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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Raid in Paris; Terror Investigations. Aired 16-16:30p ET
Aired November 18, 2015 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Jake Tapper live in Paris, France. And this is THE LEAD.
We begin with breaking news, new extraordinary developments here. We now know Friday could have happened all over again. Police say a dramatic raid may have stopped another horrific terrorist attack, among the dead, the suspected ringleader's cousin who blew herself up with a suicide belt, French police say, but still at large, the alleged architect of the Paris terrorist massacre last Friday, and also the terrorist who got away that day.
Does another dead body at the raid scene taken out by a police sniper's bullet belong to one of those two men?
TAPPER (voice-over): Gunfire and explosions in police raids early this morning transformed the Parisian suburb of Saint-Denis into a battlefield.
Overnight, French police swarmed two apartments and a church here, targeting the ringleader of Friday's attacks, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, his relatives and his terrorist ties. The operations continued until just before noon with shoot-outs lasting nearly an hour.
Sources say the commandos' bombardment was so intense, it collapsed an entire floor in one building here, making the work of gathering evidence all the more challenging.
(on camera): French authorities say they arrived just in the nick of time, that another attack was imminent.
(voice-over): The first blast detonated around 4:30 a.m. and continued for hours.
ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A third explosion
TAPPER: All within earshot of CNN's Atika Shubert.
SHUBERT: Fourth. That was much larger.
TAPPER: As day broke, eight arrests had been made. The dead are still being identified with no confirmation the ringleader has been stopped.
You can see French authorities, French police inspecting the damage at the site of these apartment raids early this morning. French authorities say that two suspected terrorists were killed in the raids, including a woman who blew herself up using a suicide vest. We see a lot of damage with windows blown out and concrete damaged from the early morning raids. We don't know what's from -- what the police did and what is from the suicide vest.
Sources say that woman was the cousin of the ringleader. Including her suicide, 10 people were killed or captured overnight, potentially more than doubling the size and scope of the terror cell responsible for Friday's massacres.
For neighbors here, the most dramatic battle in the newly declared war on ISIS hit much too close to home.
SUSAN PETLET, RESIDENT: I kept lying on the floor because I was scared to -- you know, to be hit by the stray bullets. So I didn't sleep since 4:30 in the morning.
TAPPER: Susan Petlet huddled on her floor for five hours last night and this morning, trying to stay safe. She has lived in France for 25 years, but after this week of violence, she says she's ready to pack up and go.
PETLET: It's really unbelievable knowing that, you know, just behind your building, someone could blow up any time. So it was a horrible feeling.
TAPPER: Belgium authorities say the man that law enforcement aimed for here, Abaaoud, has been plotting a rolling series of attacks against France with senior ISIS officials. One of those plots, police say, was thwarted last night just before being carried out.
Whether there are still terrorists planning destruction in France right now is the focus of ongoing investigations, with additional raids likely to uncover much more.
TAPPER: Our Clarissa Ward is now live for us at the site of these raids.
Clarissa, we were both at one point today on the rooftop near the scene. What is happening at the site of the raids right now?
CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's a sort of very uneasy calm here at the moment. This is a very tough Parisian neighborhood, Jake.
But as residents told you, they told us the same thing. They have never seen anything like this. One resident told me it felt like a war zone. Seven hours, those raids lasted, according to the police, more than 5,000 bullets fired by police. And when we were up on that roof, we were able to see forensic
experts combing through the apartment. And that's partly because they're now saying they can't be 100 percent sure that the person who blew themselves up with that suicide vest was in fact the female cousin, because the body has been so damaged and destroyed by the force of that blast.
So, they're working to confirm that that was indeed the female cousin. And, of course, they're also trying to find out who was the other attacker or suspect terrorist who was killed in that apartment taken out by a police sniper? And certainly for people in this neighborhood, Jake, they're saying that with Abaaoud still possibly on the loose and with the other, the eighth alleged attacker who police have been looking for for days now, Salah Abdeslam, there's no sense here that people are feeling relaxed or feeling more comfortable. Quite the reverse, in fact.
They're wondering if there are going to be more raids like this and more possible attacks in coming days, Jake.
TAPPER: Clarissa Ward, thank you so much.
This just in to CNN, what appears to be another act of terror in France. According to the prosecutor in Marseille, that's Southern France, three young men on Scooters stopped and stabbed a teacher from a Jewish school. This is all from the local prosecutor in Marseille. One of the young attackers was reportedly wearing a T-shirt with "an ISIS symbol," according to the prosecutor.
These three young men insulted the teacher, they threatened to kill him and then they stabbed him in the stomach, arm and legs. The teacher was not critically hurt, we're told. The attackers are still on the loose.
Also just in to CNN this hour, we're learning that five men allegedly from Syria have been detained in Central America with fake passports. And we're told that they were possibly intending to travel to the United States through its southern border.
I want to get right to CNN's Evan Perez.
Evan, what are you learning?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, there's been a couple of these incidents recently in the last week, for instance, on the Dutch island -- Caribbean island of Saint Martin.
Authorities there detained three men that they believe are of Syrian origin who are traveling on fake Greek passports. And they have now kicked that information up to U.S. law enforcement. And in reference to the five Hondurans, prosecutors say, or the authorities there that they really traveled on this trail all the way from Syria and through Lebanon, Turkey and then to South America, including Brazil, Argentina, before finally making their way to Honduras. They were arrested or detained at the Tegucigalpa Airport.
This is the capital. And they had plans to travel to the north of the country. From there, again, the supposition, according to local authorities, that they might have been intending to travel to the United States -- let me put in context, though, what is happening. U.S. authorities tell me that one of the things that's happening in the light of -- in the wake of the Paris attacks is that they're sharing a great deal more information, including information on the databases of false passports, false travel documents that really is the source or the way migrants around the world get around.
And so it may well be that these are simply migrants who lost their documents as they try to get out of Syria. This is a problem that the U.S. has known about for many, many years. And there's great deal of concern, Jake, that terrorists could exploit this. We know that some of them are using these documents to get back and forth undetected, including the concern is about foreign fighters, especially in Europe, who are sneaking back in using these false documents.
Again, right now, it's not known what the intentions of these travelers are they're investigating, Jake.
TAPPER: All right, Evan Perez, thank you so much.
French authorities cannot say for sure if they killed the man they believe planned Friday's terrorist attacks in Paris. What we do know about Abdelhamid Abaaoud's background and how he might have escaped today's raid -- that story next.
TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper live in Paris.
The woman who blew herself up early this morning as police stormed an apartment in Saint-Denis, she was, we're told, the cousin of this man, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the ISIS terrorist officials believe came up with Friday's deadly plot here in Paris.
He was the target of the raid, officials telling CNN that intelligence from wiretaps led authorities to this apartment. The Paris prosecutor says right now that he is not in custody, Abaaoud. The question now, is he still alive? Is Abaaoud on the run? Or is he the other person who was killed during this raid?
We're joined now by CNN terrorism analyst Paul Cruickshank. He's here with me in Paris, along with Francois-Bernard Huyghe, senior researcher at the French Institute for International and Strategic Affairs.
Paul, let me start with you.
Were Belgium and French officials surprised that the Paris organizer could possibly still be here in Paris?
PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Jake, they weren't surprised. They were stunned when they discovered that there were strong indications that Abdelhamid Abaaoud was in Paris. All these indications came in, in the last 24 hours.
There was a wiretap, an intercepted communication indicating that the female cousin of Abdelhamid Abaaoud was at this residence in Saint-Denis. So they're like, wow, he could also be there. He could also be at the residence. And then the French were also developing other strong information suggesting he was in Paris. They put it all together. They put a raid together this morning.
And, obviously, we saw the hugely destructive impact of that raid with body remains scattered all over this half-destroyed building. That's really complicated the task of identifying whether his mortal remains are in the building or not. They're efforting DNA testing. It's going to take some time, though, to sort it out, Jake.
Francois-Bernard, we're learning today -- Ivan Watson was told by a Belgian official that they believe that the other man on the run, the eighth terrorist who escaped on Friday, Salah Abdeslam, spent time in jail together with Abaaoud. Now...
FRANCOIS-BERNARD HUYGHE, FRENCH INSTITUTE FOR INTERNATIONAL AND STRATEGIC AFFAIRS: Very common, yes.
TAPPER: Very common.
Earlier this year, we found out that one of the "Charlie Hebdo" terrorists spent time in prison with the guy who carried out -- one of the Kouachi brothers and Coulibaly spent time and met each other in prison. This is a real problem.
HUYGHE: It is a real problem. We are all (INAUDIBLE) to various attacks last year in France, been in jail. And many of them have radicalized in prison.
TAPPER: In prison they radicalized.
HUYGHE: What additional factor is that you make very good friends in jail, and it's ideal place to form a very united terrorist group which use to violence and using guns.
TAPPER: Paul, I can't think of a place that's better theoretically than prison to keep an eye of individuals like this if they do fall under the sway of extremists. But apparently --
PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, it's very hard. Unfortunately, in Europe there's a huge Muslim prison population. And some of these Muslims coming into prison and then getting exposed to these radical recruiters.
And you see these youngsters who are getting involved in gangsterism and petty crime coming into the prisons, what do the radical recruiters say? They say you can atone for all that past bad behavior, all those sins by joining our cause. And they also sort of explain why they are part of it because you are corrupted by the infidel society, gives them a sense of meaning, purpose, redemption.
And they then sort of mix this gangsterism with this extreme Islamic interpretation. And we see a lot of these youngsters now joining ISIS.
TAPPER: And one of the other things we're told is that officials believe that the bomb maker, the person who helped them construct the vests, is also still at large.
How important is a bomb maker for an operation like this?
HUYGHE: Well, a technician is a specialist, so is rather precious. Generally, they try to keep them alive for the next time.
TAPPER: Yes. Thank you so much. I really appreciate it, Paul, Francois-Bernard.
We are just learning some new information, the names of those rounded up in this morning's raids and their possible links to the terrorist attacks on Friday. How are they all connected?
Plus, does a new photograph change the investigation into the bombing of a Russian jet by ISIS? We'll also have that story coming up.
[16:22:11] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper coming to you live from Paris, where right now, intelligence officials are scrambling to try to determine exactly how the suspects who were killed or collared during the raid early this morning are connected to Friday night's terrorist carnage.
Of particular concern to investigators -- how many more possible ISIS terrorists could be out there, out here in France?
CNN's chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto joins me now live to take us through what we know.
Jim, still so many questions about whether or not this is one large ISIS terror network or many different smaller ones?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. But one thing is clear that the size of this network, at least what we know about it, grew by two times today. This morning's operation we've essentially doubled the number of terrorists and potential terrorists that are operating in France, including those involved in both Friday's attacks and those apprehended or killed this morning in police raids in Saint-Denis.
Law enforcement moved in on this apartment complex there north of Paris. After they gathered information including intercepted communications leading them to believe that the reported ringleader Abdelhamid Abaaoud may have been at that raid location before the police moved in. Abaaoud, he is a 27-year-old Belgium jihadist who spent time in Syria. He is well-known to both French and U.S. law enforcement officials. And was believed to be behind a thwarted January plot in Belgium to kill policemen there and that failed attack on a high speed train in August you may remember was disrupted by three Americans.
Eight people in total detained at the apartments overnight. Seven men, one woman, two suspected terrorists killed there including another woman, a suicide bomber who blew herself up. That bomber believed to be the cousin again of that ringleader Abdelhamid Abaaoud. So many things leading back to him.
French officials are now trying to determine if Abaaoud is also among the dead there. He is believed to have directed the eight or nine ISIS terrorists who murdered those 129 people, wounded more than 300 during Friday's rampage at locations across the French capital. We know that the manhunt continues for two, at least two of those suspected terrorists, still on the run.
One of them we know. We know his name. He's been identified by an international arrest warrant. His name is Salah Abdeslam. He amazingly stopped and questioned by police just hours after Friday's attacks but unfortunately he was let go at the time they did not know he was a suspect.
We are now learning this new detail, a connection that Salah Abdeslam, that missing eighth attacker, and the ringleader Abaaoud spent time together in prison in 2011.
[16:25:07] What remains to be seen is whether Abaaoud, the architect of this attack, is dead or if he's still at large. I mean, that's a key question here. We know that they're doing DNA tests and we've also heard accounts from inside the explosions and the gunfight inside that apartment that the bodies just aren't in very good shape, right? So they have to do medical work now in effect to identify if the ringleader was there.
TAPPER: DNA testing.
TAPPER: Jim Sciutto, thanks so much.
As French officials hunt for terrorists behind the terrorist attacks, ISIS says it has proof now that they indeed are the ones who brought down that Russian passenger airliner, killing 224 people, including 25 children. So what is that proof? That story next.
TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper live in Paris.
We are following breaking news. ISIS now claiming it can show how the terrorist group brought down that Russian passenger airliner last month.