Return to Transcripts main page


Car Rams Crowd at Jerusalem Bus Stop; Bataclan Attackers Directed by Phone; Final Republican Debate of the Year; Typhoon Melor Slams the Philippines; Obama to Discuss ISIS Strategy at Pentagon; Secretary of State John Kerry to Attend Syria Talks in Paris; Director J.J. Abrams on New "Star Wars" Movie. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired December 14, 2015 - 10:00   ET




LYNDA KINKADE, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello and welcome to INTERNATIONAL DESK, I'm Lynda Kinkade.

We start with yet another attack in Jerusalem. It happened at the western entrance to the city. Israeli police say a man rammed his car into a crowd

of people waiting at a bus stop. CNN's Oren Liebermann joins me now from Jerusalem.

And Oren, you were near where that happened, what can you tell us?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this really was right at the entrance to West Jerusalem, the main entrance. Police say the driver came

down a road, hit a fire hydrant, rammed his car into a fire hydrant and then hit a number of people standing at a bus stop right behind that fire


Emergency responders say five people were taken to the hospital, four were lightly injured, one was moderately injured. The impact of the crash

destroyed the front of the vehicle and the windshield and knocked off the fire hydrant, so there was actually a tower of water right at the scene,

covering the entire area in water.

Police say the driver is a 21-year-old Palestinian from East Jerusalem. He was shot and killed at the scene, according to police. Police also say

that when forces searched the car after the attack they found an axe in the car -- Lynda.

KINKADE: OK. Oren Liebermann, we will leave it there for now, thank you so much for joining us.

Some new report is revealing startling new information about the level of coordination in last month's Paris attacks. Academic journal "CTC

Sentinel" says the suspected ringleader directed the massacre at the Bataclan concert hall using his cell phone near the venue.

CNN terrorism analyst Paul Cruickshank edits that "CTC Sentinel" and joins us now from London.

Paul, I understand this information came from a witness.

What can you tell us?

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERROR ANALYST: Well, Lynda, these are stunning new revelations that, according to a witness, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the suspected

ringleader in the Paris attacks, was standing outside the Bataclan concert hall during the night of the attacks while the attacks were going on.

And he was speaking in a very animated fashion into his cell phone, using a hands-free set, for about an hour, as if giving orders to people. And

the supposition is he was giving orders to the attackers inside the Bataclan concert hall while that attack was going on.

And we already knew from French prosecutors that earlier in the evening he had been in touch with the stadium attackers via cell phone right until the

point that they started blowing themselves up.

So the picture that is emerging is of a ringleader on the ground that night orchestrating the whole operation, this rolling series of attacks in Paris

that night. It's a stunning new development and I think, to some degree, recalls what we saw play out in Mumbai in 2008, with those attacks there,

with the attackers in the hotels in touch with their handlers.

But that time, back in 2008, their handlers were back in Pakistan. This time the handler, the ringleader, on the ground, running the whole

operation the night of the attacks.

Somebody that wasn't meant to die that night, was meant to carry out a follow-on second wave of attacks with some other accomplices a few days

later, including against the shopping district in Paris, but fortunately, from a French counterterrorism point of view, they managed to locate the

safe house he was staying in and the commandos went in and killed him and the other operatives.

KINKADE: Incredible the amount of control he had throughout the attacks in Paris.

Now there was a knife attack on a teacher earlier today in Paris.

What can you tell us about that?

CRUICKSHANK: This was really quite shocking. A knife attack on a kindergarten teacher at their school just south of Paris.

And when the attacker went in, they were shouting, "This is the Islamic State, this is a warning, this is just the beginning."

Very troubling words, very troubling target but it makes me recall that Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the ringleader of that Paris attack, had actually

discussed the idea of attacking schools, where some of his fellow co- conspirators said he was aware of attack plans against schools.

French investigators will be looking whether there could be any link between this attack and the Paris attacks. We're not being told there is

at this point; this may just be an ISIS-inspired attack.


CRUICKSHANK: We've seen dozens now in the West, where the inspiration has come from ISIS but there are no direct ties back to the terrorist

organization but clearly they'll be investigating all of this furiously in the hours to come.

KINKADE: Yes, certainly keeping authorities very busy. Paul Cruickshank, thank you very much.

Now Egyptian investigators say they have found no evidence of terrorism in the deadly crash of a Russian passenger jet. That goes against analysis by

Russian and Western security officials, saying an explosive brought down the plane in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula in October, killing all 224 people


ISIS claims responsibility and published pictures of a soda can bomb that supposedly brought down that plane but Egyptian authorities have downplayed

the role of ISIS since the attack.

Tensions are once again on the rise between Russia and Turkey after Russia says it was forced to fire warning shots at a Turkish vessel to avoid a


Now it happened on Sunday in the Aegean Sea north of the Greek island of Limnos. The incident comes at a time when tensions are already high

following Turkey's downing of a Russian fighter jet.

Now I want to bring in former CNN Moscow bureau chief, Jill Dougherty, joining us now from Moscow.

Jill, Turkey claims this latest incident was an exaggerated response and added that its patience with Russia has a limit.

What is Russia saying?

JILL DOUGHERTY, INTERNATIONAL CENTER FOR DEFENSE AND SECURITY: Well, Russia essentially is saying that its patience has a limit, too. The

Russians are taking this very seriously; albeit, it was a fishing vessel; nobody died; it was a warning shot. The Russians did not, you know, attack

that fishing vessel.

However, the significance for Russia is very serious, because what they feel is it is a provocation by Turkey.

Turkey, of course, now is saying that they are looking into it and you already said they think it's an overreaction by Russia.

But remember that President Putin, when he was speaking with his military last week in a very important major address to the top brass, he said that

any attack on any of the forces, Russia's forces in Syria, and this ship, this destroyer, was part of that operation, any attack should be answered

immediately and basically taking a very hard line in response to any potential attack.

So here you have it from the Russians, not letting that go by, responding very strongly and then, of course, they called in the military attache and

he met with a senior official, the deputy defense minister, Anatoly Antonov (ph), and was told that it was a very serious provocation.

So, I guess, the bottom line, you'd have to say is this is increasingly a very fraught situation between the two countries and it's not just economic

anymore. It has that military component now, where forces are engaged once again. So, it could be dangerous.

KINKADE: Absolutely. And why that's still going on in Turkey, of course, has come out and has criticized Russia again for the airstrikes in Syria,

saying that only 8 percent of its airstrikes have been aimed at ISIS, while the rest has been targeting rebel groups opposed to the Assad regime.

Is Russia ramping up its air campaign in Syria?

DOUGHERTY: Well, it's continuing to carry out a constant stream of attacks in support of the Syrian military. And also interestingly, over the past

few days, we've been getting more clarity from the Russians on what they say is air attacks used to protect the forces of the Free Syrian Army. Now

those, of course, are opposition fighters.

CNN did speak with one spokesperson for the FSA, who said that that is not the case, that they are not even hitting -- that the Russians are not

hitting ISIS and they are not supporting the FSA.

So a denial coming from at least one spokesperson for the FSA. But this is something that bears a lot of watching, because it is a difference in the

policy that Russia had up until, you know, relatively recently, where they were critical of some of the opposition groups. Now they say that Moscow

is actually helping them.

KINKADE: OK. Jill Dougherty in Moscow, thank you very much.

Well, still to come, it's the final showdown of the year for Republican presidential candidates in the U.S. We'll have a live preview of

tomorrow's debate and a new poll showing potential trouble for Donald Trump in one key state.





KINKADE: Welcome back. France's far right National Front party was defeated in regional elections on Sunday but party leader Marine Le Pen

says she will be back for a presidential run in 2016.

The anti-immigration party failed to win a single region in Sunday's second round of voting, despite wins in the first round. Still, its share of the

vote across the country remained above 27 percent, indicating significant support.

To U.S. politics now, where Republican presidential candidates are arriving in Las Vegas for tomorrow's debate. And while more national polls indicate

Donald Trump is still in the lead, things are starting to change in the key state of Iowa. Now I want to bring in CNN's Athena Jones, who joins me now

from Las Vegas.

Athena, with just seven weeks to go until the Iowa caucus, it seems that Texas senator Ted Cruz has overtaken Trump.

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Certainly, there are several polls in the state of Iowa showing that Ted Cruz has taken over the lead there. Just a

few out in the last couple of days, one last week that showed him as much as 15 points ahead, so that is certainly changing things on the ground


You can see, of course, the countdown has begun in the Venetian Theater here on the Las Vegas Strip. You can see the stage is set behind me.

I will tell you Donald Trump, who is still the national front-runner, will be at center stage once again. But he's going to be flanked on one side by

Ted Cruz, on the other side is Ben Carson, so a very different dynamic. That means that Trump will not be the only target as these candidates try

to stand out here tomorrow night.


JONES (voice-over): Only one day away from the last GOP debate of the year in Las Vegas. And for these 13 candidates, one last chance to make an

impression heading into the holiday season. The main debate lineup seeing most of the same players as last time and no surprise here, front-runner

Donald Trump again taking center stage --


JONES (voice-over): -- Chris Christie moving up to the main stage.

Trump will be flanked by Dr. Ben Carson and Texas senator Ted Cruz, who's now surging in Iowa, according to this FOX News poll released Sunday.

On Saturday "The Des Moines Register" and Bloomberg Politics releasing their own poll showing Cruz ahead of Trump by 10 percentage points in the


SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: I'm very glad Donald Trump is in this election.

DONALD TRUMP, ENTREPRENEUR: Well, it is a little bit of a romance, I like him.

JONES (voice-over): Their bromance beginning to wane after audio from a private fundraiser captured Cruz questioning Trump's judgment.

TRUMP: Well, I'll tell you what, my judgment's great. I built a multi, multi, multibillion dollar company, some of the greatest assets in the

world, I have good judgment. I have great judgment. I would say I have far better judgment than Ted.

JONES (voice-over): Trump later tweeting, "I was disappointed that Ted Cruz would speak behind my back, get caught and then deny it."

And after Trump said this about Cruz's temperament;

TRUMP: When you look at the way he's dealt with the Senate, where he goes in there like a -- you know, frankly, like a little bit of a maniac, you're

never going to get things done that way.

JONES (voice-over): Cruz tweeting, "In honor of my friend, Donald Trump," with a link to "Flashdance's" popular song "Maniac."


JONES (voice-over): Carson, once Trump's nearest rival, now dropping in the polls.

DR. BEN CARSON, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Poll numbers go up and down. I wasn't excited when they were up, I'm not excited when they are

down. People will make the correct choice.

JONES (voice-over): Heightened fears of terrorism around the world and right here at home could make for fireworks on stage tomorrow night.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a new environment inside the campaign right now and so that -- this will be the first time that the candidates take the

stage in that new landscape.


JONES: Now several candidates are hoping for a breakout performance here to give their campaigns a boost.

And for anyone wondering whether Trump is ready to attack his new top rival, Ted Cruz, on this stage tomorrow night, he all but assured us those

hits would be coming, telling Jake Tapper on CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION," "I expect to get it on" -- Lynda.

KINKADE: OK. It's going to be an exciting debate to watch.

Athena Jones, thanks so much.

JONES: Thanks.

KINKADE: Now CNN will, of course, host the final debate of the year among the Republican candidates. Our Wolf Blitzer will moderate. Coverage starts

Wednesday at 7:00 am in Hong Kong, 8:00 am in Tokyo. If that's a little bit early for you, you can tune into the replay that night at 7:00 pm in

Hong Kong or 8:00 pm in Tokyo, right here on CNN.

Now Wall Street is trying to pick up the pieces after a disastrous end to trading last week. Less than an hour after Monday's opening bell, the Dow

industrials is up five points at this point in time. Paul La Monica, digital correspondent for CNNMoney, joins me now from New York.

Pretty flat opening today.

PAUL LA MONICA, CNNMONEY DIGITAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I think it's nice to see the markets being a little calm after the turmoil that we had last

week. So far this December it's been a lot of ups and downs. We haven't had many days like this where the markets have been relatively flat.

I think investors definitely still watching oil prices and really eager to hear what the Fed has to say later this week.

KINKADE: As oil prices continues to fall and it seems the global supply glide is likely to get worse next year.

LA MONICA: Yes, I think that's definitely the case, Linda. Oil dipping below $35 a barrel. Earlier this morning, lowest level since February

2009. A lot of concerns that Iran, which is going to be returning to the oil market in a major way, they vowed to keep pumping oil and producing at

a pretty significant pace next year, despite the big plunge in oil prices over the past year and a half.

That adds to supply pressures and then with every passing day and we get more weak data out of China in regards to their economy, that adds to the

concerns on the demand side, so you have this supply glut and worries about demand weakening and that's why oil prices are this low.

KINKADE: And it is also going to be a very busy week for the Fed. We have the decision on interest rates.

Is it an increase highly likely?

LA MONICA: It is very highly likely, despite the market turmoil of the past week and a half. Last check about an 80 percent chance being priced

in that the Fed will finally raise rates from the zero levels that they've been at since the days of the financial crisis in December 2008.

KINKADE: OK, we'll leave it there for now. Paul La Monica, thanks for keeping an eye on it.

LA MONICA: Thanks, Linda.

KINKADE: This is the INTERNATIONAL DESK. Still to come, a powerful typhoon slams parts of the Philippines. Where the storm is headed next

just ahead.





KINKADE: Welcome back. Powerful Typhoon Melor is battering the Philippines. It's impacting Southern Luzon, the country's largest island,

where authorities evacuated nearly three-quarters of a million people.

Earlier it pummeled the eastern island of Sama (ph) with sustained winds of 215 kilometers per hour. That's the equivalent to a category 4 hurricane.

The storm has now weakened but it could still bring heavy rains to Manila. Meteorologist Chad Myers is following the developments.

Chad, how's it looking now?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It's looking like the islands are tearing the storm apart and that's good news because the storm is getting weaker.

But that's bad news because the islands are getting hit and that's why the storm is getting weaker right now.

Down to 165 kilometers per hour, we were at 215 kph for a while and you think to yourself, how can this be possible in December?

I thought the water should be cold?

No, the West Pacific will be a hurricane season or a typhoon season all year long because the water is still warm out there.

There was the eye as it was just to the east of the southern part of Luzon island, making a direct impact at about 200 kilometers per hour. Now this

is not the most populated area of the Philippines. That would be up here near Manila.

It will make a run at Manila but I think the winds will be 60 kilometers per hour by the time they stop or move away. So we're not going to see a

huge, devastating blow to Manila at all but south of there, the southern Luzon island on the north shore there we will probably begin to see an

awful lot of power lines down, lack of communication, probably some infrastructure gone.

But not a huge storm surge because this was a small storm and then briefly ramped up to a big storm but didn't get that storm surge bulge or that

water to move forward.

Now we've had big storms in December and there have been devastatingly big storms. This storm, though, because we knew it was coming, at least long

enough that people did evacuate away, that this will be kind of a glancing blow for that island. It's never a glancing blow when you're almost a

category 4 hurricane making landfall but --


MYERS: -- at least the people there knew it was coming. The water here, everywhere that you see yellow, is a degree Celsius above normal and that's

what we're seeing almost over the entire globe, water warm, hurricane, typhoon, cyclone, all those things come together. And that's why we've had

such a big storm this late in the season. Back to you.

KINKADE: OK, thank you, Chad Myers.

MYERS: You're welcome.

KINKADE: Talk to you soon.

Well, still to come, Barack Obama goes to the Pentagon. The U.S. president gets ready to meet with top generals over his strategy against ISIS.

And the premiere of the new "Star Wars" movie is just hours away and fans can hardly wait. Next, director J.J. Abrams sits down with CNN.




KINKADE: Welcome to the INTERNATIONAL DESK, I'm Lynda Kinkade and here are the headlines.



KINKADE: This hour U.S. President Barack Obama is set to meet with his national security team at the Pentagon. Topping the agenda is the battle

against ISIS. Senior Washington correspondent Joe Johns is following this and joins us now from the White House.

Joe, how rare is it for a president to go to the Pentagon for this sort of a briefing instead of people coming to him at the White House?

And what should we make of it?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: It's not that unusual, quite frankly, Linda. The president did go to the Pentagon as recently as

July to talk to his advisers then.

This is an opportunity for the president to appear to have his pulse on national security, his finger on the pulse of national security issues.

He's getting ready to go on vacation at the end of the week.

He also knows that there are jittery Americans concerned about the attacks, both in Paris, as well as San Bernardino. And he has to talk to his

advisers, a large group of them, to try to figure out what's next, if anything, and how the campaign against ISIS is going.

So not that unusual but it hasn't happened for several months here in Washington -- Lynda.

KINKADE: And speaking of the San Bernardino attack, there were some concerns about the wife in the attack, that she arrived in the U.S. on a

fiance visa.

Will that visa program be discussed?

JOHNS: It's not clear. We do know there have been some changes made to the visa waiver program the administration's been concerned about; they are

putting in some better tracking and other systems to try to improve that to make sure they know where people are coming from when they travel here from

38 countries where you essentially don't need a visa.

The K-1 fiance visa is something completely different and it's a fairly obscure program; nonetheless, officials at the end of the day are going to

have to probably take a look at that and other ways that people come into the country to make sure that they are properly tracking individuals and

vetting them before they get here -- Lynda.

KINKADE: OK. Certainly a lot to discuss there today, Joe Johns in Washington, thank you very much.

Well, in less than two hours the U.S. secretary of state will attend talks in the Syrian conflict in Paris. The meeting is taking place just one day

before John Kerry heads to Moscow to meet with Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Our Jim Bittermann joins us now from Paris to discuss all of this.

Jim, we know Secretary Kerry is due to meet the Russian President Putin and Sergey Lavrov. Russia's ministry has put out a statement saying that the

situation between Russia and America, the relationship remains difficult.

What can we expect when they meet eye to eye?

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SR. INTL. CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's a lot of pieces in motion here, Lynda. This is a series of meetings about meetings about

meetings. The one that's going to take place a couple of hours from now is basically a proprietary meeting between John Kerry and Laurent Fabius, his

French counterpart.

There may be others involved in that as well. And then he flies to Russia to talk to his counterpart, Lavrov, and Vladimir Putin, about what's going

to happen later in this week, which is another meeting on December 18th, on Friday.

This is a meeting that they're kind of all working towards; it's a follow- on meeting, trying to find a pathway towards peace in Syria. And it comes on the heels of yet another meeting. That was a meeting in Saudi Arabia

that took place late last week, trying to get the Syrian opposition groups together.

And just to give you an idea how complicated that is, there were about 100 representatives in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; some people were actually turned

away that wanted to come and they are saying the talks didn't represent them.

In any case, they've come up with a group of 23 that are going to supposedly represent the Syrian opposition.

And it's not clear that Russia will accept that group as really representing the Syrian opposition. The Syrian opposition, of course, says

flat out that Bashar al-Assad has to go, his regime has to go. The Russians and --


BITTERMANN: -- the Iranians, who will be part of the 17 countries that are talking about peace in Syria at the end of the week in New York, they are

saying that -- the Iranians and the Russians are saying that Bashar al- Assad must stay.

So there's a lot of moving pieces here. Whether any of them will lead to anything is a different question but they are certainly working in that

direction -- Lynda.

KINKADE: Jim, certainly a lot of meetings about Syria but I understand Secretary Kerry will also talk to Vladimir Putin about Ukraine.

BITTERMANN: That's another topic that he may talk to him about. I expect that would kind of muddy the waters, given what they are trying to do with


But, yes, the Ukraine is also one that has been on the topics that are between the United States and Russia for many, many months now and is

likely to come up again but there hasn't been any kind of movement on either side.


KINKADE: Yes. OK, Jim Bittermann, a lot of meetings to stay across there, thanks so much.

Well, fans of "Star Wars" have been camped out for days outside the Los Angeles premiere. We speak to director J.J. Abrams about the hugely

anticipated latest installment in the series next. Stay with us.




KINKADE (voice-over): Yes, that's right, it's almost time, the latest installment of the legendary "Star Wars" film franchise is nearly here,

"The Force Awakens" premieres on Monday night in Los Angeles.


KINKADE: Now the team who made that movie is waiting to hear what fans have to say. Our Isha Sesay sat down with director J.J. Abrams to talk

about the opening up of a new chapter.


J.J. ABRAMS, DIRECTOR: We are here on day one of "Star Wars" episode 7.

How incredible is that?

ISHA SESAY, CNN HOST: You've said you were inheriting the "Star Wars" legacy. I also know you are one of the legions of superfans of the films.

I'm wondering how with --


SESAY: -- that, that pressure, that love of the films themselves, how you even begin the process of imagining a new chapter.

ABRAMS: Well, first of all, I had to put my being a fan aside somewhat, because that wasn't the job.

I couldn't just be a cheerleader for this thing. It had to be storytelling.

And working with Lawrence Kasdan in writing the script, we didn't just talk about the continuum of where things may have gone and what may have

happened to some of the characters that people know but also why do we want to tell the story now?

What makes it relevant?

What's the point?

And so in talking about it from the most basic point of view, not just as a "Star Wars" movie but this is a story about a young woman who, this is a

story about a young man who, talking about the story was the thing that we needed to do to tell a story worth telling and not just a nostalgia trip.

SESAY: An incredibly diverse cast.

Something you deliberately set out to do?

ABRAMS: I knew when we were writing it that I wanted this movie to look more the way the world looks than not. But we didn't write any of the

characters with that in mind. We just wrote the story. We didn't know when we were casting it who would look like what. We just started to cast

the movie.



SESAY (voice-over): But then you have the added dimension of blending the old with the new.

ABRAMS (voice-over): Yes.

SESAY (voice-over): And seeing how that chemistry works.

ABRAMS (voice-over): Which if it didn't work well, would have been a disaster. You have these actors like Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher and

Mark Hamill --


ABRAMS: -- people who are obviously just wonderful and established in this iconic way. And you've got these absolute unknowns who are stepping

in. And it wasn't clear what that alchemy would result in.

And what was so lucky was, to a person, they were supportive of each other. There was no weird resentment or kind of trying to edge out someone. They

were all there to kind of raise each other up. And that was sort of a beautiful thing to watch.

SESAY: Are you worried about the numbers, the box office numbers?

Is it something you are concerned with?

All the projections are this is going to blow box office takes totals out of the water.

Is that something you care about?

ABRAMS: The success for me is just going to be if people go and like the film. And if kids go and see themselves in the movie and people feel

better when they leave the theater than when they got there, then the numbers are the numbers.


KINKADE: I'm looking forward to seeing that one. That does it for us here at the INTERNATIONAL DESK. I'm Lynda Kinkade. But don't go anywhere,

"WORLD SPORT" with Amanda Davies is up next.