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Truck Plows into Berlin Christmas Market; Russian Ambassador to Turkey Assassinated. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired December 20, 2016 - 00:00   ET



JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm John Vause, live in Los Angeles. It has just gone 9:00 p.m. here on the West Coast.

We're following a number of major stories this hour.

At least a dozen people are dead after a truck plowed into a crowded Christmas market in Berlin.

Also shot in the back, Turkey's Russian Ambassador assassinated while delivering a speech.

And later Donald Trump responds to Monday's violence on a day that brought him another step closer to the White House.

First though, slaughter at a Christmas market in Berlin. The White House says it appeared to have been a terrorist attack. Twelve people were killed when the driver of a truck loaded with tons of steel barreled into a packed market on Monday evening. At least 48 other people have been hurt.

Some of the images you're about to see now are graphic and disturbing. This is cell phone video records moments after the attack. One man was caught near the scene. He's now in custody. And another man was found dead in the truck.

Frederik Pleitgen has the very latest from Berlin -- Fred.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John - - the police here in Berlin is confirming to us that they do still have forensic units that are on the scene, obviously, investigating right now. And they're probably going to continue doing that throughout the entire night.

Now, they also say that they have one man in custody but at this point in time, they're not sure first of all what the nationality of that man is. And then also whether they can be 100 percent certain that this is the same person who was sitting at the wheel of that tractor trailer as it plowed through that very crowded Christmas market here on Monday night.

Now they did confirm that there was a second man in the vehicle on the passenger seat who was found there dead. And that that man is a Polish citizen. Now that's significant because the truck also had Polish license plates. It belongs to a trucking company from northeastern Poland and that trucking company has come forward and that it had lost contact with its driver and had already feared that something horrible might have happened to him.

And now of course, the big fear is that potentially this truck got hijacked and was then used to run into this Christmas market here. It was also loaded with some metal rods apparently 25 tons which would have not only made this vehicle very fast as it rolled into that Christmas market but of course, very heavy as well as it hit a lot of those stalls and also, of course, plowed through people as well.

We've got some harrowing accounts from folks who were on hand here as all these happened saying that it happened very quickly that the truck was doing about 40 miles an hour. As it moved in obviously it made absolutely no effort to hit the brakes and then just rolled right through the Christmas market for several yards before finally coming to a stop, obviously.

At least 12 people killed in this incident, more than 40 people were injured in the incident. Again, the police saying that it is on hand. It has several units from various different agencies here -- all investigating this case. But of course, all of that is going to take some time as the police does its forensic works and then moves forward with this investigation -- John.

VAUSE: Fred -- thank you.

Joining me here in Los Angeles, security expert Aaron Cohen. He is a former member of Israel's counterterrorist special operations unit. And in Berlin Dominic Thomas -- he chairs the Department of French and Francophone Studies at UCLA. He joins us on the line.

Dominic, first to you there in Berlin, can you tell us the significance of where this attack actually happened, not far from the Kaiser Wilhelm Church. It's a memorial to peace and reconciliation?


Yes, so this is a very busy area of Berlin. And it's right off the street known as the Qudam (ph) -- which is one of the main shopping thoroughfares in Berlin. It has high street stores, luxury stores. But it also has one of the better known Christmas markets which draw in thousands of tourists from all over the world and local Berliners and other Germans who come up to the city to enjoy the holiday spirit.

So late yesterday, late yesterday evening, this incident happened. I'm here on site right now, parts of the market area have been reopened but the area is filled with all kinds of police and security units.


Aaron -- do you believe the location carries any special significance or this is simply a soft target waiting to be hit? AARON COHEN, SECURITY EXPERT: I think it's a combination of both. The reason why is terrorists are known to go after large crowded areas and therefore I believe that this particular area was thoroughly crowded and therefore it made a good target. So I think that it's a combination of the two. And I think that the fact that there's a very heavy holiday suggestion to where the actual market was and theme of the market --

VAUSE: Christian --

COHEN: I feel like it's a combination of the two and I think that it's actually a soft target that was very lucrative for would-be terrorists.

[00:05:01] VAUSE: Ok. This is how some of the witnesses described what happened at the Christmas market. Listen to this.


SHANDANA DURRANI, WITNESS: I saw the truck -- the top of the truck coming toward the crowd through the market. People started running. People started screaming. I think everybody thought that there was a terrorist attack or something like that happening. People dropped whatever they were carrying and ran for cover.

EMMA RUSHTON, WITNESS: We heard an almighty bang, crash from the left point of us. And we looked over. The Christmas lights overhanging the market started to be torn down and then we saw the articulated vehicle go from left to right, crashing into people, crashing into (inaudible), they completely decimated.


VAUSE: If you take the references out to the Christmas decoration and replace that with maybe French flags, they could be describing what happened in Nice back in July on Bastille Day -- couldn't they?

COHEN: It feels very similar. And I think that they could very well be describing exactly what happened on Bastille Day. There's a very similar print and therefore I believe that this could be very closely related to what we should be thinking about as an act of terror.

And until the investigators finish investigating we've got to be careful. But I do think that there would be a connection based on the fact that a specific person went to this specific area where there was a large crowd and drove his truck packed with metal. The truck apparently was stolen for the purpose of being able to create as much damage as possible in the shortest period of time. That's the print of terrorism.

VAUSE: Ok. The owner of the truck company, he believes that the lorry, the truck itself may have been hijacked at some point. Let's listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ARIEL ZURAWSKI, TRUCK COMPANY OWNER: The person who was driving and jumped out of the truck was not my driver. I can vouch for my driver. I see that they did something to him and hijacked his truck when he was practically in Berlin center. It was a big truck so they could have done what they did. It was not my driver. They simply did something to him. God forbid, that's how it looks.


VAUSE: And if it's true. If this is how it all played out, does this raise a whole new level of security concerns.

COHEN: It doesn't raise a whole new level of security concerns because we already have security concerns. Europe has been in trouble for a bit of time here and what we saw in Nice.

But if this is true, John, my gut instinct is that it means there was operational planning here. Whoever it was that did hijack his truck, if it was in fact hijacked, did so for the purpose of being able to create more layers of secrecy between the actual weapon or the vehicle that was weaponized and the actual attack which means that there was planning involved.

So if there was, in fact, planning involved that again brings us a lot closer to terrorism which means we want to be able to carry out this attack, get as many eyeballs off as is possible and have no traceability to the actual perpetrators of the attack.

VAUSE: They do have a suspect who has been arrested. Does that mean this investigation should move forward, at least faster than what we've seen in the past?

COHEN: Absolutely. Having someone in custody means that you can investigate, means you can interrogate, it means that you can physically extract and get information out of him to be able to start to trace back, you know, where the attacks stem from and with that a mosaic is important to be able to build.

So the fact that they have someone is incredibly helpful. And we'll see what is gleaned from the interviews, you know, obviously in probably the next coming days.

VAUSE: So if you look at this and the German officials are being so cautious here. They're not even calling it an attack at this stage. They're saying it looks like an attack but not, you know, talking about Islamic terror here in any way. Why the caution from those officials.

COHEN: I believe it's because Chancellor Merkel has had a very tough time in the last year and a half due to her immigration policies. She gets criticized quite heavily. She does have an internal problem as far as -- as far as the risk is concerned with the amount of immigration that led to this type of situation that they're currently looking at right; or currently facing right now.

I think she's playing it very careful. I think she doesn't want to get into any more hot water than she already is. She realizes that there is a boiling systematic situation that's happening here in Germany and in other countries also like we saw in Nice and so on and so forth.

And so I think that they're being as quiet as possible and they're just trying to sort of downplay the terror angle in order to be able to eliminate all of the possibilities of this being terror first and then calling it terror when she ultimately has to, which isn't necessarily the best way to investigate terrorism.

[00:09:53] We found that it's in Britain, in Israel -- the sooner you can sort of call it terror, the sooner you can get to calling it terror, and working backwards from there, the quicker you can get out of the crying thing which will actually help you prevent a future attack if there was another one in the planning at some point.

So I just think she's being politically correct. I think she's being careful. I get where she's coming from but at the end of the day, look we have a specific person or group of people who went to a specific place, a crowded place, you know, and loaded with a truck. I think it's no secret what could be happening.

VAUSE: Ok. If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, seems like a duck -- chances are -- ok.

So we had a situation where the German officials had, in fact, warned or were worried about the potential of these Christmas markets becoming targets and yet it still happened. Is that a failure of intelligence? Or would anybody find it very difficult to try and prevent these kinds of attacks. I mean I think there are 60 open-air Christmas markets in Berlin alone.

COHEN: No, it's time to tap into the private security. It's time to get security companies on contract, protecting large areas where people congregate. It's just -- it's where we are in 2017 and if you are going to have security that is actually workable or security that is actually -- that actually does what it's supposed to do, traditionally security hasn't been designed for terrorism. But the terror method of -- or the security method for countering terror is you want to have the three Ds in place and you can use that -- use in the private sector. You can have undercover police officers in there as well and have uniformed officers. And so you have the deterrence which is the uniformed security guards. They have to be armed.

You know, Europe is afraid of all this so we have -- there needs to be security in place. It's doable. It's time to implement that.

VAUSE: Ok. I want to play you this sound that we have from the Berlin's state interior minister. He is still saying it's unclear if this was even an attack. But listen to what he said.


ANDREAS GEISEL, BERLIN STATE INTERIOR MINISTER (through translator): Our free society needs us to be open and celebrate Christmas as the festival of the family, of happiness. This has been destroyed here today but I caution everyone not to jump to conclusions or change our way of life.


VAUSE: Not to change our way of life given what happened in Berlin, is that going to be possible?

COHEN: No. It's not going to be possible. There has to be a change. There needs to be a change in the security tone and the way Europe and the 60 other countries that are actively engaged in the war on terror look at their security.

If they don't accept the fact that there needs to be some type of change which means real security in place, private, undercover, uniformed, armed, trained in counter terror tactical response which involves guns, especially when you have a truck ramming a crowd of people at 40 miles an hour, you have to fire a weapon into that truck to stop it.

So the security needs to reflect the change and ultimately it will become part of the paradigm shift. I don't think it's that big of a deal. When I hear comments like that, I'm like, come on.

VAUSE: Ok. Stay with us because we have Michael Snyder. He's a reporter with TVN 24 in Poland. He actually had a chance to speak to the owner of the truck which was used in the attack in Berlin a few hours ago.

So Michael, we have actually already heard from the owner of the truck who said that he believes that it was basically hijacked somewhere on route to Berlin. What more did you find out?

MICHAEL SNYDER, REPORTER FOR TVN 24 (via telephone): Good morning.

Well, it was a very stressful conversation with the owner of the company because we spoke to him around 9:30 p.m. local time and the attack took place only an hour earlier.

So we saw the footage coming live from Berlin and we saw a truck with Polish license plates and that's how we reached out to that company.

And at first the owner of the company, he was absolutely positive that his driver had nothing do with this, that he had a hunch -- a very bad feeling that his driver might have been some sort of a victim in this situation. He stated clearly that he vouches for that man is. As we say in Poland -- he vouched with his arm and his leg is that saying in Poland. And that is pretty strong words.

And I followed up on that. That's when the owner of the company said that the driver, the original driver who was taking care of the truck was driving it on that day was simply his cousin. So they were relatives. At that time we didn't really know much.

But right now there are new developments published by a Polish Web site called (inaudible). They're journalists have gotten in touch with the company and the workers of that company have analyzed the GPS of the truck, the information from the GPS system. And it turns out that between 3:44 p.m. and around 5:30 p.m., someone was trying to start the car a few times and it looked -- that's the interpretation of the people from the company -- that it looks like someone was simply trying to figure out how to drive a truck like that.

[00:14:56] So that could indicate that perhaps someone simply stole the car; have no idea how a truck like that works, how to drive it and was trying to learn it. And around 7:30 p.m., so less than 40 minutes, around 40 minutes before the attack -- that's when the car took off for good.

VAUSE: Ok. Michael Snyder there on the line with some new details about what may have happened in the hours before the attack. Michael -- appreciate you being with us.

Aaron Cohen, also appreciate you giving us some analysis of what had happened and what may happen in the days ahead. Thank you very much for being with us and catch up with you next hour.

We'll take a short break.

When we come back, more on our other breaking news, the Russian ambassador to Turkey has been assassinated. We'll talk about the possible ramifications around the world.


VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody. Just going on to 20 past 9:00 here on the West Coast.

Turkey and Russia are vowing to stand together after the assassination of the Russian ambassador to Turkey. A police officer shot Ambassador Andrei Karlov at an art gallery in Ankara. It was all caught on video. we're about to play it and you may find it graphic.


[00:20:04] VAUSE: The 22-year-old gunman shouted "Do not forget Aleppo" and "Allahu Akbar" or "God is greatest".

CNN producer Gul Tuysuz joins us now from Istanbul in Turkey. So Gul what is the very latest we have now on the investigation?

GUL TUYSUZ, CNN PRODUCER: Well, John -- we have the interior minister come out just a few hours after those horrific -- that horrific video of the ambassador getting shot emerged and identified the attacker as 22-year-old riot police officer Mevlut Mert Altintas. We know where he went to high school. We know where he went to police academy. We know that he has been in the riot police for the last two and a half years.

But so far we don't know the very crucial things that are going to define Turkish/Russian relations going forward which is what links if any did this attacker have with active terror groups in Turkey? Was he affiliated with one of the usual suspects that carry out terror attacks here in Turkey like the Kurdish or the PKK or ISIS? Pro-government media has been quick to point a finger at the Gulen movement which it views -- which Turkey views as a terror group responsible for an attempted coup attempt last July.

With Russian investigators coming in to take part in the investigation and to this horrific act we're going to see a lot more detail emerge on what possible links this attacker, Altintas had with any known terror groups.

But what we do know so far is that his message in the videos as he was carrying out this horrific attack was referring to the bloodshed that has been taking part in Aleppo saying "do not forget Aleppo, do not forget Syria".

Whether or not this was, in fact, a lone wolf attack or if it was more organized is going to really be at the heart of how Turkish/Russian relations end up coming together over the next couple of days. And we're going see whether or not that relationship which has been repaired and has been cooperative on Syria will continue to be rapprochement or whether or not it will sour -- John.

VAUSE: Ok. Gul -- thank you for that. Gul Tuysuz there with an update from Istanbul.

More on this story now. Jill Dougherty joins us from Seattle, Washington; she's a CNN contributor, former CNN Moscow bureau chief. Aaron Cohen sticking with us; he's a security expert, former member of the Israeli Special Forces.

Jill, first to you -- within hours of the shooting, both the Russian and the Turkish presidents made very similar public statements. Listen to this.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): The committed crime is obviously a provocation designed to spoil normalization of Russia/Turkey relations and derailing the peace process in Syria which is actively promoted by Russia, Turkey, Iran and other countries interested in reconcilement of inter-Syria (inaudible).

RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN, TURKISH PRESIDENT (through translator): After the incident during the talk with Mr. Putin we agreed this is a provocation and there isn't any dispute. On behalf of my country and my nation I send and repeat my condolences to Mr. Putin and to all the Russian people.


VAUSE: Jill -- it seems there was a very conscious effort to show there is no daylight between these two leaders right now.

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Absolutely. Because remember, a year ago at this time exactly, they were at each other's throats and especially Vladimir Putin at that point, right after the Turks had shot down the Russia military plane, Putin said it was a stab in the back by Turkey.

Then a few months ago they completely did a 180 change in relationship and brought the two countries back together. It's quite obvious that they're going to make sure that even this horrendous act is not going to create a chasm between them.

And I think that's predictable that they will probably move on as hard as it may seem at this point but move on in the relationship because they both need each other in Syria.

VAUSE: That is the official position. Unofficially though many Russian politicians and others in Russia seems to have a very different take on what happened.

DOUGHERTY: Well, that's true. And you could say that some in Turkey have kind of a different take on it too because after all, Turkey has been really the -- I guess you could call it the protector of Aleppo. They have been very, very critical about the Russian actions supporting the Syrian government in Aleppo.

And that could be -- you know, obviously that was a sensible motivation by the attacker, at least as far as we can tell from that video. So there may be the people of both countries that don't quite accept it but you'd have to say the governments want this relationship to be mended, want to be working together as much as they can. And so that's going to be the official line.

[00:25:07] That may be, John, why you are getting this reference to Fethullah Gulen who is in the United States, as we all know, self- exile. And that brings in potentially, the United States even though the U.S. really doesn't have anything to do with this. The fact that Gulen is in the United States could create a problem because the Turks could want him extradited.

VAUSE: Ok. Jill, stay with us.

Aaron -- obviously how this investigation plays out will determine how this relationship moves forward. But there's a lot of questions being asked. This is a huge security failure for Turkey. How did this Turkish police officer get so close to the Russian ambassador? Could they have prevented this? Could there have been screening? Should the Turkish officials know him like something like this could have been in the planning?

COHEN: Well, typically, consular or embassy security is attached to ambassadors and consuls all over the world. Most major countries -- or all major countries have some type of diplomatic security detail. Whether it's one guy, whether it's two agents -- they are given concealed weapons permits. They're typically highly-trained within their own governments. Most countries, the U.S. has a diplomatic security service. Israel has a DS service.

So what I don't quite understand is, where was the Russian diplomatic security detail? This was an ambassador who has been in the business since the 70s if I'm not mistaken and was considered a very key figure amongst Turkey/Russia relations. So I don't understand where his security detail was.

And then two, if there was a security detail, clearly they completely failed. For whatever reason this police officer, from what I could tell from the video was standing behind the ambassador and then was able to draw a weapon which means that there was no screening or cordoning prior to coming in to that art show.

A total failure on the security side -- where was the actual diplomatic security detail? And if they were there, heads need to roll because you only get remembered for your sole mistake in the security industry. So I get a sense that there wasn't actual security present based on the fact he is dead.

VAUSE: Right.

COHEN: So serious red flag.

VAUSE: And Jill back to you. Putin is sending his own investigators to Turkey to essentially try and find out what happened. Is that standard or is there more going on here?

DOUGHERTY: I would have to think there is more going on here. The Russians really do want to get to the bottom of this, how it happened. They do want to know and President Putin said this, he wants to know who ordered this. So I think there's a chapter two coming as this investigation continues. To find out whether they pin it on someone and whether they can say that it actually was ordered as opposed to one particular individual carrying out that attack.

VAUSE: Ok. Jill, thank you. Jill Dougherty there, our CNN contributor, former Moscow bureau chief; also Aaron Cohen here in Los Angeles giving us the security perspective on everything.

We will take a short break.

When we come back, Donald Trump is condemning the latest of what he is calling terror attacks, says the violence is only getting worse. We'll have more from the U.S. President-Elect in just a moment.



[00:32:00] JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. I'm John Vause live in Los Angeles. Here are the headlines.

Monday's attack on a Christmas market in Berlin is being investigated as an act of terrorism. 12 people were killed, 28 injured when a truck barrelled into the crowd. One suspect is in custody. Another man was found dead inside the truck. Police say he is a Polish citizen and was not driving during the attack.

Turkey and Russia are investigating the assassination of the Russian ambassador to Turkey. A police officer shot Andrey Karlov at an art gallery in Ankara. The 22-year-old gunman shouted do not forget Aleppo and Allahu Akbar or God is greatest.

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump is condemning the Ankara assassination. He says it's a violence of civilized order carried out by a radical Islamic terrorist. Trump also offered condolences to the victims of the Berlin truck attack and vow to eradicate terrorist.

Joining us here now in Los Angeles, CNN's senior political analyst Ron Brownstein.

Ron, good to have you with us.

Trump issued this statement after the Berlin attack. "Innocent civilians were murdered in the street as they prepare to celebrate the Christmas holiday. ISIS and other Islamist terrorists continually slaughter Christians in their communities and places of worship as part of their global jihad."

You know, he's already blaming Islamic terrorism. The German authorities haven't even gone that fast. It does seem that, you know, he did this in the campaign against moving ahead. He is jumping the gun.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, it has the hallmarks of what we have seen before and circumstantial evidence as Islamic terror. But, again, it is jumping the gun. And it is one thing to do that as a candidate, it is another as a president.

Every time you read one of these tweets, for example, over the weekend about China with unprecedented spell incorrectly, you have to wonder what is the process by which the president-elect and soon-to-be the president of United States is going through before he puts this out to the world? Does Michael Flynn reading it? Is Rex Tillerson reading it? Is General Mattis reading it? Or is it simply him kind of reacting instantly? And I think that's going to be very different as president even then it has been as candidate.

VAUSE: Everything that has happened in the last 24 hours from Turkey to Germany, it presents a picture of a very complicated, a very complex world. It would be a challenge for any incoming president more so it seems for one that doesn't have a lot of experience and also one who is pretty much at odds right now with his own intelligence community. There seems to be trouble ahead for Trump.


BROWNSTEIN: Well, a degree of conflict that we have not seen and in some of the leaks that have come out in the last few weeks are a reminder of how much discomfort the intelligence community can cause for a president.

If they are seen to be at war with him. Not only that, not only everything you described. A secretary of state, with the nominee with no real diplomatic experience although certainly deal making experience around the world. A national security adviser who has been at odds with most of the intelligence community. Really, only the defense secretary is kind of situated with broad respect across the national security community.

It's a very unpredictable position especially because Donald Trump has questioned so much of the post World War II U.S. role, is kind of the lynchpin of global stability moving more to the question of what's in it for us.

[00:35:03] VAUSE: OK. Let's move on to the Electoral College because it became official on Monday. Donald Trump is the president- elect. This insurgency -- this, you know, last ditch insurgency failed.

"The New York Times" reports that Trump's Electoral College vote ranks 46th out of 58 elections. His popular vote puts him 47th of the last 49 elections.

What are the implications of this?

BROWNSTEIN: First of all, only two presidents ever lost the popular vote by percentage-wise by more than he did. He lost in raw vote total by more than anybody did with three million votes.

Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by more than Jimmy Carter, John F. Kennedy and nearly as much as George W. Bush.

What it means is that Donald Trump is coming in with a less of a honeymoon and a more divided country than any president, incoming president really in the history of polling. I think he will almost certainly have the lowest approval rating of any newly-inaugurated president in Gallup polling going back to Dwight Eisenhower in 1953. It's not going to mean much right away in terms of influencing the agenda because Republicans have unified control and they are going to drive forward the built up agenda over the last several years, but he is starting on kind of a, you know, an island.

I mean, he doesn't have that big honeymoon and I think it's -- you're going to see a lot of pressure on Democrats as a result to be in a position of resistance right from the beginning.

VAUSE: We're also seeing his poll numbers, which aren't great, at 50 percent. You know, Barack Obama, similar part was at almost 70 percent.


VAUSE: This is a guy who loves his polls and they're kind of, it's almost political capital for a president, the opinion poll writings and he is not doing well.

BROWNSTEIN: No, no. Like I said, he will come with the lowest approval rating of any newly inaugurated president ever. But one thing we have seen from Republicans going back all the way to Bill Clinton's impeachment in 1998, if they have support within their coalition, they are comfortable going ahead even if they don't have majority support among the public overall.

And I'm not sure how much this is going to shape the choices they make in Congress with one exception, how far do they go toward rolling back some of the entitlement programs of the elderly that Paul Ryan and House Republicans have wanted to cut for years. Donald Trump promised not to. His new HHS secretary, he said that he is part of that camp that wants to cut them. Does Donald Trump go for it? I think that's a very big question.

VAUSE: Something to watch. Rob, good to have you with us. Thank you.

BROWNSTEIN: Thank you.

VAUSE: Again, a short break here. We'll come back. We'll have more on the breaking news in Ankara. The assassination of Russia's ambassador to Turkey. We'll look at the implications for relations between the two countries. You're watching CNN live all around the world.


[00:40:30] VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody. Just gone 40 minutes past 9:00 here in Los Angeles. Russian investigators will be in Ankara on Tuesday after the assassination of Russia's ambassador to turkey. The shooting was all caught on camera and the video is graphic. More details now from Barbara Starr.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The shocking assassination of the Russian ambassador to Turkey caught on video. Ambassador Andrey Karlov was shot dead while making a speech at an art exhibition in Turkey's capital Ankara.

The horrifying moment the ambassador is hit and falls to the ground after being shot in the back with multiple rounds. As onlookers scrambled for safety, the gunman shouted defiantly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: God is greatest. Do not forget Aleppo. Do not forget Syria. Get back. Get back. Only death will remove me from here. Everyone who has taken part in this oppression will one by one pay for it.

STARR: Turkish authorities said the attacker was, quote, "neutralized." Russian President Vladimir Putin tonight reacting to the assassination.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA: The only response we should offer to this murder is stepping up our fight against terror and the criminals will feel the heat.

STARR: Turkey's interior minister said the gunman was a law enforcement officer, a 22-year-old member of the riot police who was born in Turkey. The State Department condemned the attack.

JOHN KIRBY, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: We stand ready to offer any assistance that may be required to Russia and Turkey as they investigate this despicable attack. STARR: A journalist took these stunning photographs moments

after the carnage began. After the attack, as the ambassador was quickly taken to the hospital, Turkish security forces swarmed the area. It is not clear what impact the killing may have now on Turkey's sometimes fragile relations with Russia, which hit an all- time low after Turkish force shot down a Russian war plane near the Syrian border in November 2015.

Russia also is widely blamed by many in the region for its part in supporting Syria's Assad regime amid a humanitarian crisis taking place in war torn Aleppo.

Following the ambassador's assassination, Turkish President Erdogan and Russian President Putin spoke by phone according to a Russian news agency. The slain ambassador had served as Russia's ambassador to Turkey since 2013. He was married and had one son according to the Russian embassy.

(on-camera): The questions now for the Russians may be to what extent their presence in Turkey is also a target for terror attacks.

Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.



VAUSE: For more on the fallout of the assassination of the Russian ambassador, we are joined now by Bob Baer, CNN's intelligence and security analyst, former CIA operative.

Bob, good to have you with us. At the highest level, the presidents of Turkey and Russia they appear united in their response, but that is not a view, which is being shared by many Turks. In recent weeks, they have become increasingly angry at Russia for the role its military has played in the fall of Aleppo in neighboring Syria.

BOB BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE & SECURITY ANALYST: Well, John, I mean, Turkey is sitting on a volcano right now. It's about ready to go off and it's thanks to Aleppo. It's thanks to the war in Syria. A lot of Turkish citizens are really upset, they are really upset that Erdogan is not doing more. Not that he can do much.

I do know that the regime, I know people there, very, very worried about the fallout from Mosul, Aleppo, Idlib Province. That this mess in Syria is doomed to move up into Turkey and they don't know what to do about it. They have been begging the American administration to stop the slaughter in Aleppo. Nothing we can do about it. But, nonetheless, and the same goes for Mosul.

So whoever this guy was, the policeman that shot the Russian ambassador, whether he was motivated or in contact with the Islamic State doesn't really matter at this point. What does is the sympathies among Turkish citizens for what's happening in Syria.

VAUSE: And the gunman, he shouted Jihadist slogans. He said don't forget about Aleppo. Would you expect to see increased military operations in Syria as some kind of form of retaliation by Moscow?

[00:45:00] BAER: I think the Russians will retaliate. They would like to -- and I think they will retaliate around Aleppo or in Idlib and the rest of it. I don't think Putin can let this go. I think Putin is also worried about Turkey. Erdogan and Putin are getting along these days. The best they can.

I just -- I think the Russians, you know, getting involved in Syria to this degree have gotten up on the back of a tiger and we're going to see a lot more of this and we're going to see an escalation of Russian involvement.

VAUSE: But one thing that we're seeing in Turkey, it seems the president there is just not in control of domestic security, a situation which seemed to go from bad to worse after Erdogan locked up his own generals after that failed coup attempt back in July.

BAER: Well, it's more than that. Erdogan is personally, and I know this, worried about an assassination himself. His own security services whether the support of Gulen or the Islamic State. That coup in June came as a complete surprise to him. I mean, he got away just by chance. And he's worried about his military and police and with this assassination now, he should be.

VAUSE: Do you see this as a pretext in Turkey for another wide- spread range of arrests, you know, thousands of more people being locked up, anyone who could oppose Erdogan domestically ending up in jail?

BAER: I think Erdogan is like I said, truly frighten. Yes, he will retaliate. He will purge more police, but the more he purges, the more tenuous the situation gets. He will also continue to go up against the Kurds. More arrests there. Turkey is -- let's put it this way, is not particularly stable at this point.

VAUSE: OK, Bob, good to speak with you. Thanks so much.

BAER: Thank you.

VAUSE: A short break. When we come back, we'll have more at other top stories. We'll look at why German authorities have been worried about attacks on Christmas markets for months.


[00:51:00] VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody.

There is a grim scene in Berlin right now where a truck plowed into a Christmas market killing at least 12 people. 48 others were injured. Officials are investigating the crash as an act of terrorism.

One man has been arrested not far from the scene. Police say a Polish man found dead inside the truck was not the driver.

Bob Baer is with us. He is CNN's intelligence and security analyst. A former CIA operative. Bob, it seems authorities have been worried for months about attacks on these Christmas markets in Germany, that it could be a target. Some cities had increased security, but this one in Berlin had not.

BAER: Well, John, they don't. The Germans don't have a really good grip on the Jihadist presence in their own country. German police have been on full alert for attacks for the last couple months. I mean, they were expecting this. This didn't come as a surprise. But so many of these people in Europe, the Jihadists simply have gone off the air. And if they are talking at all, it's in chat rooms that the Germans don't get into.

There's a new apps that they can talk on, the Germans can't get into. These people are evolving very quickly. So the fact the Germans missed -- I don't know if it became as a surprise to the Germans.

I think what's particularly tragic about this is Germany is not involved in the wars in the Middle East in any degree, yet these people are looking at Germany as the enemy. And I'd also like to say that you look at Aleppo and the more that the war in Syria continues, the more likely there's going to be more attacks like this.

VAUSE: Well, as you say Germany is not directly involved in what's happening in Syria and, you know, in Iraq, why are they being targeted if we are assuming that this is a Jihadi operation and it certainly looks like it?

BAER: It's a war against the West. Islam, it's a clash of civilizations. They look at the Germans as being allied with the United States, being allied with Germany. And never mind that Merkel, the chancellor was letting refugees in. It has remained neutral for the rest of it.

But in Jihadist terms, it is apocalyptic struggle. Islam against the West. And so many of these people, you know, thrive off conspiracies and thrive off the fact that the west intends to, you know, crush Islam in their view and they hit back anywhere they can.

What it comes down to is, I just said over and over again, as long as the violence continues in the Middle East, the more likely it's to migrate up into Europe. And these people will be hitting Jihadists, will be hitting the Europeans for no other reason that they can't get to Moscow or Washington.

VAUSE: Well, with that in mind, there is this new ISIS magazine. It's called "Rumiyah," which means Rome. And after the Nice attack in France, that magazine put out this advice on how to choose a truck for an appropriate attack like this.

It read, "Pick a truck which is large in size, keeping in mind its controllability, reasonably fast in speed or ready for acceleration, heavy in weight ensuring the destruction of whatever it hits. And this is chilling, double wheeled, giving victims less of a chance to escape being crushed by the vehicle's tires."

Certainly, sounds exactly what happened in Berlin. Doesn't it? BAER: Exactly. I mean, I think this, of course, this is all the

hallmarks of terrorism. I think the German police suspect it is. And these trucks, this -- one looks like it was stolen.

You know, how do you -- you can't prevent against these and a truck like this full of steel run even through stanchions that can get through in a market like this is vulnerable, any place where people conglomerate in this. The Jihadist lets them -- they don't have to procure weapons. They don't have to communicate. They simply have instructions and hit symbolic targets like a Christmas market. It certainly fits the Islamic State's modus operandi.

[00:55:17] VAUSE: OK, Bob, thanks for being with us. As always, your insights, very much appreciate it.

BAER: Thank you.

VAUSE: The Christmas market is a beloved tradition in Germany. And now it seems an obvious target as well. The Weihnachtsmarkt is known traditionally, opens at the start of advent and attracts thousands of visitors until Christmas Eve. Some locations have acknowledged they are vulnerable to terrorism. They started setting up security cordons and charging an entry fee. But then you hit on Monday. It has taken pride in its openness.

The Breitscheidplatz is a major public square in Western Berlin. The site of all the cities busiest shopping areas and one of the best known Christmas markets. Hundreds of tourist and locals visit the square everyday. It's located near the famous Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church also known as the Church of Remembrance.

You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause. Please stay with us. A lot more on our breaking news right after this.