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Anti-Terrorism Operations in Belgian Cities

Aired January 15, 2015 - 20:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, thank you for joining us. We begin in breaking news in the fight against terrorism in Europe, a fight that has been focused on France for more than a week now but today exploded in gunfire in Belgium and it is not over. According to a Belgium counterterrorism official, anti-terrorism operations are going on in Belgian cities right now as we speak.

The one raid that know the most about right now hit a suspected terror cell that Belgian authorities say was on the verge of carrying out an attack. That raid left two people dead, a third suspect injured and in custody. A Belgian source said some members of this cell had met with ISIS in Syria and plotted attacks to retaliate for U.S.-led air strikes. A western intelligence source said leads developed after the Paris attacks were what led to today's raid.

Now, the operation was caught on video that was posted on You Tube. We are going to play the whole thing for you unedited so you can really get a sense of the intensity of the raid.


COOPER: Again, a Belgian counterterrorism official said that additional anti-terrorism operations are going on in other cities. We have reporters throughout Belgium tonight. We begin with our Phil Black in Verviers with the raid you just saw took place here on the ground.

Take us through what happened. What do we know?

We're obviously clearly having some audio problems there. We'll try to reconnect with Phil Black.

As I mentioned, other operations are going on in Belgium including we're told now in Brussels. We have a reporter, Chris Burns, who is standing by there. I do want to go to him now. He joins us on the phone.

So Chris, I understand there was another raid today in a neighborhood in Brussels. The suspect involved said to be still at large. Is that correct at this moment?

CHRIS BURNS, FORMER CNN REPORTER (via phone): That's right, Anderson. In a number of neighborhoods here in Brussels and on the town outside of Brussels as well, there were a number of raids. And the latest one was in a neighborhood called (INAUDIBLE) where explosives were found inside a building. There was no suspects there. They are al-large. They're being searched for right now by police and another neighborhood was searched, Scarebic (ph), which is actually very close to all the European institutions. So it's very coming, very close to home to a lot of people. And the police have stepped up the security quite a bit to level three now out of four. So that really indicates how much police are very much concern. And these searchers have been going for weeks. But this is really the first time it's turned so deadly.

COOPER: Chris, I want to have you hold on because I so want to bring back our Phil Black in Verviers.

Phil, if you can hear us now, explain what we know about this operation that went on today.

PHIL BLACK, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The video you watched just a few moments ago, Anderson, it was shot just right behind me in a street that is still very much locked down by security forces there. They moved into a property around 5:40 p.m. local time. And as the video showed, the occupants of that property, they fired back. A prolonged gunfight resulted according to general authorities.

That's certainly what that video shows. But in the end, two of the suspects in the property were killed and a third injured was injured and has since being detained. What Belgian authorities are telling us this evening is that they moved this operation and others across the country as a result of information they have obtained after an investigation that has been going on for some time. One that predates the attacks in Paris against the "Charlie Hebdo" magazine.

They say they received information that points to a major attack. At the moment, no links to the events in Paris. But they are still looking at it. But it raises the frightening possibility that the coincidence, if you like, that this attack was planned ready to go so close to those events we've been talking about in Paris, Anderson.

COOPER: So Phil, I just want to repeat that, because I think it is important. As of now, authorities are saying they don't have any linkage between the cell that was operating in Paris that undertook the "Charlie Hebdo" attacks and the other, the hostage standoff there. No linkage to this group in Verviers.

BLACK: That's right. They said they have no firm link. What we're hearing so far that this relates to members of a cell that they say have recently returned from Syria. "Charlie Hebdo," the Kouachi brothers, we know the links there are Al-Qaeda and Yemen.

So at the surface, no direct physical link. There is no talk of the major players having any connection either. So the remaining possibilities that you're left looking at. They point to perhaps a coincidence, as I say two separate cells or organizations, or groups of individuals planning attacks within a very short space of window in two neighboring countries or perhaps the possibility that there was some sort of motivation that the groups here received as a result of the events in Paris. They perhaps altered their timetable in some way. All of this very much indicates and backs up the concern that terror

officials have been talking about in Europe over the last few months about the potential threat that exists here. Partly because of so many fighters traveling to Syria, gaining experience and the fear is potentially orders before coming back here, returning in the hundreds to potentially bring that conflict to this continent as well. Too many, we're told repeatedly by the intelligence officials to follow closely here, Anderson.

COOPER: All right. I want to go back to Chris Burns on the phone joining us from Brussels.

The other raids you talked about, Chris, there are reports that some of the suspects are at large. Is that your information?

BURNS: That's right, Anderson. That building where the explosives were found, they are at large. There was actually also as prosecutors here are saying that there are second building, with search in Verviers where they found four (INAUDIBLE) and ingredients for these explosives. But they didn't report any arrests. So obviously, they are trying to track those people down, too.

So these searches continue that through the night and they are also combing the sites for evidence as much as possible. They have scientific police investigators there who are really just combing it for every sort of indication that they could find to try to trace these track these people down.

COOPER: And Chris, do you know how long authorities have been watching this group in Brussels?

BURNS: Well, Anderson, they didn't say how long. But we do know that for weeks, in fact, even months we've been seeing these round-ups now and then of Islamic extremist suspects, but they did say that they moved in on Verviers because of wiretaps, and exclusively wiretaps of the phones of these three suspects who come back from Syria. And that they had, according to police, they were planning to attack police site or police in cells. So that's why they cracked down on them and that's why they raised the security measures. In fact, even Jewish schools will be closed on Friday in Antwerp and in Brussels because of these attacks.

COOPER: Chris Burns, I appreciate your reporting. Phil Black as well.

Fred Pleitgen is also in Brussels. He joins me now.

We are learning more this evening, understand Fred, about leads that trigger this raid in Belgium, right?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via phone): Hi, Anderson. That's something we have from an intelligence source. And at certain, the fact that even though the cell might not be the attack in Paris, there does, however, appears to be some sort of link and it goes back to an arms dealer who was apparently visited by Amedy Coulibaly who, of course, was the man perpetrated that raid on the kosher store last Friday in Paris. Apparently, that man turned himself in on Tuesday to authorities. His premises was then searched and they found a bunch of other weapons that also leads to exactly these jihadist. And that they said led this whole operation a whole new sense of urgency.

Yes, Chris was saying, they have been monitoring these extremists for a very long time. But all of the sudden, all these became very urgent.

The other thing that happened is that last weekend, two jihadists returned from Syria. They were apprehended at the airport here in Brussels and with that the authorities then had another sense of urgency and that's when they decided these raids need to be triggered immediately.

So they were monitoring for a very long time. But certainly, once that arms dealer came into the fray and once those two people returned from Syria, that's when the authorities here decided they need to move immediately, Anderson.

COOPER: This arms dealer who apparently turned himself in, so he sold weapons, as far as the reports, sold weapons to Coulibaly, the man who took over the supermarket, the man who is also accused of killing the French policewoman, same weapons which were also used by the Kouachi brothers or other weapons were also purchased by that guy, by Coulibaly for the Kouachi brothers?

PLEITGEN: Yes, absolutely. The recent police report we have is that the weapons were purchased first of all arms, (INAUDIBLE) in Belgium and the other weapons possibly the one used by the Kouachi brothers were purchased in a gun market in Brussels. The market is very well- known here in Brussels and apparently also has a black market where weapons are sold.

The interesting thing is that from its arms dealer in Charleroi's (ph), looking at the video (INAUDIBLE), especially the one where he pledges allegiance to ISIS, you'll see an automatic weapon next to him. That weapon apparently was purchased from this arm dealer in Belgium.

Also, the handgun that he has on that surveillance video that is him inside the kosher store, that was apparently also purchased from this man here in Belgium. So certainly, this arms dealer is linked to all of this. It's unclear whether or not this arms dealer actually knew that he was selling weapons for some sort of terrorist plot because he became afraid of when he saw all these events unfolding and realized the guy he sold the weapons to had done all this.

COOPER: All right, Fred Pleitgen, appreciate that update.

You have these arms dealer who turned himself in after allegedly selling weapons to the suspects, to those who committed the attacks of terror in Paris. And now, you have multiple operations going on, ongoing as we speak, that earlier operation we saw against the cell in which left two people dead there in Verviers.

Chris was talking about an operation, Chris Burns, reporting on an operation in Brussels as well as a number of other operations and some suspects may still be on the loose.

Quick reminder, you can set your DVR. You can to watch "360" whenever you want.

Coming up, we are going to have more on the Belgium anti-terror raids in a moment and the suspected terror cells link to ISIS.

And ahead, the latest investigation into the Paris attacks. Every day, we are learning more and more information. A letter from one of the founding editors from "Charlie Hebdo" that's been a big surprise to a lot of people. We'll have details on that ahead.


COOPER: Welcome back. If you're just joining us, breaking news tonight, ongoing anti-terror raids in a number of cities across Belgium. Not much details on those raids so far. But we know this raid was on a suspected terror cell.

According to senior Belgium counterterrorism official, had orders from ISIS to carry out an imminent attack. The raid in eastern city of Verviers left two people dead, a third suspect in custody right now.

Joining me is CNN terrorism analyst Paul Cruickshank and former Delta force member and CNN global affairs analyst retired Lieutenant Colonel James Reese.

Paul, I understand you've been talking the a senior Belgium counterterrorism official. What are you learning?

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, what I am learning is they believe this group was connected to ISIS. They were recruited by ISIS. And not only that, they suspect they were directed by ISIS to launch a retaliatory strike in Europe, specifically, in Belgium because of these airstrikes against ISIS.

Belgium is part of the coalition. Belgium is involved in combat operations form the -- over Iraq. So the Belgians think that this is an ISIS plot which is trying to retaliate for that very, very worrying times in Belgium. This is still a continuing operation. Not clear yet that the danger is over.

COOPER: But you say recruited, directed by ISIS. Meaning, they had actually been in either Syria or Iraq in ISIS territory.

CRUICKSHANK: Yes, I mean, these guys had been -- they met with ISIS. They met with the ISIS leadership. The Belgians think that they were recruited and deliberately sent back by ISIS to launch a terrorist attack. And that this is a game changer moment because we haven't seen the ISIS leadership do that yet. I mean, the plots we've seen before it, some ISIS veterans coming back and launching attacks on their own steam. We saw that with the museum attack in Brussels last May. (INAUDIBLE) killed four people in the Jewish museum.

Even with ISIS and Syria that the investigators think that he did that of his own volition rather than being directed by the group. So this is the game-changer because of all the resources they have in Syria and Iraq, all that money they have, all these training camps, and the fact up to thousand European recruits in their ranks.

COOPER: It is interesting. As you say, a game changer because of the time the U.S. started and the western European nations start to get involved in this air campaign against ISIS, a number of people said, well look, ISIS so far has not directed attacks against the west, against the United States or against targets in western Europe. You're saying if in fact this is ISIS directed or ISIS, you know, mandated, that's why it's a game changer. Because it's the first time there is really been a directed operation against a western European nation.

CRUICKSHANK: Absolutely. And you know, ISIS are being quite clear on this point. Abu Mohammed Al Adnani, the spokesman of the group, a key figure in their group in September said we are going to launch attacks in the west to punish you for this. They've warned this is coming and this maybe their reaction.

COOPER: Not that they are necessarily using the excuse to attack Western Europe. Clearly, they would have, ideologically, they would have liked to, they just haven't until now.

Colonel, I want to replay the video for the viewers of the one attack that we have been watching in Verviers. And I just get your sense of it as a former delta force member.


COOPER: What stands out to you?

LT. COL. JAMES REESE (RET.), FORMER SPECIAL FORCES COMMANDER: So, really, it's kind of your classic counterterrorism assault here. What you really have here and you heard the gentleman on Erin Burnett's shows, the guy who filmed this earlier, he heard the booms. That's what wakes everybody up in the neighborhood and grabs his phone. Those are flash bangs. He thought they were grenades. Grenades do too much collateral damage especially an area where people live. So the flash bangs, that's what start the fire.

COOPER: And they are completely -- I mean, if they are effective, they completely disorient somebody there extremely loud.

REESE: What you really trying to do is make people look in opposite directions while people are flooding in. Really, the other critical thing here is you got to fight upstairs which is very difficult. The Belgians did a great job here in which I'm glad to see as we finally have captured somebody which now we can sit down and interrogate --

COOPER: Very key significant.

REESE: It is very significant. Because now, we can really sit down and you look to see what this network looks like based off of his feedback in the interview.

COOPER: It is also, this tape goes for about a minute and 40 or so seconds. For an operation like this, obviously, you want it to be as swift as possible. You want to control as much as the elements as possible. I don't know how many entrances there were to the structure, but if there is only one entrance, that's how this the worst case snare row.

REESE: Three elements to any type of either hostage rescue or, you know, an issue like this, surprise, speed, violence of action. You get those things, you can take it down. And again, the Belgians had no one hurt. So that's a good thing for them.

COOPER: And Paul, I mean, the connection -- I mean, officials, it doesn't seem like they're exactly clear on the connection between these raids and the attack in Paris. It seems like as of now, they are saying they don't believe that's any connection. That's how those they are going to be looking at.

CRUICKSHANK: Yes. They don't believe there is a connection between the two cells. That the one in Paris mauling back to AQAP, they believe. The one in Belgium linked back to ISIS. These are two competing groups. Maybe the guys in Belgium saw what AQAP potentially did and decided to respond. This is sort of like a one up-man ship from these jihadist terrorist groups.

COOPER: Even though if this guy, Coulibaly, who took over the supermarket and he is alleged who have killed the French policewoman last Thursday, pledged allegiance to ISIS, it is not clear whether there was any actual direction by ISIS or whether that was him just sort of trying to bolster his own credentials.

CRUICKSHANK: There's no evidence that Coulibaly traveled to Syria and Iraq in any form of connection. With his great play, he was very fond of it, wanted to claim his operation for it but not linked to it in any greater way.

COOPER: Belgium has also been very tough against or trying to be perhaps the toughest against returning nationals who have fought overseas. And I'm wondering if that has anything to do with kind of sharpening the divide there.

CRUICKSHANK: Well, they've got to get tough because, you know, there's a big problem. A hundred and fifty Belgium nationals believed to be in Syria and Iraq right now. Almost all of them believed to be with ISIS, about 30 of them were killed there and 70 back in Belgium. That's a lot for them to monitor. I mean, I'm half Belgian. I go to Belgium. I talk to officials there. They're very, very stressed out there. They don't feel they have enough resources to combat this threat.

COOPER: It's certainly in the United States, a concern. The civilians in United States has kind of been off the radar, but clearly tonight, Belgium is front and center right now.

Colonel, appreciate you being with us, Colonel Reese and also Paul Cruickshank.

Another millions of copies of "Charlie Hebdo" went on sale today after three million copies quickly sold out. It is the first issue since the terror attacks in France.

We got a lot of new developments in the investigation to tell you about tonight. A trip that one of the suspects took to Spain. That's now being investigated.

Also, an emotional letter from one of the magazine's founding editors. A letter that has surprised some people.

CNN chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto joins me from Paris with the latest.

So some new information today, first about this trip that Coulibaly and his girlfriend took to Madrid just days before last week's attack.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That's right. This is the French authorities tracking all the attackers' movements and their associates' movements, both before and after the attack so they could see if anyone else is connected to this plot. So they tracked now Amedy Coulibaly and his companion, Hayat Boumeddiene who have been talking about all week to Spain before the stacks. From Spain, she continues on to Turkey where we saw those pictures of her at immigration and then it's presumed on to Syria.

At that point, Coulibaly came back here where he later carried out the attacks. So they now looking to see if they saw anybody in Spain, are there any associates on the lose there in Spain. This is a process going on, not just in France, but around Europe right now as they try to see how far and wide this network extends.

COOPER: Wasn't she, in the video of her entering Turkey, wasn't she with somebody else?

SCIUTTO: She was. And this is why you do this because now, they've found someone else tied to this. They've identified this man as someone else tied to a Pakistani-Afghan terror cell. Again, someone known to authorities before these attacks. They don't know his whereabouts right now either. But it also gives them more information because it shows yet another terror cell network tied to the one that carried out the attacks here. Of course, you know, the bad news with that is it just shows you there's a number of these groups operating now in Europe. And of course, we have a reminder that is what we've seen underway tonight in Belgium.

COOPER: And you really getting a sense, starting to get sense king of the intricate web of all of these as we have seen before many times. Some harsh words also now from the founding editor of "Charlie Hebdo" against the late editor who was killed in last week's attack.

SCIUTTO: Yes. This was a really difficult, painful clearly, but also controversial note. It is Henri Roussel. Helped found "Charlie Hebdo" in 1970. You know, this magazine has been around a long time. So he writes a posthumous letter to Stephane Charbonnier. Charb as he is known. One of the cartoonists who was killed in the attacks last week. And in it, he's critical. He says, you know, why were you so stubborn in that he continued to publish these kinds of cartoons? Critical of Islam even after the offices of "Charlie Hebdo" were fire bombed a number of years ago. And he calls them, you know, it is an affectionate letter as well. He calls him a fantastic lad using the terms in the letter, but critical too. It just shows that the visions over the publication of these cartoons, they are not just in the world, they are not just between the Christian world and the Muslim world or in Europe or within France, even inside this magazine, there were divisions over it. And it shows just how powerful the controversy is.

COOPER: Yes. Jim Sciutto, appreciate the update from Paris. Jim, thank you.

As always, you can find out a lot more about this story now in

Just ahead, breaking news about the Cincinnati man accused of plotting an attack on the U.S. capital and lawmakers there. A new image of him in 2013. Could it be a window into his mindset? Details on that ahead.


COOPER: There's more information tonight. New information about the 20-year-old Ohio man accused of plotting a so-called lone wolf attack on the U.S. capital. We just obtained this new picture from CNN affiliate WCPO. It shows Christopher Cornell protesting in 2013 at a ceremony commemorating the 9/11 attacks. The sign he was holding says 9/11 was an inside job. And above that, the free nations were behind it. Cornell was caught in the FBI's sting, arrested yesterday. Authorities say he planned to bomb Congress and gunned down lawmakers. The FBI says Cornell's social media posting is about violent that jihad put them on their radar and he was ready to carry out the attack.

Alexandra Field has more.


ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christopher Cornell was a high school wrestling star. His parents said they once had high hopes for a bright future, but he didn't seem to find his path after high school.

JOHN CORNELL, CHRIS CORNELL'S FATHER: It breaks my heart. He had so much potential. He could have got a scholarship.

FIELD: Recently, there was reason to be hopeful again.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He just became a happier person.

JOHN CORNELL: And his attitude changed. He became a lot happier. He said when he prayed, he felt calm and he felt at peace with himself and with God. He became just happy go lucky.

FIELD: He grew out his beard and adopted Islam after reading a lot about it and his parents saw signs his beliefs had really taken hold.

JOHN CORNELL: He would come in at prayer time, say his prayers.

FIELD: At the same time, the FBI says, he was planning a deadly attack. On Wednesday agents raided the family's Cincinnati home, seizing a book Cornell had written in and the computer. Online, authorities say he told an FBI informant he wanted to commit violent jihad. Over several months, investigators monitored the plot as it was taking shape. Authorities say pipe bombs would be placed in the Capitol and people would be shot as they fled the scene.

JOHN CORNELL: No, no, no. I don't think Chris ever wanted to hurt anyone.

FIELD (on camera): Then why say it? And why walk into the gun shop?

JOHN CORNELL: I believe he was forced.

FIELD (voice over): FBI agents arrested Cornell Wednesday after he bought two semiautomatic rifles and 600 rounds of ammunition at the point-blank gun shop and range in Cincinnati.

JOHN DEAN, POINT BLANK GUN SHOP: We had the forewarning that we was going to come in, but then also they had greased the skids a little bit, so that things would go smoothly as a part of the sale.

FIELD: Asked to help authorities in the sting, John Dean sold Cornell exactly what he asked for.

DEAN: I'm getting a lot of thumbs up today.

FIELD (on camera): Why did he strike you? Did he know what he was talking about?

DEAN: He did. He strike me as someone who had done some research, but hadn't actually had a lot of hands on experience with the gun.

FIELD (voice over): Cornell had never fired a gun according to his parents. They say he never talked to them about ISIS and he showed no signs of anger or violence. They say he spent much of his time alone.

(on camera): Did he have friends?

JOHN CORNELL: He had friends up until about a year ago. I think when he grew his hair out and his beard.

FIELD (voice over): On the day of his arrest, Cornell left a note for his parents saying we was going to live with a friend who would get him some work. Their son now behind bars, but his parents believe he'll come home one day.

ANGEL CORNELL, CHRIS CORNELL'S MOTHER: I feel that it wasn't him. It wasn't him.


COOPER: Alexandra Field joins us from Cincinnati. I mean I talked to the dad last night. Parents are pretty adamant their son didn't have the resources to try to actually pull off an attack. Are there any updates on how this was financed?

FIELD: Yeah, but you have to look at the money in these cases, Anderson, even we're talking about a relatively small amount of money here. I spoke to the gun shop owner. He says, that the suspect came in with a big wad of cash, 50s and 20s. His parents tell me that their son only had $1200 to his name, so that would have meant a shortfall of a few hundred dollars. Now, they are wondering, where did the rest of that money come from? Was it an associate? Pointedly, they are asking, could it have been the informant? But they can't ask their son that. He's behind bars.

COOPER: Has he had any other run-ins with the law?

FIELD: We're hearing from local authorities here that he was named as a person of interest in a vandalism case. He wasn't charged with anything that we're aware of to this point in any case, but he did attract some attention in the community as you pointed out. That rally or rather the memorial event in 2013, that 9/11 memorial event, he was the lone demonstrator there, the lone protester there. It said that he was causing some kind of disruption, but he wasn't charged with anything, he wasn't breaking the law.

COOPER: Alexandra Field, appreciate it. Thanks very much.

Just ahead, the parents of an Illinois teenager charged with aiding ISIS are speaking out in their first television interview. I spoke to them just a short time ago.


COOPER: And tonight, the parents of an Illinois teenager who's been charged with aiding ISIS are speaking out in their first interview. 19-year-old Mohammed Hamzah Khan pleaded not guilty this week. He was arrested along with his younger sister and brother at O'Hare International Airport in October. His siblings have not been charged, at least not yet. Authorities say that Khan kids have planned to travel first to Turkey and then to Syria or Iraq to join ISIS. All three were born in the United States. Their parents are Indian immigrants. After her son's plea hearing, Zarine Khan condemned the Paris terrorists' attacks and accused ISIS of brainwashing children.


ZARINE KHAN, 19-YEAR OLD SON CHARGED WITH TRYINGTO JOIN ISIS: We condemn this violence in the strongest possible terms. We condemn the brutal tactics of ISIS and groups like it and we condemn the brainwashing and recruiting of children through the use of social media and Internet. And we have a message for ISIS, Mr. Baghdadi and his fellow social media recruiters. Leave our children alone.


COOPER: Just before air, I spoke to Zarine Khan and her husband Shafi Khan, their attorney Thomas Durkin, is actually the attorney for their son who's been charged and joined us as well.


COOPER: Zarine, you've spoken very forcefully against ISIS, against Muslim extremists who try to recruit young people through social media, through the Internet. Is it -- do you feel that without that influence, your son would not be in the trouble that he is in right now?

ZARINE KHAN: Yes, I fully think that would not have happened if it wasn't for social media. If it wasn't for the Internet, no, he would never be in the situation he is in today.

COOPER: Zarine, what is your message to other parents out there?

ZARINE KHAN: To be, I don't know, maybe we the mistake we made, was maybe we protected our children, we were trying to, you know, protect our culture, our values. But I don't know, maybe that was a mistake. You know, I would tell them to expose their children more to what's going on in the world, help them develop critical thinking skills, you know, to differentiate between the good and the bad guys and yeah, I think that's what I would tell them to do. Yes.

COOPER: Shafi, did you notice any changes in your son? Do you have a general sense of what happened?

SHAFI KHAN, 19-YEAR OLD SON CHARGED WITH TRYINGTO JOIN ISIS: Yes. Lately for the past few months, he was very quiet and more -- he wanted isolation because he was watching or doing something on the social media. And that's why he was like brainwashed for the past few months.

COOPER: Zarine, what is your message to those who would try to recruit kids to extremists, to ISIS? What is your message?

ZARINE KHAN: To leave our children alone. Please. That's my only message. To stop recruiting these children. They're too young. They don't know what's going on. They're, you know, they are small. They don't understand what they're getting into. What they're getting, you know. Just leave the children alone. You know? They're too young, not to misuse these children. Their lives and their innocence. You know, people are there misusing the children's innocence. The children are gullible. They're vulnerable, you know, their thinking skills have not completely developed and these people are preying on that. And they're -- they're misusing them. Their innocence and their youth, which I want them to stop, to leave children alone.

COOPER: And Zarine, I know you can't get into the details of exactly what happened for legal reasons, but did you have any idea that either of your sons or your teenage daughter held any of these ideas? Because according to authorities, they left you several pages of letters expressing their believes. Did those letters surprise you?

ZARINE KHAN: Yes, yes. Definitely. Yes. Because those, the things in those letters did not reflect the upbringing they got. Those values, they don't come from us. It was so out of sync. I mean, you know, it was so out of place. I don't know where they got those ideas from. It was so unbelievable, actually. COOPER: Tom, is it your contention that their son is being prosecuted

essentially for his believes, for his ideas as opposed to wanting to actually get involved with a foreign terror group?

THOMAS DURKIN, ATTORNEY FOR U.S. TEEN CHANGED WITH TRYING TO JOIN ISIS: What I'm saying is that I think the bulk of the evidence points towards him wanting to live in a caliphate. There is no question that he is -- he became a very devout religious young man. If you have ever seen the slickness of the social media and this online magazine that ISIS puts out, you can understand how somebody 18, 19 years old would be very easily fooled into thinking they were going to be able to live in a utopia.

COOPER: But Tom, isn't it naive to believe that anybody who has watched ISIS videos with all the horrors that they show and according to prosecutors, there's evidence that this young man and at least his sister have certainly seen those videos and reacted to them in some social media form. Isn't it naive to believe that they would think they could just go live in a caliphate and not, which is essentially a war zone and not be combatants, in fact, prosecutors have said he made a comment about possibly being a combatant?

DURKIN: Well, I think it's naive to think that you could go live anywhere in a utopia. I think the whole thing is naive. Of course, it's absurd. But I think that's part of Zarine's point. This is a young immature person. The other children are even younger. This is nothing but immaturity. You know, it's obvious to anybody that is well educated and has a lot of exposure to life that this would be absurd to think you could even go to a war zone. But they're not unique. I mean this is -- there are thousands of kids doing this. And I think that's part of the point. What's causing them to do it? I don't believe in my client's case it's because he's a violent person and wants to go kill people. I think he was a misguided young man who got manipulated by social media.

COOPER: That's attorney Tom Durkin, Zarine Khan and Chafi Khan whose son is now in custody. And their two other children may be charged, one of them maybe as an adult or both as juveniles.

Up next, breaking news, new information about the terror plot in Belgium. We are just getting information in right now in the last several minutes about what one of the potential targets of this terror cell may have been. Details on that ahead.


COOPER: An update to our breaking news story that topped the broadcast. We've got new information just now coming in about the thwarted terrorist plot in Belgium and what exactly the alleged suspects may have been planning. Joining me on the phone is Guy Van Vlierden, reporter from a leading Belgian newspaper called "HLN." Guy, what are you hearing?

GUY VAN VLIERDEN, NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Well, what we've heard, is that the terrorists that were killed, a few of them were killed, plans to abduct high ranking law enforcement officials either from the police or the Justice Department? They want to behead the victim and distribute the images on the Internet, just like they do in Syria, as a matter of a fact.

COOPER: And this is the cell we are talking about in Verviers, yes?

VAN VLIERDEN: Well, as it started, the center ground is all in Verviers, we were told that it was more a matter of hours than of days because the terrorists waiting for an important uproot is to arrive in Belgium in Verviers, probably, and as we learned, he did arrive probably recently, maybe even on Wednesday. So, that was the sign to act for the police.

COOPER: And is it your information as well that two suspects were killed in this attack and that one suspect is now in custody?

VAN VLIERDEN: Yes, that's what we have learned. We don't know. It's very possible that there are more people arrested but we don't know yet. But there were three people shot in Verviers, of which two are killed and one was apparently wounded. But arrested.

COOPER: This is something obviously CNN has not been able to confirm. Can you say if your sources are law enforcement or government sources?

VAN VLIERDEN: Well, we were told by senior government source and it was confirmed to us by security sources. And we are running it on our front page tomorrow.

COOPER: Guy Van Vlierden, I appreciate the breaking news. Thank you very much for your reporting. Thank you. We'll be right back.


Welcome back. Champagne and flowers. That is how two Americans celebrated making history. They are a first to have free climbed and reach the summit of Yosemite's El Capitan. Look at the view and the moment of triumph. Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson reached the top of the 3,000 foot vertical don wall Wednesday. It's an incredible accomplishment. Family and friends welcomed them with hugs. The duo used only their feet and their hands and a safety road to get to the top. Each often gripping razor thin holes doing what seemed impossible. It took them 19 grueling days to reach the top. My interview with both of them in just a moment, but what you may not realize is this is not the first major challenge for one of them, at least, on the side of a mountain.


COOPER: It's been called the hardest free climb on earth. El Capitan's infamous don wall.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think a lot of ice built up, and (INAUDIBLE). Like -- go flying by you.

COOPER: But for Tommy Caldwell, this is perhaps not his most miraculous story of survival and triumph. In 2000, Caldwell and three others including his girlfriend, were climbing here in the Pamir-Alay Mountain Range of Kyrgyzstan. They were sleeping on a ledge 1000 feet up, when their ordeal began.

BETH RODDEN, CALDWELL FORMER'S GIRLFRIEND: Three people on the ground starting shooting at us. Shortly after, when we were taken hostage at gun point by two men.

COOPER: The men were Uzbek rebels and the climbers were held for six terrifying days. Tommy told his captors that he and his girlfriend were married, hoping that would protect her.

TOMMY CALDWELL, ROCK CLIMBER: We were seriously fearing for our lives. We did not know what's going to happen to us. And escape was always on the top of our minds.

COOPER: As they walked along a cliff one night briefly guarded by just one gunman, Caldwell shoved him over the side. The ground was 1500 feet below.

BETH RODDEN: We at last saw a chance by pushing our guard off a cliff. It's so hard to think of that now and to say it loud, but we were afraid that we would not survive.

COOPER: Caldwell was haunted, believing his captor had died. His father describes him as almost unable to speak for the first year afterwards until amazingly, he discovered his captor had lived. Friends and family say his experience in Kyrgyzstan made Caldwell able to endure just about anything.

CALDWELL: I'm hoping -- from that whole experience, I can grow as a person and it will make me stronger.

COOPER: In the 15 years since, Tommy Caldwell has become one of the top in his field. Both he and his climbing partner Kevin Jorgeson have tried and failed in the past to conquer this route on El Capitan, but this time ...


COOPER: After 19 days of climbing ...


COOPER: It would not be denied.



COOPER: It's an amazing feat for Tommy and for Kevin Jorgeson. Kevin points out on Twitter, the effort was not to conquer the don wall, it was about realizing a dream, and that dream certainly has come true. Kevin and Tommy join me from Yosemite National Park.

Kevin and Tommy, congratulations. I mean this is just extraordinary to have accomplished something, Kevin that no one has ever done before. Was there times when you felt like you weren't going to be able to make it? KEVIN JORGESON, ROCK CLIMBER: Absolutely. I mean I think that's the

process of a big project. You're bound to have your ups and downs, your highs and lows and the last 19 days was no exception. There were moments when I didn't think I was going to be able to do it and then there were moments of pure joy and relief as things were going well.

COOPER: And Tommy, I know you lost your voice from yelling for Kevin so much while you are on the mountain, but what was it like when you finally reached the top?

CALDWELL: It was like a big weight lifting. Surrealistic. It was quite stressful. A relief getting to the top of the mountain, it was pretty awesome.

COOPER: Kevin, for people who might not understand much about climbing, to free climb something like this, I mean the strength that's required. It's just extraordinary. And the danger too. Have you always gravitated towards free climbing?

JORGESON: Yeah. Free climbing only means that you're just using your body to get up the wall. Any use of ropes or gears is just for safety. It's back-up.

COOPER: You have to be able to pull yourself up at times by your fingertips. How many, that may be a dumb question, but a lot of people in my staff want to know, how many pull-ups can you do with just your fingertips, Kevin?

JORGESON: I don't know, I've never really tried to find out.

COOPER: And Kevin, for you, what was -- what did you find to be the hardest thing? I mean even -- again, this is kind of stupid and probably embarrassing, but the thing like going to the bathroom has got to be a challenge.

JORGESON: I think it's harder just to be away from your friends and your family that support you. And such a big audacious goal, such as climbing the don wall. You know, we could be pretty connected digitally up there, but there's no getting away from the fact that it's just us up there on the wall for 19 days.

COOPER: And do you take long breaks? I mean, what's the longest break you took?

JORGESON: The longest break I took was two days at a time up there to let skin heal on my fingers.

COOPER: Can you show me your hands? I mean are your hands OK?

JORGESON: I don't know if you can see, but the tips of my fingers are all bruised and on my index and middle, you can see the remnants of the slices from the pitch 15. The 15th rope length on the route.

COOPER: And it took -- I mean you said it took seven years to prepare for the climb. What is that preparation look like? Physical? I mean is it looking at the route that you know in advance exactly the route you were going to try to take?

CALDWELL: It took a few months of scoping out the wall of trying to figure out if there's holes that link from the bottom of the top and it took a lot of physical training and it took the mental training in terms of just finally coming to a point where we believed that we would actually do it.

COOPER: What happens now? I mean you pulled off what many consider to be the ultimate climb. Do you already have something in mind that you want to do next?

JORGESON: At least for me, I'm looking forward to some stress free just pure fun climbing. This was, like I said before, an emotional rollercoaster. And I feel a lot lighter now that we're back down on the ground. I'm looking forward to doing some light duty bouldering or some -- deep water soloing or something -- something a little more mellow and fun until the next inspiration for a project strikes.

COOPER: None of that sounds mellow to me. I got to say.

I thought you're going to say like kicking backs, watching movie or something.


COOPER: Well, it's just remarkable two minutes you guys know. Tommy (ph) and Kevin (ph), thank you so much.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks for having us.

COOPER: Incredible stuff. See you again at 11 p.m. Eastern for another edition 360 tonight. "ANTHONY BOURDAIN, PARTS UNKNOWN" starts now.