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84 Killed in France Terror Attack. Aired 7-7:30a ET
Aired July 15, 2016 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT/ANCHOR: We begin our coverage this morning with CNN's senior international correspondent Clarissa, who is live for us in Nice.
And Clarissa, three major attacks in France alone in 18 months.
[07:00:12] CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: that's right, Poppy. And the situation here is certainly tense. There is a heavy police presence behind us. It's the Promenade des Anglais. It has now been shut down and screened off. This is now an active crime scene and a large one, more than a mile long.
There are police all around here, many of whom you can't actually see because there is such a large media presence. But normally, Poppy, this area would be full of tourists. Nice in the south of France is one of the favorite places for holiday makers in the U.S., overseas, and here in France to go.
And last night specifically was French independence day, Bastille Day. Thousands and thousands of people would have been crammed into this area to watch the fireworks display. And that's when the attack started. Take a look.
WARD (voice-over): A scene of horrifying carnage. Bodies strewn along Nice's famed seaside promenade after this truck plows through a crowd of hundreds watching Bastille Day fireworks.
A witness says the driver first started shooting into the crowd from inside the truck right after the fireworks ended.
DOMINIQUE MOLINA, EYEWITNESS (via phone): I wondered if that was fireworks? But it was definitely not fireworks. And you heard screaming and then you just see masses of people fleeing.
WARD: Another eyewitness capturing this video, the truck slowly approaching people on the promenade before the driver accelerates, hitting one after another.
INGA, EYEWITNESS (via phone): It was complete chaos. People were running away. One lady fell on the ground, and everybody was running right over her.
PAUL DELANE, EYEWITNESS (via phone): The music was so loud that we couldn't hear anything. I didn't really see a truck but just people running and screaming and crying, and people carrying their children.
WARD: Those who survived the attack describing the chaos and confusion.
MARYAM VIOLET, EYEWITNESS (via phone): I was walking amongst bodies, dead bodies and wounded people and families of those people just gathering around the bodies.
WARD: The truck's path of destruction over a mile long before finally stopping in front of this witness.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was nervous. He was moving inside like this, like this. And I saw he was like holding something like a cell phone.
WARD: Police circling the truck, ending the carnage by shooting and killing the driver.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They shoot gun until they killed him already, and his head was out the window.
WARD: Survivors desperate for help.
ERIC DRATTELL, EYEWITNESS (via phone): I wasn't sure what it was and tried calling the police. The lines were completely jammed.
VIOLET: I think it took 10, 15 minutes until, you know, there were first signs of ambulance.
WARD: Police say they found a handgun and several fake rifles and fake grenades.
French President Francois Hollande raced back to Paris after the attacks, telling the world that France is strong and will always be stronger than those who want to attack the country.
WARD: Now, investigators say that they did find the I.D. card of a 31-year-old French-Tunisian man inside the truck. French media is reporting that there has been a series of raids on his home in Nice this morning. He is not believed to have been involved with any extremist or Islamist or terrorist groups, but he did have a significant criminal record, mostly for petty crimes.
Meanwhile, we're learning also from French media that among the injured, more than 50 children. And of course, we've also heard the very sad news that among the dead, two Americans, a father and a son -- Poppy.
HARLOW: Clarissa Ward live for us today in Nice. Clarissa, thank you very much.
A member of France's parliament witnessed the attack with his wife and with his children. Christophe Premat joins us now from Nice. Unbelievable what happened. We were told some 100,000 people gathered there to enjoy the fireworks on Bastille Day. All -- all hell breaks loose. You were there with your wife and your children.
What was the experience like for you?
CHRISTOPHE PREMAT, MEMBER OF FRANCE'S PARLIAMENT: There is a strong contrast between what we experienced yesterday with the fireworks on the one hand, and on the other hand gunshots and this truck driving through the crowd people moving in eve direction.
So you have a contrast between the national day, the day of joy, the summertime, the fireworks, and then the nightmare and this terror attack. So that's -- yes, that's a very hard situation, actually.
[07:05:08] HARLOW: What did you and your children do? Obviously, a father's first instinct is protect my children.
PREMAT: Well, I was not -- I did not realize, actually, what happened. I was more aware of what happened. We just took the children. And then, when we saw the crowds moving in different directions, we decided to get inside a building. And we were with different families, people from different nationalities. And we didn't have any information.
And then when you just looked around, what happened after a while, you could realize that there was a terror attack. But I must say that it took a while for me to understand the situation. And so my wife and my children were more aware than I was.
HARLOW: It's important to look at this in the broader context. And that is that France is frankly under siege, that you've had three major, major attacks with huge numbers of casualties in 18 months. And the intelligence chief in France testified three weeks ago, three weeks ago, and he came out and said and predicted that we would see a further evolution of these terror attacks and how extremists carry out these attacks.
You already have a state of emergency in France. What does the country need right now? How can these attacks be prevented?
PREMAT: I think we need more rationality, more cooperation, more willing to share more information. Yesterday I experienced that as a family, as a father. But I also debated about that in the French parliament.
So from both sides, I see that -- I understand the situation right now. We are under threat because of a situation in Syria with the Islamic State. But we had the emergency state. We had the rules (ph) in parliament. So we have the tools to react. It's not a question of having more tools or showing people that you have to be more stronger and stronger. It's more a question of being efficient, of using the information that we have in a better way. That's very important.
HARLOW: You're part of Francois Hollande's party, but if you ask those in opposition to you in the French government, like Rianne Lepin (ph), she would say this is a function of too much immigration in our country, no control over who is coming into France. What do you say to those who say they will be emboldened after yet another attack? PREMAT: That's exactly what the terrorists want us to do, you know,
just to have this kind of conspiracy theories from the national branch of -- from the eastern right parties. They want to have this kind of clash of civilization. These theories are really far from reality.
The reality is that we have a threat. We have a war going on in Syria. We need to cooperate more with French states in order to eradicate this -- this movement, because it will cause many damages in the future. We are aware about that.
Of course, it's very hard when individuals act, because an individual can act in every city in France in order to spread a feeling of fear. It does nothing to. So I think those kind of theories, we don't need them today, because that was -- it was -- we were supposed to have a day national unity yesterday. We had a day of national fear. Now we have three days of sorrow, so we need to be together. We've just got to be together in order to fight those attacks, whatever the power is. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to have these kind of decorations. I'm not surprised when it comes from that party.
HARLOW: Christoph Premat, thank you so much. I'm so glad you and your family are all right -- Chris.
CUOMO: All right. This is the third major attack in France in 18 months. Why is France such a target? CNN senior international correspondent Clarissa Ward; CNN terrorism analyst and editor in chief of anti-terror publication "CTC Sentinel" Paul Cruickshank; and CNN international correspondent Peter Bergen all join me this morning. I've asked you each this question several times, but it bears repeating.
Because frankly, Paul Cruickshank, why France? Tick off the reasons.
PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, I think the biggest reason of all is the more than a thousand French nationals and residents that have traveled to Syria and Iraq and have joined Jihadi groups, many joining ISIS there. And quite simply, this has given ISIS tremendous opportunity to launch attacks against France. I think that's the biggest reason why France is being targeted.
Not only the foot soldiers, the fighters, but also people who are francophone moving up the leadership structure of ISIS, getting involved in the external operations unit of ISIS, which is launching these accelerating attacks against Europe.
There was a German ISIS operative who was recently arrested and interrogated. And he was told while he was in Syria that ISIS had sent many operatives back to France. They had all the operatives they needed there already, in place, and they were just waiting for orders. That intelligence has to be evaluated, but the intelligence picture is very bleak right now when it comes to France.
CUOMO: And Clarissa, you have lived part of that reason. You've gone to the neighborhoods in France and in Belgium where you have these large numbers of now second, even third generation immigrants who feel disaffected, disenfranchised. They don't even feel French, and what does that lead to?
WARD: Well, that's exactly right, Chris. And I would just piggyback on what Paul was saying there. Of course, there's a very large number of French fighters with ISIS. That's contributing to the issue.
But I think it's important for our viewers to understand how ISIS views this situation. I've spoken to several jihadis. And they all tell me the same thing. They see themselves as being in a state of war with France, with many other western countries, as well, but let's talk about France. And their attitude is, if you bomb us in Raqqah and kill our women and children, we will bomb you at home and kill your women and children.
So that's how they see this. And they resort to asymmetrical warfare, simply because it's not an evenly matched fight. They don't have anything like the military capabilities that, of course, the U.S. and other members of the coalition do. So that's how they see this fight.
But you touched on something very important, which is the social issue, the social backdrop to this whole crisis. And there is no question that the lack of integration in these so-called milleu (ph), sprawling suburbs outside of Paris, outside of Marseilles, outside of various French and Belgian cities has absolutely been a contributor to this. Because even third and second generation French-Muslims of Tunisian or Moroccan descent will often tell you they don't feel like proper French citizens. They don't feel fully accepted by French society. They see themselves as Moroccan-French or Tunisian-French as opposed to French-French. And they don't feel they have the same opportunities in terms of getting a job and having a normal life.
Now, that is not in any way to excuse the situation, because there are millions of Muslims living here quite happily and quite peacefully, who of course, deplore these kinds of attacks, but it does give you a sense of how it is that some of these more troubled elements are able to come out of this society, Chris.
CUOMO: And Peter Bergen, to apply that to a little bit of a compare/contrast with the United States, we often hear two factors come into play in terms of why other than just simple geography, why the U.S. has been doing better here in terms of staving off attacks.
One is the assimilation of all the different faiths and ethnicities here in the U.S. in a way we don't see in France.
The second one is investigative capabilities and the application of rights and restrictions by intelligence authorities. The state of emergency was supposed to change that in France. But how much ground are they trying to make up?
BERGEN: I think the first thing you point out, Chris, is absolutely correct. The American dream has worked as a firewall against these ideas in the United States. Relatively few American-Muslims have signed up for these ideas compared to what we see in Europe.
There is no French dream. There's no E.U. dream. There's no British dream. There's no German dream. There's no ideological apparatus to easily bring in a large number of immigrants.
And in France, for instance, if you have a Muslim-sounding name with certain qualifications, you're 2 1/2 times less likely to be called to a job interview than you are if you have a Christian name. Seventy percent of the French prison population is Muslim. And I think it's very interesting, as Clarissa was reporting earlier, that the perpetrator in this attack had a petty criminal background.
Because if we look at every attack, the "Charlie Hebdo" attack, the November Paris attacks, the Brussels attack and now this attack, almost everyone involved has spent time in the French prison system, which is clearly incubating a great number of jihadis.
They come in with a criminal background. They often are sort of in a sense the university of jihad. And this is a very serious problem for France to get a hold on.
CUOMO: You know, Paul, we experienced something similar to this about 20 years ago when people were worried about the proliferation of Wahhabism being spread throughout the prisons, that you had a criminal population that was unusually susceptible to this extreme dogma, and that they might be radicalized. And it didn't happen.
What makes France different that you're seeing such quick application to thugs and people who usually do crime out of opportunity, and turning them into zealots?
[07:15;11] CRUICKSHANK: Well, Chris, I mean, you're seeing a large number of Muslims in France, a disproportionate number going to jail. When they go to jail, they get exposed to all sorts of influences. And those influences unfortunately include radical preachers.
And they give these people meaning, a sense of purpose by inculcating jihadi ideology in them. And they say that all the sins you are committing, the crimes you were committing, that was just because you were corrupted by the infidels. Put your skills, your criminal skills, your access to firearms, your access to criminal networks, put them at the disposal of our cause, our God-given cause, and you'll be saved to go to heaven.
This has been intoxicating for a generation here in Europe, not just in France, but in other countries. We've also seen people who are involved in gangs feel that ISIS's ethos is appealing, because it sort of jives with their violent streak ethos. This extreme brutality.
So we have, in effect, in Europe seen radicals become Islamized. As before, we were seeing more a case of Islamists becoming radicalized. That's a big change, and it's very worrying to authorities here.
CUOMO: And it's obviously having deadly impact. Paul Cruickshank, thank you very much.
Peter Bergen, Clarissa Ward, as always, thank you. We'll check back with you in a little bit -- Poppy.
HARLOW: As we talk about the bigger context there and the bigger issue facing France, it's important today to focus on the injured, the victims. Doctors at a hospital in Nice rushing to save the lives of all of those injured in the attack. French President Francois Hollande is expected to arrive at that hospital at any moment to comfort the injured.
Our Atika Shubert is live outside Castor (ph) Hospital in Nice this morning. And Atika, one of the things that we are hearing -- and I'm wondering if you can confirm for us -- is that as many as 50 children are hospitalized. Do we know?
ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We don't have the exact number, but we do know that the number of children that have been hospitalized, killed in this attack has been unusually high. Very young children, as well.
Remember, this was a family event. Everybody was going out to see the fireworks at the beach. Basically, Bastille Day here is like July the 4th in the U.S. It's a big family affair. And they were just dispersing from when the attacker plowed through the crowd, for two kilometers driving through.
And in the videos that we've seen, the bodies are literally -- are littering the streets there. And again, unfortunately, a large number of them are children. A lot of the injuries, as you can imagine, very severe. Fractures.
We've been speaking to some of the families that have been looking for information here. Some of the victims that have come out, they've described the complete chaos.
One man I spoke to still had blood on his shorts. He was sort of still in shock, rambling, saying -- just saying over and over that the driver kept on driving through the crowd and saying he didn't know where his daughter was.
So it's still very raw here. Still people trying to piece together what happened and to try to find missing loved ones. For many of those children, many of the parents trying to figure out what has happened to them. It really is a very desperate scene inside.
CUOMO: All right, Atika. We'll check back with you in a little bit. Please let us know if there are any developments.
There's no question that this is a nightmare that just keeps repeating. You see terrorists striking popular European cities. Why does it keep happening? I think we know that by now. How can you stop it? That is the question. We get perspective from now less than Christiane Amanpour next.
[07:22:20] HARLOW: This incredibly deadly attack in Nice is the third major terror attack in France alone in just 18 months. And everyone is asking, why does this keep happening specifically in France? No one better to discuss it with us than CNN chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour. Christiane, the discussion before the break was with Clarissa, Paul,
and Peter talked about the ties to French jails. And we know that side of it, but there is more at play here.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, there is. That is a big part of it. The fact that so many jihadis have gone from France to Syria and the blowback of all of that.
But the bottom line is, as well as the disaffection of this huge Muslim population in France. It has the biggest Muslim population of all the European countries. And they are mostly, as you've heard from Peter Bergen and the others, marginalized in these bonnieux (ph) with very little of the so-called French dream available to them. All of that.
But very importantly, this coincides -- if you pinpoint these attacks, whether in France or in Belgium or in the United States or wherever it is, they have started in earnest since the rise of ISIS. And that is a really important thing to remember. That the war in Syria, which has started to rather radicalize Muslims around the world, just as the war in Bosnia did, just as the war in Afghanistan did, people started to radicalize and decide that they needed to fight this.
Well, this is what's happening in Syria and Iraq right now. France is one of the leading members of the coalition against ISIS. And France is generally known to want to take even more proactive measures than the rest of the coalition. Certainly more proactive measures against ISIS and, frankly, against Bashar Assad, to stop the Syria war. Much more proactive if it could than either President Obama or the British prime minister or others.
So this is a major issue that, until the war in Syria is ended and until ISIS is defeated, not just contained but defeated, and until an adequate offensive is mounted, according to most of those who observe and track this situation, this will continue, including the refugees, the migration, and all of that, that is destabilizing Europe at this point.
HARLOW: But that point of the refugees, of the migration, is what all plays into this so politically in the divide. Those that believe that Hollande's left-leaning government is not doing what it takes to prevent this in their country. People like Mariane Lepin (ph), who come out and say, "Look, we told you this would happen if you don't clamp down on immigration." You've been speaking with a French senator who has a very dire outlook.
[07:25:05] AMANPOUR: Yes. I mean, look, this is obviously going to be played with as a political football. And that is even more dangerous than the reality on the ground, because that means you won't find solutions. You will just see partisanship and division and people using it for their own politics of fear and political gain. So that's on the one side, and it's very dangerous.
And on the other side, French senator, who I've been talking to for a long time and in fact who was on CNN today earlier this morning, said to me the message of today is that we cannot prevent this at this moment. She said, we in France are at maximum security alert. We've had the state of emergency. We're now going to extend the state of emergency. Nice is one of the most secure cities in France. It has a very, very security minded mayor, the president of the regional department, as they call it down there, have brought in more police, more surveillance cameras, more security, facial recognition technology, all of that. But it keeps happening.
And she said that's the message today. No amount of states of emergency is going to stop it. And she even went so far as to say if any of your viewers has a solution and has the weapons for us to deal with this, send us your e-mail.
There is a sense of hopelessness. But a lot of it comes down to what is the trigger, and that is the active war in Syria and in Iraq right now.
HARLOW: And when you talk about fighting it, so much of it is fighting it in the mind. And it is what many of these attackers are indoctrinated into. And that is a key part of it that's been incredibly hard for them to fight.
Christiane, thank you so much this morning live for us from London. We appreciate it -- Chris.
CUOMO: All right. So we're seeing what has happened in Nice play out in the election. In fact, we've had lots of attacks that have been a test of what this election will be about.
Donald Trump says this is war. He wants a declaration of war. Hillary Clinton says this is a different kind of war and shows more of a deliberative nature about it. What is the plus/minus of these two strategies? We're going to talk to somebody who knows coming up.