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Australian Police Foil Plot to Bring Down Airplane; Venezuelans Caught in Chaos Ahead of Controversial Vote; Kremlin Orders Deep Cuts to U.S. Diplomatic Staff; Aired 2-2:30a ET

Aired July 30, 2017 - 02:00   ET


[02:00:07] NATALIE ALLEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Terror averted. We're learning about a plot to bring down the plane in Australia. We'll have the latest from Sydney coming up.

Also determined and defiant. With polls set to open in Venezuela, demonstrators continue to protest an election that could give the president dictatorial powers.

And a show of force in response to North Korea's latest missile test.

It's all ahead here on CNN NEWSROOM. Thank you for joining us. I'm Natalie Allen in Atlanta, and we begin right now.

We begin in Australia where authorities say they have foiled a terror plot to bring down an airplane. Four men are now in custody after police carried out raids in suburban Sydney. Authorities say the plot is Islamist inspired, but they are not saying if a specific terrorist group is involved.

The raids began after police say they became aware that some people were planning to carry out a terror attack using an improvised device. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says the investigation is ongoing.


MALCOLM TURNBULL, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: There has been a major joint counterterrorism operation to disrupt a terrorist plot to bring down an airplane. The operation is continuing. At this stage, four people have been arrested and a considerable amount of material has been seized by police.


ALLEN: I spoke a short time ago with Robert Ovadia in Sydney. He's a senior correspondent with Australia's Seven Network and I asked him what police are learning about this plot. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERT OVADIA, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT, SEVEN NETWORK: Well, I have to tell you, details are extraordinarily scant, more scant than they ordinarily would be, and I think that's because the four men you just referred to had been arrested. They are being questioned right now and there isn't necessarily at this stage enough evidence to charge those men.

But in this counterterrorism climate the goalposts have shifted ideas from police working up an entire break being satisfied before arresting somebody and reporting something before a court. What we say these days is the need to disrupt and to prevent a potential attack. So police do have a significant amount of evidence from what I understand that an improvised explosive device had been prepared in the words of one source who had spoken to us it was ready to go.

And the suggestion is that that was going to be somehow smuggled onto an aircraft, most likely through a carry-on luggage and then used to blow up a plane possibly a long-haul international flight.

I don't know that police have very, very specific details at this moment but they are very, very strong on the suggestion that this plot was about to be carried that it was imminent, which is specifically why they had acted so quickly today.

ALLEN: Well, excellent intelligence and police work for foiling this plot.

In the past, Robert, Australia has seen terror attacks or plots by individuals. What does it say now that there are four people under arrest.

OVADIA: Well, not only four people but I think you'll find the ages considerably older than at least we have experienced here in Australia, as is the case right across the world there is some young people, many of them teenagers, many young men in his early 20s who are inspired by Islamic State-style attacks.

We've seen awful atrocities across Europe and here in Australia as well, where attacks are somewhat spontaneous. Very, very difficult to predict and you have to rely on your law enforcement to be right, of course. Knives are used, cars are used to run people over. This is a bit of a return to the old school, if you will, for want of a better term, of terrorism, to a conspiracy, I guess, of the number of people where an improvised explosive device has to be created.

Ingredients have to be sourced. There has to be communication between these men to make this happen. It's probably a riskier proposition, I dare say, for would-be terrorists, given the fact that law enforcement does have its hooks into a lot of those tops with nefarious characters in the community but that seems to have been the case this time and that was potentially, and I say potentially days away from succeeding.


ALLEN: Next hour, I'll talk with a terror analyst there in Australia about this story.

Well, Venezuela is hours away from a vote that could further undermine the country's democracy. Voters will choose members of a new assembly that could rewrite the Constitution. The opposition says the assembly will get President Nicolas Maduro unlimited powers and essentially turn him into a dictator.

There have been violent clashes leading up to the vote. Opposition leaders are calling for more protests despite a ban on demonstrations. The United States is threatening to take strong economic actions if the vote carries forward. Meantime, millions of Venezuelans are caught between violent and brutal economic crisis.

[02:05:04] CNN's Paula Newton reports from Caracas on how people are trying to survive there.


PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is a snapshot of everyday life here now. Defiant protesters hurl homemade Molotov cocktails at authorities in the middle of the street. But now look beyond the chaos and look there. Right there. And you see how Venezuelans are caught in the crossfire.

This auto repair shop has seen it all, vandalized, robbed. a grenade fell on a car. Joel Escalante (ph), the security guard, says protesters beat him and cut his head open, believing he was spying for the government.

"All I want to do is work and they hurt me," he said. "If I don't work, what do I bring home?"

The employees here are less than 50 feet away from scenes like this. Through all the street combat, they try to carry on with their work. It's a portrait that details survival and resilience.

(On camera): One of the things that is so disarming when you're covering these street protests here in Caracas is that you have all of these confrontations on the street and yet people are getting on with their everyday lives. That includes going to church. And you can see there are those people who are just leaving a church service.

(Voice-over): The endless confrontations can pop up anywhere and they're just another thing to contend with. But this woman tells us not to mistake Venezuelans' survival instinct for resignation.

YADEIA JASPE, CARACAS RESIDENT: I continue here in Venezuela because I love the country. It's, for me, the best country here, humanity.

NEWTON (voice-over): Humanity, she says. Even on the front lines, there's still plenty of it to be found here.

Paula Newton, CNN, Caracas.

(END VIDEOTAPE) ALLEN: The United States is answering North Korea's latest missile test with its own show of force. It says on Saturday two of its B-1 bombers joined aircraft from Japan and South Korea in a flyover of the Korean Peninsula. The Pentagon has confirmed Friday's launch by the Kim regime with an intercontinental ballistic missile.

North Korea said it should be seen as a grave warning to the U.S., and experts say a similar missile could strike major US cities. The Japanese Prime Minister had this to say about the recent launch.


SHINZO ABE, JAPANESE PRIME MINISTER: Following ICBM missile launch the other day, this launch clearly shows that the threat to our security is real and severe.

We believe there will be further provocations and under the strong U.S.-Japanese alliance we will maintain a high level of alertness to maintain the safety of the people.


ALLEN: A raging fire at a Spanish concert led to a mass evacuation Saturday. This was the scene in Barcelona at the "Unite with Tomorrowland" music festival. The stage caught fire. More than 22,000 people were forced to get out quickly. Thankfully no one was hurt. Authorities report the flames were put out, but the entire structure is at risk of collapse. Organizers say a technical malfunction caused this.

Two people have been killed in a stampede outside South Africa's largest stadium. It happened during a football match in Johannesburg and official says people who didn't have tickets tried to enter the F&B stadium leading to the stampede. The match was not stopped.

Some new tensions in the Persian Gulf between the U.S. and Iran. Iran's Revolutionary Guard says a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier fired warning flares at Iranian vessels on Friday, then the carrier and the second U.S. ship deployed a helicopter near oil and gas platform which approached the Iranian vessels. The Iranian Navy says their vessels ignored the players and the American ships later left the area.

U.S. President Donald Trump was busy on Twitter Saturday venting about losing that crucial Senate vote last week to roll back Obama. Stung over being denied a much needed win he wrote, "Unless the Republican senators are total quitters, repeal and replace is not dead. Demand another vote before voting on any other bill."

And earlier he demanded Republicans change Senate rules to move legislation through. "Republicans Senate must get rid of 60 votes now. It is killing the Republican Party, allows eight Democrats to control country. 200 bills sit in the Senate. A joke."

Well, meanwhile, moving John Kelly from Homeland Security to become White House chief of staff may have created an opening to solve another of the president's headache. What to do about embattled U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions?

But at least one prominent Senate Republican is frowning on the possibility of having Sessions replace Kelly at Homeland Security.

[02:10:08] In a pair of tweets, Senator Lindsey Graham mused, "Attorney General Jeff Sessions has a good ring to it." And then he added, "Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeff Sessions doesn't sound right, doesn't feel right."

In Moscow, the Kremlin has made good on its threat to retaliate over new U.S. sanctions. Those sanctions aim to punish Russia for meddling in last year's U.S. presidential election.

CNN's Matthew Chance has the details on the Kremlin's latest move.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, my diplomatic source tells me that U.S. officials are still seeking clarification from the Russian side as to who exactly will be affected by this latest Russian retaliation.

Earlier the Russian Foreign Ministry demanded that the staff at U.S. diplomatic missions in Russia be slashed to 455 people. The same number as the number of Russians, according to the Foreign Ministry, who work in Russian diplomatic missions in United States.

State media here in Russia say that could mean as many as 745 people will have to be cut from the U.S. embassy in Moscow and three other U.S. consulates across Russia.

Again it's unclear how many U.S. citizens will actually be affected or expelled. The embassies and the consulates employ a mixture of U.S. and Russian nationals to run their operations, but by any measure this is a significant act of retaliation by the Russians which underlines just how angry and disappointed they are that this U.S. sanctions bill is set to be signed into law.

Matthew Chance, CNN, Moscow.


ALLEN: The brother of Pakistan's ousted leader is being lined up to take over as prime minister. Nawaz Sharif has nominated Shabazz Sharif, who most recently served as Pakistan's petroleum minister. The country was thrown into political uncertainty on Friday. The prime minister resigned after the Supreme Court disqualified him over corruption allegations.

Finally, we go up and away on a high flying adventure over Italy's wine country. On Saturday balloonists from around the world took flight in one of the biggest international hot air balloon challenges. Even if you ask them they'll say there is just no better view.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ballooning, I must say, ballooning is something really, really special, and it's a lovely way of seeing the world. And when you're looking it felt like in an airplane or a helicopter. You can look 360 degrees. And you know you want to go, and something really special.


ALLEN: Sunday when the prestigious Silver Cup will be awarded to the winning team.

And that is CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Natalie Allen. I'll have another NEWSROOM for you in 45 minutes. Stay with us now for "MARKETPLACE AFRICA."