are still inside. On the other side, life is going on as normal. In fact, if you were a half block away from here, you wouldn't know anything was going on.
MANN: Now, Henry, I want to bring you back to what you were telling us earlier and make sure that we've got our facts right. The witnesses say they believe the police went into more than one property and those properties belong to families they described as East African origin?
SCHUSTER: Yes. Yes. There is -- well, I talked to one woman who described being in a flat where she said a raid took place below her. And the flat that she's described is around the corner from where the other gentlemen were who saw the other raids beginning to take place. So we're trying to see -- we're trying to check on that, double-check on that. But from the eyewitnesses who we've spoken to here, it appears there might have been more than one location here where there was a raid.
MANN: OK. While we've been talking, Henry, I want to alert people watching what they are seeing. We were running videotape there, recorded earlier, of some of the cars leaving the area, apparently with some of the people who were taken into custody there. Once again, going only on witness reports, which we have no other confirmation of.
CNN's Nic Robertson spoke to one witness who said she saw three smartly-dressed men taken into a white van and taken out of the area. Details are still sketchy. Police asked us not to broadcast anything at all about this raid until recently. And now that we are free to broadcast under police directive, we still are being told very little.
But what we know is this. An anti-terror operation has been underway in a fashionable neighborhood of northwest London, Notting Hill. Police have not told us much, but we were told that they were trying to make one or two arrests.
We're going to listen in now our partner network, as ITN reports what it has learned.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... having admitted his guilt, something has gone wrong. Gram Sanki (ph) is a guilty man. I'm innocent.
S. O'BRIEN: And welcome back, everybody. As they continue on CNN International and also partner ITN, we're going to continue to update you on what is happening this morning -- afternoon, obviously, in London.
We are getting word there is this massive operation. You can see some of the pictures that we've been showing you as well, a massive anti-terror operation now under way and continuing at this moment.
As you can see, this is -- well, we're getting some live pictures. We're having a little bit of satellite distortion. We'll try to see what happened there and bring those back to you in just a moment. In any case, the details that we know we have seen several automatic weapons being held by commandos as they go into a building.
There are some reports from the Associated Press, one witness in that report describing a face-off with a man in an apartment. And this witness describes it as this man being asked to leave this one residence where the police are -- have been asking now for 25 minutes to half an hour or so, according to this witness, and it's sort of a confrontation that has not, as far as we know, ended yet.
The area is a relatively upscale and pretty well-known place in London. It's called Notting Hill. It's been described as one of the eyewitnesses as mixed and very cosmopolitan, she said, Janice Dyson, on our air just a moment ago, a good community. And full of people of all races and people of all religions. She was describing three men who were taken into custody as she was watching, essentially right in front of her. Wasn't sure if they were being handcuffed by police or just being led into a van. But she said it went relatively well. They were treated well, and they were just placed into the van. She described it as they went in quite willingly.
There was some confusion over whether it's one flat or two flats that are actually involved in this raid. Eyewitnesses are telling our reporter at the scene that it is believed to be a residence of some East Africans, and that these are people who have maybe only lived in the neighborhood for a year or so. And you can see these pictures taken just moments ago of these commandos and what they're wearing, helmets and gas masks. Obviously heavily armed with leg holsters, as well with weapons and the Kevlar vests, Miles, as you were talking about just a moment ago. And this is a raid going on right this moment as we bring you these pictures, and still under way.
Of course you have a number of suspects still at large in the wake of this bombing. Yasin Hassan Omar arrested on Wednesday. He's one of the four suspects whose photos were released in the weak wake of these failed bombing attempts on the 21st of July. As you see there, police put these put these pictures, taken from the CCTV, or closed-circuit TV, put them out actually relatively quickly, hoping to get the public's help in identifying these suspects. They were able to identify two of the suspects, Yasin Hassan Omar, then arrested on Wednesday. Muktar Said Ibrahim, a roommate, another person they were able to identify, but still two outstanding.
And then of course you have the question about the fifth potential bomber, with that backpack that was found in the west end of London, just somebody happened to stumble past it and turned it over to police as well, some kind of explosive device. So lots of threads here going in all kinds of directions and lots of information, not really clear what's happening at this time.
M. O'BRIEN: Well, and this comes on the day of that big roundup, nine arrests in the southern part of London, in a section called the Tooting. And it's quite possible that additional intelligence is being gleaned by authorities from that group of people as well.
So clearly what is happening here, when you think about the July 21st incident and the fact that it was a failed set of bombings. None of the bombs went off, four of them on the transit system, a fifth discovered later. What that has done is not only created a tremendous amount of forensic evidence to provide all kinds of links and pieces together, but it has also led to suspects -- presumably those suspects are now talking to authorities and putting together the pieces of a rather complicated and sinister puzzle here. Going back to what some of the witnesses have been saying in this neighborhood, this Portobello Road neighborhood in Notting Hill, an indication that three people walking on the sidewalks with backpacks were apprehended suddenly. While backpacks in and of themselves are not necessarily suspicious items these days in the wake of what happened on July 7th and July 21st, you have to ask the question about whether they may have found some sort of activity in progress or some plot, some additional plot to continue this terror campaign on the city of London.
In the meantime, what authorities are doing there is with a very broad cordon to keep the media away, to keep the public safe as they can be, there is what appears to be , according to the reports we're seeing, the makings of a bit of a standoff in a least one of the flats there with at least one person. That is unclear to us now. There's a possibility there may be another flat as well. Reports of several explosions concurrent with all of this, and it has been our assumption through this and some of the early indications on reports here is that these might very well be stun grenades that were used, some sort of percussive device used as part of the entire operation here as police gear up.
But clearly they are gearing up for some sort of hostage or siege situation. You can see -- look at this tape from homes ago -- a family there, children still in their pajamas there being told to get out on the scene. The presumption here clearly being all that has transpired over London over the past several weeks is that this is a very volatile situation, and the people who might be linked to those bombings certainly are people who mean great harm to the situation there. Let's continue on here with Pat. S. O'BRIEN: Pat D'Amuro joins us, and of course you're an expert in all of these things. When you consider the scope. I mean, you think it was, as of yesterday, 20 people, before this raid, they were looking at really unfold live before us, 20 people under arrest. Are you surprised at all of the scope, and when you consider the various neighborhoods, and when you consider the backgrounds of these suspects? It's not one small group of the same kind of people in one neighborhood. Seems to be almost spread out like a web across the city.
PAT D'AMURO, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: It is, and I'm not surprised. London has had a problem for years with radical fundamentalism, and we've been working -- the FBI has been working very closely with the Metropolitan Police since 1998, since the East African bombings, trying to disclose information, intelligence indicating where some of these people are. They've had numerous raids from 1998 up until the present, which collected a lot of intelligence showing that there was a radical fundamentalism problem in London.
S. O'BRIEN: How is the communication, I'd be curious to know? We were talking earlier today about the U.S. attempts to red flag one suspect who's now in custody and how British authorities seem to kind of stand in the way of that. And I'd be curious to know if communication is working better, or if it's just not as good as it should be?
D'AMURO: The communication is good. What happens in a situation like this, when you talk about a rendition, as opposed to an extradition, Europeans get very concerned about a rendition of one of their citizens back to the United States. It's important to remember that whenever the FBI is talking about a rendition, that individual will see the court of law. There are some type of process outstanding where there's charges outstanding, and they're bringing back to the United States to address those charges. So it's not something where there's a kidnapping or it's a covert type operation. He will eventually see a court of law.
M. O'BRIEN: Let's to back now to the scene, as Nic Robertson, he will sort of eavesdrop on his conversation with a witness.
ROBERTSON: How many police have you seen come in?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A lot. At least 30, 40 police people.
ROBERTSON: Have you been evacuated? Do you know if any residents have been evacuated?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, I don't think so. I don't think so.
ROBERTSON: What sort of neighborhood is this? Do you know the people that lived at the flat?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, I didn't. But this is a very quiet neighborhood. There's a lot of tourists. It's perceived as a very safe neighborhood as well. So we're a bit shocked that this is going on right here. ROBERTSON: The police cars that you saw come in, could you tell how many armed officers there were as they came in?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There were about five cars. The first three cars were full of officers with guns.
ROBERTSON: Rosemary, I'm going to interrupt you there.
Jonathan, just to bring you up to date here, police officers are asking us to move back, so we're going to move back at this time. The police are moving us back from here right now, Jonathan.
M. O'BRIEN: All right, Nic Robertson on the scene there with witnesses, as they sort of describe this whole thing unfold. And we are sort of witness to it as well with some of these dramatic live pictures. And what we're seeing is the evacuation of, you know, a rather upscale neighborhood of West London, Notting Hill, and police officers in vests, in gas masks, heavily armed with semiautomatic weapons, beginning what appears to be laying the groundwork for some sort of siege.
Pat D'Amuro is with us. Pat, give us just a little sense of the kind of tactics that will be employed here to, number one, get the suspects, number two, keep people safe in the area.
D'AMURO: Well, Miles, what you're seeing the tactical operators that are going in to make sure that the situation is safe before they actually go in and try and conduct an arrest. They're concerned about explosive material. They're concerned about CBRN, biological, chemical material that might be in that location. So they want to take every precaution they can, not only to protect the individuals going to affect the arrest, but the surrounding public.
M. O'BRIEN: Well, The presumption on chemical weapons, they may or may not have actual intelligence on that, but these days you have to assume that's the case, don't you?
D'AMURO: Well, intelligence tells us from previous investigations that Al Qaeda was trying to develop chemical weapons in the camps in Afghanistan, and that's the one thing that we have to keep in mind, that all these different groups that we're seeing today, what they have in common with Al Qaeda were the training camps in Afghanistan.
M. O'BRIEN: You know, it's interesting. What they have in common in London, historically, has been some of these mosques, with these very radicalized imans that really whip them into a frenzy. We've also been hearing a lot about how, in a sense, the mosques and the camps had been replaced by the Internet, which makes it all the more difficult for authorities to really track this thing down and get a handle on it, doesn't it?
D'AMURO: It is difficult. In the United States, of course, we have the First Amendment, which makes it very difficult to try to remove even terrorist-type information from the Web. As you know, you go on the Web site and get information about bomb-making and other types of devices. So it's something that we watch. But to try to remove that information, I don't think you'll see that happening.
S. O'BRIEN: Do you think, when you consider the timing, the arrest of Yasin Hassan Omar just days ago, and than you have this obviously very big operation that we're in the middle -- we don't have any idea exactly what's happening, and/or how it's going to end. Connection there? Can we assume that he's actually spilling his guts and giving information to authorities about people who might be connected?
D'AMURO: There's that possibility. And, you know, that's the reason why (INAUDIBLE) is so important to try to bring back to justice, because the connectivity, the telephone contact he had with the bombers from a few weeks ago, to try and find out the future threats, the future plans and plots and terrorist events that could take place in London.
M. O'BRIEN: Of course, you know, on the back of a lot of people's minds, I suspect, in London, is that unfortunate incident in the wake of the second round of bombings, the Brazilian electrician who was mistaken for a terror suspect and shot dead. And clearly, the authorities are acting with all deliberate caution to avoid that, but having said that, you got to act quickly, as well. That's a tough thing to balance.
D'AMURO: You do. And in these situations, you have to be aggressive. And it's a very difficult thing to balance. Nobody wants to get in a situation where an innocent person is killed. But they acted the way they felt they needed to.
S. O'BRIEN: Let's talk a little bit about what -- some of the things that we have been seeing. These commandos, I think it's fair to describe it. They appear to be wearing kevlar vests, but they have little backpacks on these vests, apparently. Obviously carrying automatic weapons. They have leg holsters, as well. I've seen them put on gas masks and then a hood on top of that. Give me a sense of what all this is for.
D'AMURO: Well, a lot of it is protective equipment, as you stated. These special weapons and assault-type teams are very well equipped to go into these types of situations.
S. O'BRIEN: It seems to me, from what I've counted, in addition to these three guys that we're seeing -- this is videotape that was taken just a little bit earlier today and then another dozen police officers who appear to be securing the perimeter -- how many folks would you estimate in a raid like this would be inside, if you're talking about one or two flats?
D'AMURO: Well, you're probably talking a couple different teams here. You have an inner-perimeter team, which is actually going in to do the assaults on the apartments. And then an outer-perimeter team, not only to watch for individuals that might be coming out of the building, but also to protect the building from people going inside. So you probably have anywhere from -- on an assault team -- seven to eight individuals on a team that are going into a particular building or apartment. M. O'BRIEN: You know, Pat, I'm curious -- and I want to make clear to our viewers -- these pictures are pictures, videotape, that came into us moments ago, not live -- I am curious about how this operation, as it has unfolded thus far, has really been literally all over the map. That seems a little unusual to me, that a cell would be so disparate. How about you? Would you say the opposite to that?
D'AMURO: I think what's surprising about the whole situation in the U.K. is how the bombings on the 7th happened without a blip on the screen. This is what really is concerning the British authorities right now, and they're doing everything they can to play catch-up. I think they truly believe that there are other individuals out there that may be planning additional terrorists attacks, and that's why you're seeing such mounted attacks such as this, because they're working feverishly to try and prevent another bombing.
M. O'BRIEN: Well, that whole notion of not having a blip on the screen. And if it is so spread out, these people presumably, if they acted in concert, had to communicate. And it would be something that would raise attention, as opposed to the opposite. Whereas if you were confined to a small area, it would be easier to keep it a secret, presumably. Right?
D'AMURO: Right. But what they're doing is, as we know with Aswat, the telephone connection that he's had with some of the bombers, they're going through now and looking at all the different types of connections these individuals may have had with other individual in that particular area that may have left the country prior to that attack. We know that al Qaeda will have individuals that will leave prior to the bombing. So they're looking at financial records, telephone records, Internet communications, everything they can get their hands on to try to find additional people to bring in for questioning.
S. O'BRIEN: Pat, we've been looking at these live pictures coming to us from the site, obviously, of the operations. Just a moment ago we saw some journalists being moved back out of the way. Also, we need to tell you that it is being reported on British television that a man that police are still trying to arrest in an ongoing operation is, in fact, one of the men being hunted for the attacks on London last Thursday.
Some witnesses have described that as an armed standoff going on for in excess of 30 minutes. And at the same time, there are other police operations that are now believed to be underway across the city of London. Police at this hour, obviously busy with other things, not confirming any of this at this point. But these are some of the other reports that we are getting out of London today.
Let's take you back to our colleagues at CNN International. Witnesses have been talking -- people in the neighborhood have been talking right here, let's listen in to what Nic Robertson's is talking to this witness about.
ROBERTSON: We've heard that there have been raids at two different locations. Who else lives in your building? Tell us they are, whose flat you think the police are going in?
CHARLOTTE BROWN, WITNESS: Well, the garden flat down below is occupied by a family with two small children, husband and wife. They're very nice. I've never had any problems with them whatsoever.
ROBERTSON: Since last week, the police -- the failed bombings last week, the police have issued four different pictures of the suspects. They've arrested one of those suspects. Any of the people living in the flat below you in your building or in the flat across the road from you -- do you recognize any of them from those photographs?
BROWN: Not the people living in my building, definitely, but I don't know who was living in the flat. I've never met them.
ROBERTSON: It's known that in this operation that police have generally been looking for people of East African origin. Are there those people living in the flat opposite you or in your building?
BROWN: Yes, that's apparently their origin, from what I've heard, but I really wouldn't like to say anything about it.
ROBERTSON: The police -- the people that you saw when you opened the door of your flat this morning, the people you saw wearing gas masks, were they police?
BROWN: I'm not sure. They weren't wearing police uniform. They were just wearing kind of protective clothing. But then there were other police with them at the time. So I don't really know.
ROBERTSON: So just step me through again exactly what happened. You heard the bangs, you looked out your window.
BROWN: And that was about an hour later, because I couldn't see police officers at that stage, I couldn't see them (INAUDIBLE) below. But I had -- I thought I didn't know what was going on. I didn't know whether someone was being mugged or something, so I stayed inside. And then, about an hour or so later, that's when I saw the police outside and I thought I should leave. I was asked to leave the area.
ROBERTSON: The police came to your door and asked you to leave the area?
ROBERTSON: What did they tell you exactly?
BROWN: They said I should ask the police officers outside. But then, all they said is that it's a police operation and that we're being kept out for our own safety.
ROBERTSON: How many police officers do you think you saw in total there this morning?
BROWN: Well, behind where I was standing there, about seven or eight. And then have been other police officers by the cordons and then there's been a couple of police vans and stuff. So I can't really -- but quite a few, definitely.
ROBERTSON: Charlotte, thank your very much, indeed.
Jonathan, again, it certainly seems -- the only indications are they're still police vehicles coming and going from this area. It still seems to be very much an ongoing operation. Exactly who might have been detained is just not clear. Exactly how many people might have been detained isn't clear. Again, but the police have said that this is an armed operation. It is important, and it is connected to those failed bombings last week -- Jonathan.
MANN: CNN's Nic Robertson. While you have been at work, we've been extraordinarily careful, and so has Nic, about the details that he has offered about this operation. British media do have reports that we're not able to confirm, but I'll pass them on for what it's worth. They say that this operation is being carried out to arrest one of the men who's being hunted in connection with the botched London subway bombings, and that an armed standoff is now underway.
So rather than having the suspect in custody and searching what he's left behind, apparently the suspect is not in custody. Police are in a standoff with him. And, once again, a detail that we have been bringing you, other police operations are said to be underway in London, as well. The police themselves are not confirming any of this, but we pass on this information.
The police have been very careful giving out information in general, and on this day, they've actually asked the media to keep some details of their operation secret. We have been observing the police's requests. We have been respecting them. But we can report to you what other British media are already saying, which is that an armed standoff is underway in the Notting Hill area of London.
CNN's Nic Robertson has been reporting from the scene. CNN's Henry Schuster as well. And they describe an operation of a scale we had not seen before, a covert evacuation of the residents of that neighborhood, and then a helicopter moved into position. Men in ski masks. And it would seem police in forensic coveralls, moving into position. Others armed with machine guns. Snipers moved into position before the raid itself got underway, a raid that is now some hours old and ongoing.
We're going to join our sister network, CNN USA, in a moment or two. But let me just tell you one more time, an image that we are now seeing from west London, a lot of police attention focused around, maybe coincidentally, this blue car. But the police operation is under way.
Local residents have been either moved out of place or told to stay inside and stay calm. A standoff with a man who is believed to have tried to bomb the London transit system under way. Three suspects are still wanted in connection with that botched attack. We don't know which of the suspects the police are hoping they have found here, but CNN's Nic Robertson once again on the scene.
Nic, you just spoke with that young woman who was very close to the raid. She seemed to have some details to offer.
ROBERTSON: She did. She said that the flat she was -- that she was living in on the road where the raid took place, she heard noises outside at about 11:00 a.m. in the morning. She looked out, could see armed officers in the garden outside, then it went quiet for a while.
She also heard some bangs. When she did look out of her flat about an hour later, she saw a lot of police standing in the hallway, police with gas masks on. Saw a number of armed police in the area, and then the police told her to evacuate the area.
They told her that she could get more information from officers outside, but she's been unable to get more information other than she's been told that an operation is going on. And it appeared to begin at about 11:00 this morning.
It appears to have focused on two houses on a street close to where I am. Not this street, but a street around the corner. Two houses that we can't actually see at this time, so we can't actually see the nature of the operation that may be unfolding there at this time.
When we arrived here, one of the first scenes that we were greeted with, Jonathan, were armed police moving away from the scene. A surveillance helicopter moving in overhead and then moving off quite quickly.
There were indications at that time that perhaps a police operation, the police had come and completed their mission. But in the last half an hour, as you have seen, our position here has been moved out.
The cordon was moved back by the police right in the middle of our broadcast. The indications very much of an ongoing operation. That is what the police say.
We can add to what other British media are reporting, that this may be a standoff involving the police and somebody they're trying to apprehend from our position here around the corner. Very much, it does appear an operation very much ongoing -- Jonathan.
MANN: Nic, I just want to put people's minds at rest. This is, of course, the tourist season here in London. And if you've got friends or loved ones in this city, I can tell you that most of the city is remarkably calm. I should think that the vast majority of people living here don't know that this operation is under way.
CNN's Henry Schuster, who is on the very edge of the cordoned area, just across the street from Portobello Road, where there's a very popular market, said that market life is going on, really, unaltered. People are selling food and trinkets and antiques.
So most areas of London are calm on this day. Most tourists in this city would not know this is happening. And if you're watching from outside of London, chances are that the greatest familiarity you have with this particular area came from a romantic comedy that was filmed there, "Notting Hill," with Hugh Grant some years ago. This is not comedy. It is, if anything, drama.
A major anti-terror effort is under way, the biggest we have seen, I would wager, since July 7. A police operation that has involved helicopters, snipers, armed police with machine guns wearing ski masks.
A very secretive operation by the standards of this. We have been asked to withhold details, and for a time we were asked to withhold broadcasting entirely about it. We have been observing the police requests.
What we can tell you now is sketchy, but the operation still under way. British media are reporting that the man in question that the police are seeking is one of the bombers who tried to set off an explosive in the London transit system last Thursday. Three men are wanted in connection with those botched attacks. One of them is now in custody, but we are told that at least one of those suspects is the target of this operation that is now in an armed standoff.
It's an operation that began...
S. O'BRIEN: You've been listening to Jonathan Mann over at CNN International. He's been updating you on what's happening in London at this hour.
Welcome back and good morning to those of you who are joining us in our third hour here at AMERICAN MORNING. And we've been sharing our coverage this morning with our colleagues over in London because, of course, big breaking news happening there right now. Let's update you if you are not aware of what's happening.
There is a major anti-terror action, operation, really, going on right now in the Notting Hill section of London, a fairly upscale and also cosmopolitan and racially and religious mixed area. We have seen commandos dressed in really high-tech gear with gas masks, head to toe black, and side arms as well, as they've have been going in and out of either one or two residences depending on witness reports.
Also, we just heard the British media talking about an armed standoff between police in one of these residences and a suspect that may have ties to those botched bombing attempts on the 21st of July that were attempted on the subway, and also on a bus. It didn't happen, fortunately. And apparently a lot of information was gotten from that.
Let's get right back to Pat D'Amuro, because, of course, he's a CNN security analyst.
And lots of questions to ask you as well. From some of these witness reports, a couple of things.
One witness talk about seeing three men, well dressed, backpacks on, being confronted by police. And this was sort of the start of the raid as we heard it, and then being put in a van and driven off.
What can you read into that? And I realize it's very sketchy information. What can you read into something like that?
D'AMURO: Well, they probably brought them back for questioning. I think what we can determine from watching this on television right now is that they're in some type of negotiation with the individual that is in an apartment.
The fact -- we can't forget what happened to Madrid, when they went to effect the arrest there, that they exploded a bomb, blew themselves up. So that's the caution. That's why you're seeing the caution taken in this particular situation.
But the fact now that it's been a standoff for 30-minutes plus, we can assume that there's some type of discussion ongoing with the individual they're interested in.
M. O'BRIEN: Well, you know, certainly the FBI has long experienced negotiating with people in these sorts of situations, but I suspect there's not as much written about people who are bent on suicide. That certainly changes the leverage that a negotiator has. What is the tactic?
D'AMURO: Well, Miles, that's what different in this situation in London. You know, the bureau, as well as many other types of intelligence and law enforcement services, have studied suicide bombers and how to profile an individual who would be interested in conducting that type of attack.
The individuals on the 7th of July did not fit that profile. So there's concern.
Now, are there other individuals out there willing to do the same type of terrorist attack, and will they use the same means, the same type of individuals? So they're trying, again, to gather at much intelligence, as much information about these individuals that they have in a short period time.
S. O'BRIEN: How does it go? I mean, how does the negotiation -- and, of course, these are reports that are coming to us from British media that there's a sort of armed standoff and some kind of negotiation to bring in a suspect who very possibly could be one of these suspect the bombers. I've got to imagine the goal is, keep that person alive, because they could give you a font of information that could help in other arrests.
D'AMURO: Absolutely. They more than likely have a negotiator attached to the tactical assault team that is in, you know, correspondence right now with the individual that's barricaded himself and doesn't want to come out.
So they're trying to get that individual to come out peacefully without detonating any possible device, getting into a shoot-out, where there may be additional loss of life. But you're right, absolutely, to try and find out more information about the individuals involved in these attacks. They want this individual alive for questioning. M. O'BRIEN: Let's rejoin CNN International once again. Nic Robertson is on the scene for us. He's been shooed away a little bit by the authorities, understandably, given all that's gone on.
Let's listen to his report.
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ROBERTSON: ... a house adjacent to where we were standing a little while ago. Those two police vehicles are just turning in the road down there.
The -- it's not clear why the police went to that door. They went to the door of the house. They knocked on the door. They came back down the steps a few minutes later.
We cannot see right into the area where the main part of the police operation is going on, but perhaps that was an indication why the police cordon was moved back from where we were standing. Those flak-jacketed policemen going up, knocking on the door of a house very close to where we are standing.
These are additional police officers who have just driven into the neighborhood. Again, not clear exactly what they're doing. But it is an indication it's an ongoing operation.
Additional police resources are being brought into the area, are being deployed. And those policemen moving off down the street where the operation is still ongoing -- Jonathan.
MANN: We're now looking at the video, in fact, of what you are describing, them going door to door, getting people out. Can you see or hear anything that would suggest that something is afoot now? Does this seem like a neighborhood that's in crisis?
ROBERTSON: It's not a neighborhood in crisis, Jonathan, but this is a neighborhood clearly where there's an ongoing police operation, and that's what the police have been describing to us. The operation involving the flat, where -- the two flats where the raids were this morning.
We can't actually see that part of the operation. What we can see are police being brought in, additional police officers arriving in the area, going and knocking on that door of that building.
Police vehicles are still standing in the middle of the road. But we cannot tell and we're not getting operational details from the police about what it means to have these additional vehicles brought in or exactly what the officers are doing. But while we've been watching, we're watching additional -- additional police resources coming into the area and joining this operation -- Jonathan.
MANN: Now, as we're looking at these pictures, you can see that the police cordons are beginning to gather onlookers, people curious about what's going on. The truth is, as frightened as people have been, as nervous as they have been about using the public transit system, the people of this city have been remarkably calm and composed about these operations that are going on. And the contrast with what this city has known could not be more dramatic.
We were talking to one former senior officer of Scotland Yard who said never in his decades on the force have so many raids been carried out in so many different parts of London. Even during the peak of the IRA troubles, he said there was nothing quite like this, no one has seen anything like this. And yet, by the look of it, as you look at these pictures with us, a quiet day in a quiet neighborhood.
I was in that neighborhood just a few hours ago. You had no sense of what was going on. And people said they just looked out their windows and saw an awful lot of police.
I don't know if CNN's Nic Robertson is still with us. He and our producer Henry Schuster are working this story on two different sides of the cordon. They are now in one place.
Guys, I'm going to leave it to you. What are your observations from what you're seeing or hearing now?
ROBERTSON: From what we're seeing and hearing at the moment, Jonathan, it's an operation -- from what we're seeing and hearing at the moment, Jonathan, we can see this operation ongoing. A number of police officers have been just brought into the area. Difficult to know exactly what they're doing. The cordon we're at, as you know, was moved back a little while ago.
I'm joined by my colleague, producer Henry Schuster. He has also been talking to some witnesses.
Henry, what have you learned?
SCHUSTER: What I learned, Nic, was that there appeared to be two houses, two flats that the police went into. Some of the young gentlemen that I talked to described that one policeman came in on a motor bike. He was -- he was in disguise, came in on a motor bike, and he was signaling for a couple of cars to follow behind him.
Then police came out of unmarked cars. They went in, they were heavily armed. Most of them were wearing ski masks.
Some of the police that also came in, they were wearing white jumpsuits which they use for forensic identification. But interestingly, they talked about them wearing face masks, like not the normal little face masks, but gas -- what appeared to be they're describing as gas masks.
They were told to get out. But this was only when the raid was in progress. They were told to get out and go outside the cordon or go back into their flat.
Most of them went out. They did not see anybody arrested. They did not hear any shots fired. They did not hear any explosions.
They left the area. And now they're stuck outside the cordon at the other end, and they can't get back in.
ROBERTSON: Anyone that you've talked to, Henry, have they said that they had -- they've been able to identify any of these people from the photographs that the police had released recently of the suspect bombers? Have they seen them in this neighborhood?
SCHUSTER: No, they haven't said that they've seen them in his neighborhood. What they did when I asked them whose flats they raided, they talked about, in both cases, they said that they were families that appeared to be east African, who had only lived there for sometime within the last year.
They seemed to be nice people. They did not have their names, they could not tell me anything more about them.
In one case, it seemed to be a family, a wife, a husband, and at least one or two young kids. But nothing beyond that, and nothing more specific about their nationality.
But I should tell you that just before we came over here, I was at an interview with the assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, and we asked about this issue of is this an east African cell? He sort of dodged the issue, but he also did say that it did appear to be that these were the sort of -- the ethnic and geographic area that these people, that all the people that they're working for came from.
ROBERTSON: From the bombings last week, failed bombings?
SCHUSTER: From the failed bombings last week, yes. He said that they had taken extraordinary steps within the Somali community.
What they did was they brought in Somali community leaders. The Somali community leaders not only issued a -- issued a statement condemning the bombings, but they sent out an e-mail to people in the Somali community. They said that they sent it out to 600 different people and asked them to spread it around, and that through that they hoped to get more -- more cooperation.
They talked about the fact that one of the -- one of the men who was identified -- I believe it was Muktar -- was identified by his family. And they thought that that was a sign of good cooperation within the community. They're urging more cooperation within the community, and that they hoped that this would help them, help them catch the bomb -- the suspected bombers. And they issued -- they redoubled their call for assistance on that score.
ROBERTSON: And, of course, the police at this stage not telling us what led to this operation today, but it may have been a tip-off.
Henry, you've also been on the other side of the cordon here, on the Portobello market. Is it affecting business?
SCHUSTER: Absolutely not. It's as if you step a half-block away from the cordon, back onto the street, into one of London's busiest street markets, it's as if life goes on without -- without any blink of an eye, really. You know, tomorrow morning, it's a big tourist area. Tourists and locals come on Saturday mornings to the Portobello Street Market for antiques. And tomorrow morning I assume that it will be just as busy as ever. In fact, probably busier because some people will be curious.
ROBERTSON: Henry, thank you very much, indeed.
That's our producer, Henry Schuster. He has been around talking to more people.
What we -- what we know about this operation, what the police have confirmed for us, that it is an armed operation, that it is ongoing. They haven't said so far if they've arrested anyone, who they may have arrested.
So the best details that we're getting are still what we're able to witness here on the ground ourselves and from eyewitnesses. And we're going to continue to try and find more people who've witnessed the events this morning and piece together what information we can -- Jonathan.
MANN: CNN's Nic Robertson and Henry Schuster on the scene for us.
If you're just joining us, what we do know that is under way, at least from British media reports unconfirmed by police, is that there's a drama unfolding right now beyond our ability to see in a fashionable district of west London known as Notting Hill.
M. O'BRIEN: We have been listening to CNN's Jonathan Mann, who was preceded by CNN's Nic Robertson and Henry Schuster on the scene there in the Notting Hill section of London.
This siege, which is what it is right now, is approaching now three hours in length, and what you're seeing is a significant and heavily armed, with protective gear of all types. Police swooping down on at least one flat where it is believed one of the suspects might be connected to that July 21 batch of failed bombings.
Perhaps coincidentally, perhaps not, this is all unfolding very close to Little Wormwood Scrubs Park where police found that fifth undetonated bomb in a backpack a few days -- I guess three days after the July 21st bombings. In any case, this comes on the heels of a couple, almost two dozen arrests.
About 20 people now held in connection with what is a broadening investigation here, we believe. And including one of the suspects in the four attempts to wreak havoc once again on the transit system in London.
Perhaps intelligence, as a result of all of this, combined with the forensic evidence of the unexploded weapons, unexploded bombs, including the one found in the park, have led police to this location. In any case, we're watching it unfold. As best we know, the person who is the object of their attention, their focus, the person they'd like to arrest, is holed up in a flat and a siege is under way.
S. O'BRIEN: Let's get back to Pat D'Amuro. He is a CNN security analyst and also the chairman and CEO of Giuliani Security and Safety.
And we appreciate you sticking around for far longer than you thought you would be this morning as the news sort of broke around us.
A lot the information that they've been operating on comes from CCTV, all those closed-circuit televisions, the four million across Great Britain and more than half a million in London alone. And I'm curious to know here, in our transit system, where you imagine it's pretty similar and at the same risk as the one in London, we have nothing like that. If anything were to happen, you really wouldn't have a starting point to track suspects, because those photo images were really at the beginning of the investigation, to a large degree.
D'AMURO: A very effective tool in this case, and we don't have anywhere near the video surveillance that CCTV, that the Brits have.
S. O'BRIEN: And I mean we meaning really across the United States. There's no big system. Why not?
D'AMURO: Civil liberties unions are opposed to those types of devices being installed. We so have some installed in New York City. They are looking at installing more.
It's a great idea. It's a very effective tool to help you collect information really after an event. It doesn't really help you prevent an event.
S. O'BRIEN: Certainly Londoners felt that way. They said they actually felt very, I think, dismayed by the system. They felt, well, if it's not doing anything to protect me right now, it's great after the fact, after people are potentially, you know, blown up by a terrorist. But you certainly see, as far it's the investigation goes, it has been critical for investigators.
D'AMURO: Very much so in this situation.
M. O'BRIEN: Well, you know, the interesting thing to me -- first of all, to prevent something like this, when you've got people just walking around with a backpack, seems as if it's almost impossible. But going back to the civil liberties complaint here, my -- when you walk in a subway, I have no presumption of privacy.
It seems to me, I'd be willing to trade a measure of security. Maybe it won't prevent, but at least give someone the sense that, hey, if I'm going to do this, I'm going to get caught. Someone who wouldn't be of a suicide-bombing nature. You know, that argument is pretty compelling to me when you go up against the ACLU kind of notion here.
D'AMURO: Well, it is. And I think you'll see more and more of this in debates in the very near future, because these cameras can, in effect, assist you if you're in a mugging situation and that comes up on a camera. They can get help there quicker. There's every good reason for installing more of these cameras and very few...
S. O'BRIEN: But realistically, they don't. I mean, realistically, what they do is they pore through the old videotape and find the suspects. I mean, because the truth is, and especially in the New York City transit system, where a lot of people are no longer guarding the entryways to the subways -- you can go through a turnstile automatically with a little card -- I mean, realistically what they're for is after the fact.
And certainly, you know, it's interesting. I think we are at a time where we're going see all of this change because of things like this. The debate -- the sort of the sense of the debate will change, I believe, because certainly in cities like Baltimore, where they put cameras up just out on the street, people absolutely object.
I have another question for you about this raid that's going on right now. What do you think the chances are that they're going to find the big fish holed up in an apartment in Notting Hill?
D'AMURO: Well, obviously, this individual's involved. And they're trying to bring him in for that questioning.
S. O'BRIEN: But in the hierarchy, who are they -- who really are they going to find, do you think?
D'AMURO: Well, my guess is, if that there was a hierarchy, and there was somebody that was the mastermind of the plan, more than likely that individual is outside of London.
S. O'BRIEN: They've left the country.
D'AMURO: That's usually what al Qaeda...
S. O'BRIEN: And they left the country before the bombings?
D'AMURO: Usually, groups affiliated with al Qaeda try to get those individuals out of the country before then.
M. O'BRIEN: But let's talk about this al Qaeda affiliation. You know, we tend to invoke that name of al Qaeda pretty loosely.
M. O'BRIEN: And maybe that's appropriate, since it's a loose organization. It's more of a franchise type of situation.
Would you say that there is really, you know, a fundamental, clear cut link here, or these people just sympathizing with what al Qaeda espouses and take action?
D'AMURO: Well, Miles, what's important is we do use that term "al Qaeda" very loosely. What was significant about al Qaeda were the training camps in Afghanistan.
When you look at terrorism and the face of terrorism today, there are so many new groups that have popped up on the scene: Ansar Al- Islam, Jihad Islamaya (ph), Abu Sayyaf, all these different gruels. What affiliation did they have with al Qaeda? It was the training camps in Afghanistan. That's the common factor.
In fact, we're talking about individuals that may be from Somalia here. Al Qaeda had a presence in Somalia. Everybody saw the movie "Black Hawk Down." That was actually an al Qaeda technique, where they took an RPG, an rocket projectile grenade, and shot it from helicopters at rooftops. That was a tactic taught by al Qaeda in the training camps.
S. O'BRIEN: Pat D'Amuro, we're going to ask you to continue to stay with us as we obviously are focused on our big story this morning, which is this raid that is going on right now. It's happening in the Notting Hill section in London, and police are on the scene. And apparently, by some reports, in the middle of an armed standoff with a person who might be a suspect in the July 21 bombing attempt in London.
We're going to take a short break. And on the other side of that break, come back and continue to update you on this story.
Stay with us. You're watching AMERICAN MORNING.
Welcome back, everybody, to what's clearly become our top story this morning, this raid going on and we're continuing to watch. It's happening in Notting Hill in London. The events unfolding really right before our eyes.
2:25 in the afternoon in London right now, and in conjunction with our colleagues at CNN International and our colleagues at ITN as well, we've been listening in to what's happening there. We're going to update you on the situation, this major anti-terror operation going on right now with commandos leading the way.
As soon as we get more information we'll come right back to it. We do have other stories to tell you about, though.
Let's get right back to Miles.
All right. It looks like we're having a little bit of audio difficulties. So we'll continue to go on with this story, then.
Pat D'Amuro is a CNN security analyst.
And Pat, let's continue our discussions as we have you right here.
You know, I guess the minute the July 7 bombing happened, it seems as if the U.S. immediately sends its own team in order to try to learn lessons. Not necessarily help in the investigation, but get clues that could help them.
What exactly happens there? D'AMURO: Well we have -- the bureau has legal attaches that are assigned to London, but whenever you have an event like this, you are always trying to employ additional people to go to the location and develop whatever additional intelligence they can derive. So that's what occurs in a situation like this, to get additional bodies on the ground, bomb experts, different individuals to try to send intelligence back here that would be meaningful to protect our country.
S. O'BRIEN: You know, the question always is, at the end of this, could it happen here? And to me, the answer seems, well, yeah, obviously it could if you have people with the right mindset.
Do you think things have gone far enough to protect Americans at any major city in their -- I mean, it seems like almost the whole point of good transit is that you move quickly without too much interference through wherever you need to go, and move a lot of people through. Do you see big changes that way, or do you think because of security concerns...
D'AMURO: I think we have a long way to go in this country to better protect our infrastructure, our transportation system. We know that groups like al Qaeda want to attack our transportation systems. And these are the types of situations that the government's looking at right now.
How do we do that? How do we still allow free transit, but still make it safer for all the people that utilize it?
S. O'BRIEN: It's really quite a scary thought.
Now, we have seen, obviously -- we've been watching lots of these police officers who are, from what I can tell by Nic's description, kind of guarding the perimeter, keeping people back and responsible for the evacuations. In addition, a little bit earlier we saw a little piece of videotape, a young man, probably in his 20s, running out, holding his jacket and his shoes.
I don't know if you had a chance to see that -- looking utterly terrified. I've got to imagine, for the people whoa re living here, this is a horrific experience, even though, as Henry Schuster, our producer there, has been describing, people just half a block away don't really seem that concerned.
D'AMURO: Right. People don't think about what an explosive device can do.
And I did see the young man. And if you've ever been involved in a raid or a situation like this, it is unsettling. And that's why you see the looks on people's faces, that they're very concerned, because when these tactical teams go in, they're not there to be nice.
They're there to get people out and get them out quickly. So they're moving them as quickly as they can.
S. O'BRIEN: It seems scary, too, that with 20 arrests, reported as of last night, the web just keeps growing bigger and bigger, and the tentacles getting sort of longer and deeper, maybe than anybody even thought. British police, I think, described this as their biggest operation and their biggest investigation ever, even considering what was going on with the IRA.
Do you think there's ever going to be a time when you can root out all of these would-be terrorists when you're talking about people of varying backgrounds and varying ideologies and not necessarily linked face to face, but maybe through the Internet and maybe through, you know, all sorts of different ways? It just seems like, to some degree, it's an impossible task, frankly.
D'AMURO: It's a large task. And we can go back to 1999, when intelligence derived from these bombings was provided to the Metropolitan Police, and they actually conducted 12 searches in areas surrounding the city of London and collected over 100,000 documents showing the extent of radical fundamentalism and how it had grown in the area surrounding London.
So this has been ongoing for some time now, and the British authorities have been working very closely with the American authorities in trying to collect this type of intelligence.
S. O'BRIEN: How do you stamp it out? I mean, to a large degree, you certainly risk creating more extremists and I think these are very valid concerns to -- certainly in Iraq, similar concern, where you have -- you create more insurgents every time you try to clamp down on the community. Do you create more extremists anytime you try to clamp down on extremists?
D'AMURO: Well, you know, you can't let this go unanswered. I think of the British statesman Sir Edmund Burke, when he said that evil needs to flourish is for good men to take nothing. They have to take action. They have to be aggressive, to try to eliminate this terrorist threat. These individuals are not going to going away. They're not going to simply sit back and stop being terrorist. They're there. They're committed. They want to kill British citizens, they want to kill Americans abroad, and they're going to continue those efforts.
S. O'BRIEN All right. Well, obviously, Pat, you and I are not going to go very far from the story this morning. We've got it tell you about some new arrests that we're getting information on in just a few moments. We continue to monitor this story, and we are obviously continuing to follow this massive sweep going on in Notting Hill, and we're getting word from Scotland Yard, confirming two arrests, and those arrests are taking place near the Liverpool Street Station at the same time. And we mentioned, there is a number of operations, it appears, going on around London today, even though, as Henry Schuster describes, people there seem very calm, and things seem to be going on, business as usual, even though in selected pockets there are lots of operations going on.
We're going to continue to monitor what's happening in London today, where it is just after 2:30 in the afternoon. A massive operation, anti-terror operation, taking place, and several others around the city as well. An update on that is just ahead.
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