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Inside the Paris Attacks

Aired January 19, 2015 - 21:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Terror in the streets of Paris, police officers gunned down in cold blood, journalists murdered, Jews targeted, hostages held desperate and afraid. The attacks kept coming as authorities launched an international dragnet to catch any accomplices, potentially plotting another deadly rampage.

Tonight, we take you behind the investigation. Then an American-born Jihadi mastermind the plot from beyond the grave and what deadly plans have yet to play out. A CNN Special Report, "Inside the Paris Attacks".


TAPPER: Good evening, I'm Jake Tapper.

"Je Suis Charlie" "I am Charlie." Those are the words that become a rallying cry for a nation and the world in the aftermath of those deadly terrorist attacks at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, the satirical magazine targeted for publishing cartoons of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad.

And those bloody murders were followed, of course, by more blood shed. Seventeen innocents total killed during those three days of pure terror that gripped France and sent Europe into a frenzied search to stop these, and any other terrorist sleeper cells possibly plotting attacks of their own. Could Paris have been just the beginning of what's to come?

Tonight, we'll take you inside the attacks and the investigation into what drove these men to such brutal extremes and who helped them do it.


TAPPER: The first attack is stunning in its deadly precision. Two masked gunmen stormed the Paris office of the satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, Kalashnikovs in hand.

MARTIN BOUDOT, PREMIERES LIGNES JOURNALIST: At first, we just heard shots, we heard screams.

TAPPER: Martin Boudot, who works in the building, escapes to the roof and captures the gunmen on camera. They have already killed the security guard and pushed their way into the offices of Charlie Hebdo.

BOUDOT: I didn't even know what we were supposed to do because, you know, we're stuck on this roof. We knew that there were victims a few meters away from us but there might be, you know, some explosive somewhere or maybe a third guy, and they were yelling.

TAPPER: It's 11:30 a.m. and inside the staffers of Charlie Hebdo are having their editorial meeting led by Stephane Charbonnier, the magazine's editor, better known to most French men as Charb, famous for his envelope pushing even offensive cartoonist. Charb is also well known to the attackers. His face appeared on this most wanted poster published in Al-Qaeda's Inspire Magazine, popular among extremists after Charlie Hebdo published cartoons of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad.

The terrorists killed their victims one by one, calling out their names. They then retreat to the street shouting, "Allahu Akbar," which means "God is great."


They claimed victory for avenging the prophet.

BOUDOT: It was like, it was a slaughter, you know, it was like a massacre

TAPPER: Boudot makes his way into the office finding few survivors in this blood bath.

BOUDOT: I could see bodies on the left and into the meeting room, and the other people from Charlie Hebdo were spared or were hiding, and they were just standing like zombies that are, you know, they were like standing and didn't -- they didn't do anything. And they tried to help the very first woman but actually, to be honest, they were not -- a lot are wounded, they were just people dead all around.

TAPPER: In their black bullet-proof vests, the terrorists flee, pausing to reload. For a moment, it seems that their escape might be blocked by a lone police car. But they opened fire and outgunned the police car retreats. The black getaway car peels off, but stops again next to Ahmed Merabet, a Muslim police officer who's been wounded in the melee. One of the terrorists runs towards him.


TAPPER: "Don't come any closer", Merabet pleads just before the terrorist shoots him in the head.

The manhunt begins. The terrorists abandoned their getaway car and hijacked another one to evade police, but they leave behind a crucial clue, an identification card.

By nightfall, French police issue a wanted poster for Cherif and Said Kouachi, brothers of Algerian descent, raised in France. At least one is a known terrorist, having been jailed for trying to recruit Jihadist to fight in Iraq. The Kouachis are now heavily armed, dangerous, and on the loose in Paris and the terror is just beginning.

Late that night in the Paris suburbs, a jogger is shot and wounded. The next morning, with the city already on edge, another shooting, a rookie cop barely two weeks on the job. Clarissa Jean-Philippe is killed in cold blood while attending to a car crash in the Montrouge section of Paris. A street cleaner confronts the shooter only to have the gun turned on him. In the confusion, the shooter escapes, and police, at first, say there's no connection between the shooting of Officer Jean-Philippe and the massacre at Charlie Hebdo, but they would be wrong.

Just hours later, the Kouachi brothers strike again, storming into this gas station an hour north of Paris, armed with Kalashnikovs and rocket-propelled grenades. They steal food and supplies, but no one is hurt, and again, amazingly, they evade capture.

Police are now scouring different countryside searching the woods for the two men.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This area is very rural. You can probably see there's quite a bit of open field, a farm house behind me, there is also a very heavily forested area in that direction, and that may be where police are searching for the two suspects.

TAPPER: Dawn breaks with no sign of the terrorists, but soon, this day's deadly events begin to unfold.

The Kouachi brothers reappear now at a printing company near Charles de Gaulle airport. And a siege is soon underway. Helicopters circle overhead and schools in the town are told to lock their students inside. The airport partially shuts down. It is chaos.

There's an employee hiding inside the printing company secretly texting police about the movements of the brothers as authorities surround the building. And then a shocking turn, gunfire erupts at a kosher grocery store, much closer to Charlie Hebdo. Police swarm the area as reports emerge a multiple hostages inside.

But if the Kouachi brothers are barricaded in the printing office miles away, who is orchestrating the attack on the supermarket? The dots suddenly connect. French media are now reporting that the man inside the grocery is the same person wanted for killing the police officer the day before. "You know who I am," he tells police.


TAPPER: He is Amedy Coulibaly, a 32-year old with a long rap sheet and an established terror connection to Cherif Kouachi.

Police say he is wanted along with his girlfriend, Hayat Boumeddiene. Inside the kosher grocery store, some hostages huddled together inside a freezer, one woman clutching her baby close trying to keep her alive amidst the cold. Coulibaly almost immediately goes on the attack, shooting four of the hostages, all Jewish men, killing them, and then he proudly calls French T.V.


TAPPER: "Yes, we synchronized the operation." he says, of his coordination with the Kouachi brothers. "They began with Charlie Hebdo and I began with the police."

Astoundingly, the same French T.V. channel also reaches the Kouachi brothers inside the other hostage crisis. Cherif Kouachi picks up the phone inside the printing company and confesses to the Charlie Hebdo murders using his twisted logic.


TAPPER: "We are defenders of the prophet." he says. "If someone offense the prophet, then there is no problem that we can kill him."

Just after 4 p.m., French authorities launched coordinated attacks at both sites. Snipers perched on the roof the printing building. Suddenly, the Kouachi brothers charged out of the building, guns blazing, but they are cut down by police bullets. Their murderous rampage dramatically ended. And at the kosher market...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the last 30 seconds, we heard four, possibly five, large explosions. This is just over my right shoulder here.

TAPPER: Officers storm the grocery store as Coulibaly runs towards his death into the bullets.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now I'm hearing gunfire.

TAPPER: And then his hostages flee.

The terror of the past three days in France appears to be over, but authorities worry. Could there be another way of attacks in store as sleeper cells across Europe awaken?

The race to find the real masterminds before it's too late, that when we come back.



TAPPER: I'm Jake Tapper. Welcome back to a CNN Special Report "Inside The Paris Attacks".

The three days of chaos, hostage taking and murder in France left 17 innocent people dead and 11 more wounded. Now we know that the terrorists were motivated by the ideology of radical Islam. But how specifically did their ideology turn to action? Under whose orders or instructions did the terrorists launch their deadly plans?

Police and Western Intelligence are urgently seeking answers as they try to shut down any other Jihadi networks that may have more bloodshed in store.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TAPPER: At first blush, they look like any young couple in love in this photo published by French media. But after Hayat Boumediene and Amedy Coulibaly found radical Islam, that bikini was replaced by a burka and soon their romance turned lethal.


It ended in a hail of bullets, the deadly denouement of a week-long reign of terror that rocked Paris and rallied the world.

Boumediene met Coulibaly when she was working as a cashier. He'd been dubbed the juvenile delinquent by his own mother having been in and out of prison since he was 17 for armed robberies and drug offenses. Both of them were raised in moderate Muslim homes.

One of Coulibaly's nine sisters even teaches a dance class called booty therapy. She and the rest of his family have condemned his actions. But as Coulibaly and Boumediene drifted away from their families their religious devotion intensified.

Boumediene began to wear the veil and said she wanted to move to an Arab country to be surrounded by other strict Muslims. Meanwhile, the seeds of terror were being planted in her boyfriend's brain. Coulibaly is seen here pledging his allegiance to ISIS was radicalized during his time in this French prison.

His mentor, this man, Djamel Beghal an Algerian serving 10 years for plotting to blow up the U.S. Embassy in Paris.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS: Djamel Beghal is important because he really links pre-9/11 terrorism with post 9/11 terrorism. He is an Al Qaeda operative and recruiter. He was able to recruit and indoctrinate a lot of young men in the prison system.

TAPPER: It is here where Beghal introduces Coulibaly to another of his prison proteges Sharif Kouachi, one of the two brothers who will slaughter a dozen people in the massacre at Charlie Hebdo Magazine. It is the beginning of a deadly friendship.

FEYERICK: You bring in a man like Djamel Beghal who's got street creds because he's been to Afghanistan, he's met with Al Qaeda figures and all of a sudden, he is able to infiltrate really -- they're thinking with an ideology that turns deadly in the end.

TAPPER: In 2009, Beghal was released from prison and put under house arrest with the French Government surveilling his every move. And what they see looks menacing. Sharif Kouachi and Coulibaly visiting, bringing supplies, food, money, often in tow Boumediene but later told police the startling photos taken during one of those visits were merely evidence of crossbow practice.

Together the men hatch a plan this spring another terrorist from prison, a failed attempt that lands Beghal and Coulibaly back in jail with Boumediene at home waiting patiently for her man, and his plan. Kouachi avoided jail but made his way deeper down that path of radical Islams. He traveled to Yemen, a hotbed of Jihadi sentiment much of it inspired by this man, Anwar Al-Awlaki.

ANWAR AL-AWLAKI, ISMALIC MILITANT: The Jews and the Christians will not be pleased until he become like them.

TAPPER: Al-Awlaki who would go on to become a seminal figure in Al Qaeda was born in New Mexico and went to college in Colorado, but he reportedly spent his summer vacation training with the Afghan Mujahideen.

AL-AWLAKI: The Islam of Anwar was an opening.

TAPPER: Al-Awlaki's perfect English made him a popular figure among Western Jihadist. Through his online videos, he's inspired so many terrorists, his often been called the Bin Laden of the internet.

Al-Awlaki's message reached the Kouachi brothers loud and clear. As the terror in Paris unfolded, Sharif Kouachi told French television he had met in person with Al-Awlaki.

SHARIF KOUACHI, PARIS TERRORIST: I was sent, me, Sharif Kouachi, of Al Qaeda in Yemen. I went there and sheikh Anwar Al-Awlaki financed my trip.

TAPPER: As of now, their exact travel history is unclear but French officials now believe both brothers visited Yemen in the summer of 2011 just before Al-Awlaki was killed by a U.S. drone.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We know from one official here that Said first came in August 2009 then went in and out two or three times and potentially it was Sharif that used his passports in 2011 to make his journey here and then some say carry back with him tens of thousands of dollars to France to perhaps fund the operations that hw saw.

TAPPER: Either would have been a valuable asset, a Jihadi with European passport. Former Al Qaeda double agent Morten Storm says, that was exactly what Al-Awlaki was after.

MORTEN STORM, FORMER CIA AGENT: And he asked me specifically to recruit brothers from Europe who had clean passports and send them to Yemen so they can receive the training and then return back again to the European countries and become sleeping cells. And that exactly -- what happened in France is what he wanted to do.

TAPPER: Now the question for investigators is if that deadly plan for Paris was launched by Al-Awlaki himself? Could the now dead terrorist mastermind had set the course for an attack that would be carried out more than three years after his own death?

WALSH: Or was it much more in depth than up to the minute? Did they continue to get resources from Yemen until the moment which they launched those attacks? Because there is still a network between Yemen and Europe, there could be other cells that's assisting and that's something they want to try and certainly prevent.

TAPPER: By 2014, both Kouachi brothers were back in France. Sharif using his wife as cover to keep up his connections to his old prison pal. Although Coulibaly remained in jail, Boumediene was back in action exchanging more than 500 phone calls with Sharif's wife according to the Paris prosecutor.

Was their deadly plan already underway? And what role did Boumeddiene play in the murders that rocked Paris?

The hunt for her and the race against the clock to stop another attack when we come back.



TAPPER: I'm Jake Tapper. Welcome back to a CNN Special Report "Inside the Paris Attacks."

The aftershocks of the murderous terrorists rampage in Paris are still being felt as authorities in the United States and Europe worked overtime to try to stop another possible attack.

Did the events in Paris awaken a network of sleeper cells now preparing to execute their deadly missions in? Is the one French accomplice who's on the run, is she the only one who knows what could becoming next?


TAPPER: She is the most wanted woman in the world. Hayat Boumeddiene, girlfriend of Amedy Coulibaly, one of the three terrorist whose deadly acts rocked Paris and the world.

French authorities say Boumeddiene may also be an accomplice to his crimes and she is on the land.

FEYERICK: She becomes almost more dangerous and more lethal because while people are looking for her she's so non-descript that she could easily blend in and imagine the impact if she is able to carry out a subsequent attack knowing full well that all of Western intelligence is looking for her.

TAPPER: Here she is at the Turkish airport just days before the terrorist attacks. The man standing next to her is another French citizen who police are investigating. They believed he helped her cross the border into Syria, a hot bed of radical Islam where she is now likely hiding out.

But who is she working for? Her boyfriend pledged allegiance to ISIS, the ferocious terrorist headquartered in Iraq and Syria but he also said he was working hand in hand with the Kouachi brothers. And that terrorist organization AQAP claimed responsibility for the brothers' bloody attack on the Charlie Hebdo office.


TAPPER: In this official video, AQAP spokesman says, they planned and financed the operation. Western officials tell CNN it's still murky who was actually calling the shots.

WALSH: On that particular day, it was the fact that these radicals have known each other in their past that led them to the site to attack at similar times or perhaps in this case Coulibaly in his walkway come to the aid of the Kouachi brothers.

In truth, we don't know and we may never know.

TAPPER: What is clear, the attacks in Paris launched an international hunt for any terrorist who could be lying in wait. Just days after the nightmare in Paris, a dramatic raid on a terrorist cell in Belgium captured on this amateur video. A witness describes the scene as Belgium police stormed in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I saw just a big orange flash, (inaudible) a lot of smoke and another big, big, big detonation. Wow.

TAPPER: Two gunmen open fire on police as they closed in. A last minute intervention to stop what authorities say was an imminent plot by terrorists linked to ISIS.

ERIC VAN DER SYPT, BELGIUM FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: This operation was meant to dismantle a terrorist cell not only the terrorist cell but also the logistic network behind it. This investigation for the time being has shown that these people had intention to kill several policemen in the street.

TAPPER: Belgian police killed two and capture one just before they intend to launch their murderous attack, police say. 17 others are arrested in a series of raids across Belgium.

Among the guns and grenades discovered in the raid, cops also find police uniforms raising the specter that the terrorists hope to pose as the very man they sought to kill.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They were planning attacks all over Belgium, really.

TAPPER: One official tells a Belgian newspaper, the country narrowly averted its own Charlie Hebdo attack.

FEYERICK: When one attack happens, it's very likely that other attacks are going to happen as well. They serve as triggers almost. That was not something that the Belgian authorities wanted to risk.

TAPPER: But a Western official warns CNN, sleeper cells have awoken and there are now more than 100 Jihadists ready to strike in Belgium, France, Germany and the Netherlands.

Europe is on edge and an international dragnet is underway to try and stop the next attack before it happens. Police and intelligence rounding up suspects across the continent. An 18-year-old girl arrested at a London airport on terrorism charges. Two men in Berlin nabbed for conspiring with ISIS. Nine people in Paris held in connection to Coulibaly's attack on the Kosher Grocery Store. And just this weekend, an Algerian man arrested in Greece, believed to be connected to the terrorist cell in Belgium.

Experts say the pipeline of terror from ISIS, controlled parts of Syria to Europe is powerful and growing.

WALSH: The key problem now, the Western countries except, there are thousands of (inaudible) fighting in Syria, learning the skill, becoming increasingly radicalized, hardened, accepting a violence, desirous of it. What do you do when they return?

TAPPER: It's a question being asked across Europe and around the world as intelligence agencies race against time and the threat of another attack.


TAPPER: We, of course, will continue to track every update on these fast-moving stories, so stay tune to CNN for all of the latest developments.

Up next, another CNN Special Report "The War Within Islam." My colleagues Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota are digging deeper into the roots of violence extremism and looking at solutions for trying to end it.

Plus, what's really in the Quran? Expert analysis in conversation and that report starts right now.