Return to Transcripts main page


No Confirmation That American Was Among Kenyan Terrorists; Kenyan Terror Attack; Businesses and Law Enforcement Plan to Defend U.S. Soft Target Attacks; Suicide Bomber Kills At Church; Shutdown Will Hurt; iPhone Touch ID Hack Claimed

Aired September 23, 2013 - 12:30   ET



MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CO-ANCHOR: Welcome back to our viewers in the United States and indeed AROUND THE WORLD.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN CO-ANCHOR: We're still learning new information now as it pertains to this investigation overseas in Kenya.

And now a deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes saying to reporters on Air Force One that the U.S. does not have any confirmation yet that Americans were indeed involved.

But, of course, the FBI is still investigating whether there were any Americans among the alleged gunmen.

HOLMES: Absolutely. Al Shabaab tweeting out that there were, and that there was a Briton and someone from Finland as well as someone from Canada.

Of course there's no way to confirm that. We don't know for sure. That was their claim. And, yeah, it's interesting there that Ben Rhodes, saying the U.S. doesn't have any confirmation on it.

WHITFIELD: Investigation still under way, however, it still remains a very tense situation at the Nairobi shopping mall where terrorists did take hostages and have killed dozens of people over the weekend.

HOLMES: Yeah, now, our own Zain Verjee and her crew had to actually take cover earlier today while preparing to report. We were just about to cross to you then on CNN INTERNATIONAL.

At least 62 have been killed. Even more have been wounded, 170 or so, I think.

Let's bring Zain in now, live from the scene. Things changing fast, moment by moment, really, just update us on the situation right now.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right now everything appears calm and quiet. The smoke doesn't seem to be as thick as it was. There's been no gunfire. The helicopters have stopped.

The Kenyan officials have said repeatedly to me, privately and publicly, it's going to be over soon. Tonight we're going to wrap it up, it will be over and we're fully in control.

They continue to insist that's the case and that they have removed the pockets of resistance and the Shabaab and al Qaeda militants that were still inside Westgate Mall.

One interesting development Michael over the last five minutes or so, I'm standing in position at the Shri Visha Ashwal (ph) community center area that's kind of been a base for a lot of the operations, especially for the medics, and they're planning to wrap up operations here in the next few hours.

So I asked about casualties. No one had an answer for that. I asked about the gunmen, bodies, casualties, location. No answer to that.

So really, we're going to have to wait on the Kenyan officials and military sources, the government sources. to come forward and give us a picture of what exactly the status is right now.

The last official word was that everything is in control and most of the hostages have been released.


WHITFIELD: OK. So most of the hostages being released, but not all of them. Meantime, it does remain a very tenuous situation for those who were, of course, in the shopping mall and even those of you outside of the mall.

Zain, earlier, some -- what appeared to be close calls because of what sounded like gunfire very near to your perch, where you and your crew were.

Give us an idea of what happened shortly after this moment. Let's listen in to this moment.


VERJEE: Is that more gunfire? Can we have the helmets? Where is the helmet?


HOLMES: The distinctive sort of crack, which is always indicative of proximity, Zain, what do you know happened at that time, and I imagine you ducked down pretty quick?

VERJEE: There was a gunfire exchange between the militants and the security forces in there. And it was sporadic, but it was intense.

We all ran and took cover behind the cars here, and a lot of people just fled in the opposite direction and ran.

I talked to some security officials who said that that sounded to them like clearing shots, the way that they would operate when they were to clear a room.

I can't be sure of that, but that's kind of the way they read

But since then, there's been no shooting of that intensity.

WHITFIELD: And, Zain, talk to us about this target, that being Kenya. This is a beautiful country that is a big, attractive sight for so many tourists, a lot of commerce. And people feel very relaxed and at ease, generally, in that country and especially at that mall.

And something like this to happen disrupts not just the way of life but commerce and it really does have a ripple effect around the world, doesn't it?

VERJEE: It really does. You know, Kenya matters, that's basically the bottom line. It matters regionally. It's an economic powerhouse. It matters to the United States simply because -- and the West because it has a very close security and counterterrorism relationship.

There's a lot of intelligence sharing. There's a lot of security information. There's training of the Kenyan forces back and forth. The intelligence forces here are some of the best in the world, and hey cooperate very closely.

We also have a port that's critical to spread goods and services around. The infrastructure here is important because international organizations like the U.N. are based here.

And, also, Kenya, unfortunately, has become a place where al Shabaab is able to find a little space to operate, to recruit and finance. So it has a ripple effect throughout the world.

HOLMES: Yeah, in many ways, East Africa's stability depends on Kenya's stability. And, as we know, it is your home as well.

Zain, good to see you, Zain Verjee there in Nairobi.

WHITFIELD: All right, coming up next, why places like shopping malls, theaters and even gas stations are called "soft targets," and what you need to be on the lookout for when you're visiting any of them.


WHITFIELD: All right, as we're learning from that deadly attack on the mall in Kenya, shopping centers are indeed soft targets for terror attacks.

HOLMES: Yeah. They're full of people, lots of entrances and exits, no clear authority in charge in many ways.

WHITFIELD: And with groups like al Shabaab recruiting in the West, people in the U.S. are now wondering if their neighborhood mall could become a target.

HOLMES: Especially with the comparative readily available firearms in the United States. It's even more of an issue here.

John Berman reports that whole question is plaguing U.S. law enforcement as well.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The shocking mall attack in Kenya carried out by a Somali terror group linked to al Qaeda and hostile to the United States has many U.S. citizens concerned. Could a similar attack happen here?

Gunmen have terrorized American shopping malls in the past, but those attacks have been carried out by lone assailants with no apparent cause to promote.

In 2007, the 19-year-old man killed eight people and himself in Omaha, Nebraska. That same year an 18-year-old man killed five people in Salt Lake City before he was killed by police.

And last year, weeks before Christmas, a 22-year-old gunman killed two people and himself at a mall near Portland, Oregon.

It is preventing scenes like this one that keeps FBI officials up at night, and law enforcement says they have been successful at stopping planned attacks before they happen.

A Somali citizen living in Columbus, Ohio, was sentenced to ten years in prison in 2007 after admitting he sought training to carry out attacks on a mall.

And a man in Rockford, Illinois, was sentenced to 35 years in prison after plotting to set off grenades at a shopping mall.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Soft targets are attractive to terrorists because they're not defended.

BERMAN: Mall representatives in the U.S. stress that security is front and center.

The Mall of America, one of the largest shopping centers in the country holds lockdown drills twice a month. Tenants and customers practice sheltering in back rooms of stores, aiming to prevent casualties in an attack.

DOUG REYNOLDS, MALL OF AMERICA: If something bad should happen here, we don't want our response to start with, and law enforcement will be here and they'll protect you.

We want to know what can be done until law enforcement gets here.

BERMAN: Even with heightened security, experts say your best defense is simply to be aware of your surroundings.

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: You go to the shopping mall, you go to a movie theater, any one of those situations could make you vulnerable if other people or another person is out there determined to conduct an attack.

BERMAN: John Berman, CNN, New York. (END VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES: Far from the only violence around the world this past weekend, the pope now condemning the bombing of a Christian church in Pakistan, and how Christians are reacting to this deadly attack. Dozens of people killed.

We'll have that when we come back.


WHITFIELD: Attorneys for accused Boston marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev are in court right now.

HOLMES: Yeah, they're having a conference with federal prosecutors ahead of that 20-year-old's upcoming trial.

Tsarnaev, of course, could face the death penalty if he's convicted of planting a pair of homemade bombs at the marathon's crowded race finish line.

WHITFIELD: And you'll recall, three people were killed and 264 wounded that horrible April day.

Meantime, Boston police commissioner Edward Davis plans to announce his resignation today.

HOLMES: Yes, "The Boston Globe" reporting it was widely expected he would seek a more high-profile job because his response to the bombings earned him national praise. "The Globe" reports Davis is going to pursue a fellowship at Harvard University.

WHITFIELD: And a horrific bombing taking place in Pakistan during Sunday church services. Suicide bombers struck as hundreds of people were in church in Peshawar.

HOLMES: Unbelievable. Eighty-one people were killed, many of them children, women, even members of the choir, and dozens more were wounded, many of them horrifically. Stunned people were mourning near the hospital where the wounded were taken.

WHITFIELD: A Taliban splinter group has claimed responsibility for this attack. And in a statement the group said it is protesting U.S. drone strikes in remote parts of Pakistan.

HOLMES: Now, Christians, a minority of course in Pakistan, are terrified. They're also outraged. They're demanding that their government do more to protect them. Our Saima Mohsin is in Islamabad and reports that protests have broken out around the country.

SAIMA MOHSIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Michael, protests have been breaking out throughout the country, not just by members of this Christian community, but also the general Pakistani public. They're demanding their right to protection from the state. They want to be able to go to their places of worship without fear of attacks. There have been attacks on mosques and now this hideous church bombing in which many people, including women and children, were killed, members of the church choir.

The bishop of Peshawar tells us Sunday school students as young as four years old have also been killed. Now he is calling for restraint, calling for people not to go out and protest. And that has also been echoed by Pope Francis who's calling for peace and unity amongst the Christian community and majority Muslims here.


HOLMES: Saima Mohsin there in Islamabad. A terrible tragedy. I mean overshadowed, in many ways, by what's happened in Kenya, but --

WHITFIELD: Because there's so much right now.

HOLMES: Unbelievable. Two men walk into a church, 500 people there, blew themselves up. It's just horrible, horrible.

WHITFIELD: Terrible. A sad situation.


WHITFIELD: All right, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is celebrating a big reelection victory. Preliminary results showing that her win of more than 41 percent of the vote is enough to celebrate, clinching a third term in office.

HOLMES: Even she was surprised. This was a much bigger margin of victory than anyone expected. And it's going to be one of the strongest mandates actually in modern German political history. The White House says President Obama has called Chancellor Merkel to congratulate her.

WHITFIELD: The win is seen as a real show of support for her handling of the Eurozone crisis. Merkel is referred to as Germany's "iron lady." A nickname used once upon a time for former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

HOLMES: Now, coming up here on AROUND THE WORLD, in seven days there could be a government shutdown here in the United States. That could mean something for people around the world.



HOLMES: And welcome back to our viewers all around the world. Now as you probably know by now, a possible U.S. government shutdown is just a week away if Congress can't come together to authorize a new spending resolution.

WHITFIELD: The current budget runs out next Monday. And if there is no agreement, the U.S. economy will take a big hit. Christine Romans takes a look at how Americans could feel the pain.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, HOST, CNN'S "YOUR MONEY": Now based on the last shutdown in 1995, here's how you would likely be affected.

Hundreds of thousands of federal workers sent home without pay. Many, if not most federal offices and programs would be closed, shut down. During the last shutdown, 200,000 passport applications went unprocessed. Some services to veterans were suspended. And the NAH stopped accepting patients for clinical research. National parks and museums closed. And federal contractors who rely on government departments to issue paperwork, they could see their projects delayed.

Now, critical functions of the government, critical services would stay open. Think air traffic control, food inspections, national security, border security, the maintenance of the power grid. Also open, anything considered essential to the banking system. That means the government would still issue bonds and, yes, you do need to pay your taxes. The Postal Service would continue to deliver the mail and the government would pay out benefits, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security. Those are considered mandatory. They're not affected. However, government workers who process them could be affected, although that's unlikely.

Now, the president, his appointees, members of Congress, anyone else working during the shutdown will get paid, although their paychecks could be delayed. Furloughed workers may get back pay, maybe get back pay after it's all settled, but it's also not guaranteed. And fewer workers spending money and delayed contracts, all this means less economic growth. That's the big concern here about a government shutdown.

Christine Romans, CNN, New York.


WHITFIELD: All right, a pretty sizable impact.

HOLMES: Yes. And ripples around the world as well.

Now, coming up, are your fingerprints safe?

WHITFIELD: Let's hope so. But you know what, new Apple technology uses your fingerprints for added security on iPhones.

HOLMES: Yes, but a German hacker group is saying it's beaten the system. Cracked Apple's new code.


And this Instagram photo of Rihanna with an endangered animal gets two people in Thailand in trouble with the law. We're going to explain why.

HOLMES: That's coming up on AROUND THE WORLD.


WHITFIELD: Apple says it broke records selling 9 million of its latest phones. HOLMES: That's a lot. But get this, a group in Germany says it has hacked one of the new features of these phones. The one that uses your fingerprints.

WHITFIELD: Oh, boy. Zain Asher is at the New York Stock Exchange.

So what do these hackers reportedly do, exactly?

ZAIN ASHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, you know, Fredricka, hackers love doing this for the attention and the challenge. But, yes, a German hacker group known as CCC, it stands for Chaos Computer Club, claims to have hacked the new fingerprint scanner.

Now, here's how they managed to bypass Apple's thumb print sensor. So let's say a person leaves their prints on a glass surface. The hacker takes a photo of it, scans it, cleans it up, prints it out and uses it to create a mold. They then use that mold to trick the iPhone into believing it is a real finger. Certainly sounds really weird.

But this probably won't be so devastating to Apple, though. Apple has said that only 50 percent - and this is quite surprising - 50 percent of iPhone users even bother to have pass codes at all. So this sort of thumbprint sensor was supposed to be an easier way to answer your phone compared to typing in a four digit pass code.

HOLMES: Yes, because there wouldn't be many fingerprints on iPhones, would there? I mean -recovered (ph).

ASHER: You leave your fingerprints everywhere.

HOLMES: It's all about the fingerprint.

ASHER: You it everywhere.

HOLMES: It's kind of a game though for hackers I mean they come out with something or other and then the hackers are on to it to try to find the bug, which, I don't know, it might ultimately help.

ASHER: They're on to it immediately. It took them two days, by the way.


ASHER: Two days after Apple released their new phone. Two days hackers were already onto it. So -

HOLMES: Right.

WHITFIELD: Frustratingly brilliant.

HOLMES: But it might ultimately help because then they can, you know, find out from the hackers what they did -

WHITFIELD: To perfect it.

ASHER: I know. And then they can recruit them, right? WHITFIELD: Oh, my goodness.

HOLMES: Exactly.

WHITFIELD: So they're going to keep each other in business then in other words.

All right, Zain, thank you.

HOLMES: All right. Who'd have thought a fingerprint on your iPhone.

ASHER: I know. Crazy.

WHITFIELD: Nobody do that.

ASHER: Crazy.

HOLMES: Crazy.

Good to see you, Zain.

WHITFIELD: All right. Hey, you've seen the images, right? Rihanna, you know, Instagram photo next to a little itty bitty primate that's endangered. Folks are in trouble now.

HOLMES: Yes, two young - two young men in Thailand got into trouble with the law over this money. And this is after that picture was posted. This it is there. That's herself and this endangered monkey, I guess, up on Instagram.

WHITFIELD: Uh-huh. Uh-huh. And so Rihanna apparently hears the controversy. She paid the -

HOLMES: These guys, yes.

WHITFIELD: The two folks that, I guess, approached her, to get this image.

HOLMES: Yes, this is like (ph) --

WHITFIELD: And that's where the problem begins. The payment.

HOLMES: It happens in tourist places all over the world. You know, take a photo here and get paid for it. Now, the picture was liked by actually more than 230,000 fans. The probably is, The men aren't allowed to ask tourists for money to take pictures with endangered species. It's a rule apparently.

WHITFIELD: Uh-huh. And so apparently this was an endangered loris and the young men have since been arrested. They are facing charges. And the monkey has been returned to a national park.

HOLMES: He didn't get any either. Didn't get a cut of it.


HOLMES: All right. Well, thanks for watching. Now for our viewers on CNN International, iDesk starts right now.

WHITFIELD: And the CNN NEWSROOM in the U.S. beginning with Wolf Blitzer right now.

HOLMES: See you tomorrow.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Right now authorities are questioning at least 10 people in connection with that deadly shopping mall attack in Kenya. Security forces claim they have taken control of the mall. We're going live to Nairobi.

Also right now, President Obama's arriving here at the United Nations. He meets with the Nigerian president in a few minutes. We're going to listen in to see if he says anything about that terrible mall attack in Kenya. I suspect he will.

And the president is in good company. Right now leaders from all over the world, they are gathering here in New York City for the annual United Nations General Assembly.