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Barcelona Police Say Driver Hits 2 Officers in Attack; 13 Dead And 50 Injured in Barcelona Terror Attack, 2 Arrested; ISIS Affiliated Groups Says Attackers Were Its Soldiers. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired August 17, 2017 - 15:30   ET


[15:30:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Two people have been arrested so far, but keep in mind as we've all been discussing here, there have been several terror attacks involving vehicles since last summer. Let me just run through some of the most deadly. This was back just over a year ago, bastille day, France, July, 2016, a man inspired by ISIS took a large truck, mowed down those crowds, families, children in nice. He killed 85 people, wounded more than 200 along the water there. In December, a Tunisian man who pledged allegiance to ISIS drove a stolen truck into a Berlin Christmas market. He killed 12 people and wounded dozens of others.

Just a couple months ago in March, a man drove an SUV into a crowd on London's Westminster Bridge and then stabbed a police officer, killing five people, leaving dozens more hurt. And then in April, an ISIS sympathizer drove a stolen beer truck into crowds in Stockholm, Sweden, killing five, and in June, three men drove into people on London bridge and then went on a stabbing spree, killing eight people. So, that is just in the last year here. Michael Holmes is with us. Our colleague in London. And here we have this list is growing, Michael. Now we have Barcelona.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN HOST: Yes, it is a European phenomenon, Brooke, as you say. It's not, you know, one country specifically. This is a continent-wide issue. Next week it could be a different European country. I can tell you a couple of things we've learned in just the last little while. That is that Catalan police say they have made two arrests in addition to the other person they had in custody earlier who apparently was related to the rental of the van who plowed down Las Ramblas and did so much carnage.

There have been two other arrests, we're told. We've yet to get specifics on who and specifically what for. Something else people are seeing on this screen, there has been a second incident. This one apparently, we don't know for sure whether it's related or not, but a vehicle has hit two police officers, apparently at a checkpoint. What the circumstances of that --

BALDWIN: Where? Also in Barcelona?

HOLMES: Yes. Just -- yes. We don't know specifically where but in Barcelona. So, whether that's related to this or not, we don't know. But another vehicle this time hitting two police officers at some sort of checkpoint. This is only just come out, Brooke, so a terrible day in Las Ramblas. I'm sure you've been there. I certainly have. It's an absolutely incredible street and an incredible city, and this time of year, as you know, you're in August, it was a beautiful day, absolutely packed with people. It was teeming with tourists and locals all along there. You've got those shops and bars and restaurants, and you know, stalls. You've got street performers.

I talked to an eye-witness a little while ago on CNN International who was telling me he saw this van just careening down the center of Las Ramblas and seeing bodies flying off the front of this vehicle and just a scene of utter carnage. I will say, and it's important, I think, to put this element in, that word from the Union of Islamic Communities of Catalonia expressing condemnation and repulsion for this attack and calling for justice to be served. So, the Islamic -- the Muslim community in the Catalonia region already reaching out and expressing their own revulsion at what happened there, Brooke.

BALDWIN: No, that's nice to hear but I bet we talked to the same eye- witness who told me he just saw this van, 50 miles an hour, zigzagging to, as he assumed, optimize his targets. Michael Holmes, thank you so much. I've got, you know, Karen and James and Paul here with me in New York and Paul, let me turn to you. The fact that there was this second, you know, attack, using another vehicle at a checkpoint involving two police officers in Barcelona. What's going on?

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: I can tell you there have been very, very fast-moving developments in terms of the investigation in the hours after this attack.

[15:35:00] We have to be quite careful in terms of the information we report as it comes in to us. These are very sensitive operations in the aftermath of these kind of attacks. But I understand a very fast- moving investigation, a very dramatic evening in Barcelona, and that's after the attack. We'll bring you as much information as we can as quickly as we have it confirmed, but they're treating this very, very seriously indeed. Unclear the number of attackers who were involved. We're hearing of two arrests. Could that mean there were two people involved or just one driver and one person who was an accomplice helping out in some kind of way? But that a lot of information is coming in and we're going to report it out just as quickly as we can.

BALDWIN: I know Michael just reported it, and again, it was -- if you're just joining us, it was this other checkpoint, and apparently this vehicle just plowed down these two police officers at a checkpoint also in Barcelona, you know, the question is, is this connected to the initial situation in Las Ramblas? We just don't know. But again, since you cover so much of this, and Karen, you too, when it comes to ISIS or ISIS-inspired plots, several years ago, there was this call to others to do these multi-prong, multi-phased attacks in which they're saying go grab a vehicle or a car, rent one, mow people down and shoot them or stab them. This is directly from ISIS.

KAREN GREENBERG, TERRORISM ANALYST: Correct. I mean, and the intensity of those messages have been particularly strong this summer. And particularly in the last couple of weeks there's been some new messages that have come out over the internet which is, you know, wherever you are, you know, get a vehicle, weaponize its, and use it in this way. And there's been a lot of talk among law enforcement, and Paul can talk about this in Europe all summer about the worry about ISIS-inspired or ISIS-directed attacks.

But there's another piece of this, which is that in the terrorist attacks from the pre-ISIS period, there was always a worry about a follow-on attack. What else is there, what other place is going to be simultaneous, like you saw in France with ISIS. And so, there's always a concern, is there going to be another attack? So, whether this one that you're looking at is part of the investigation, the getaway, the aftermath or if it's part of something else, we just don't know.

BALDWIN: That's the question as to whether or not it's connected. Evan Perez, our justice correspondent, let me bring you in again. We've been reporting on this initial Ramblas attack with the white van, 13 dead, 50 injured and now we have this driver running over two police officers at a security checkpoint. I imagine it's too early to know whether it was connected.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right, Brooke. I think all signs do indicate that it was at least somewhat related, according to the Catalan police on their Twitter page. They say this second incident happened about 7:30, about two and a half hours after the initial incident on the Ramblas. This happened in a town just outside of Barcelona, just west of Barcelona outside the major ring road, outside of Barcelona, so this was apparently a checkpoint that the police had established specifically because they were -- there was a concern about perhaps somebody getting away and the accomplices who may have been involved and so this is where this incident occurred.

The driver ran over two police officers who were trying to execute the stop, and as a result of that, it appears that that's where this incident occurred. Now, at this hour, according to the police there in Catalonia, they are bomb specialists are going through the vehicle of this driver to see whether or not they are any explosives. They have a bomb squad there at the scene going through it at this hour. Earlier, Brooke, we reported that U.S. official had told us that Spanish investigators were looking into the possibility that there was a getaway vehicle that was involved in this.

So, again, that tied into this -- appears to be or may be perhaps might be what that concern was, if there was a getaway vehicle, was that person getting away from the scene, and is that the incident now that the police are now reporting. Again, not a lot of clarity from the police, but they are reporting this incident. They've posted pictures from the scene, and they're also asking people there who have information to come forward with any additional information about any additional suspects.

[15:40:00] BALDWIN: Do we know how these two police officers -- are they alive?

PEREZ: We don't know. They don't say what the injuries that happened to the police officers, but they just said that the driver ran these two police officers over as they were trying to execute the stop.

BALDWIN: OK. Evan, thank you. Steve Moore, former FBI, he's been with us and Steve, we were talking before we had that information a while ago. You were saying that this would have the signs of multiple people being involved and, you know, according to our reporting, it sounds like you could be right.


BALDWIN: I know you have.

MOORE: This is -- this is frustrating and yes, it might not be related, but it probably is. I couldn't pick up the status of the driver of that van, but if the driver has not been arrested or detained --

BALDWIN: We don't know. We just know the individual who they believe rented the van is detained. We don't know if that same individual was the one behind the wheel.

MOORE: I'm thinking about the one in Catalonia, whether -- and so if they're not detained, and they would have said it if he was, then that was either an attack or an attempt at an escape, which really ramps this up, because think about this, Brooke. You've got these people now who have nothing to lose, because they know what is waiting for them, and they probably have other plans, other locations. They might even have other vehicles stashed, so this is crucial because we don't know where they're going next and as we've seen already, they're willing to kill or at least attempt to kill to get away.

BALDWIN: So, what are investigators doing, if we know that this happened west of Barcelona? What is Spain doing right now?

MOORE: Spain is doing things like closing borders. They are setting up checkpoints at trains, bus stations, airports. The fact that they even -- I mean, think about this. Their first ring checkpoint basically caught them. But they were not prepared for somebody trying to kill them at that point. I think Spain has to realize that they are in a battle right now. The overall terrorism war is going on, but this is a current battle, and they have to set up blocks to keep people out -- from getting out of the country or out of Barcelona itself, because all that's going to be, you know, we always used to say, if somebody's fleeing, half the time they're just looking for cover so they can return fire. These people aren't fleeing to get away. They're fleeing so that they can do something else.

BALDWIN: And it's where are they fleeing to. Perhaps they have a plan. Perhaps they don't. But if you're investigators right now, and at least you have one guy in custody, what are the kind of questions, Steve, that they're asking to figure out, I don't know, who these individuals are, who were mowed down these police officers to get away, and if there's even a broader network here. Broader planning.

MOORE: I'm going to go out on a limb and say, yes, there is a broader network. Right now, I'm counting probably four people who were involved, de facto. I think you probably have another half dozen, at least. So, what you're going to find, likely, is that the person who is in custody is not going to be very forthcoming. At least about future attacks or what they've done. They'll take credit for it, but they're certainly not going to spoil future attacks. So, you're not really going to -- certainly, you're going to work on them.

But at the same time, you're going to get on their social media, and you're going to find out -- find all their friends on Facebook, hypothetically, if they're on Facebook. You're going find all their friends on social media. You're going to find every single email they've sent in the past few weeks, and then you are going to find those people, and friends of those people, and there are going to be people who are not involved in this who are friend of this person, you know, he's not going to tell everybody what he's doing, and they will be able to direct you to other people. And very quickly, relatively, it's never fast enough, but you are going to find a group of people who you think and who might be involved, and you are going to round those people up and start talking to them.

BALDWIN: Steve Moore, you have done this for years and we can tell. Excellent, excellent voice in this coverage. Thank you so much. We do have some new numbers. Let me just pass this along to everyone from police. The latest numbers now, 12 dead and now 80 injured.

[15:45:00] Fawaz Gerges, the author of "ISIS, a History" is with us. It has been a while since you and I have spoken here, but now that you have been learning about what's happened, this initial attack in Las Ramblas, this second attack, possibly related, we don't know definitively, you know, at this police checkpoint. Your initial reaction.

FAWAZ GERGES, AUTHOR, 'ISIS, A HISTORY": Well, the first point, really, for your own viewers is that we don't have all the pieces. We don't have all the information. There are many gaps. We have to be very cautious about when we speculate about both the identity of the perpetrators and the number of the perpetrators. The story is still really evolving. Point one. Point two, Brooke, what's really amazes me about Spain and Barcelona, in the past four years, since the spectacular rise of ISIS, Spain and Barcelona have not been prioritized by either ISIS, rather Britain and France and the United States. If you -- I mean, I have read almost everything that ISIS and al Qaeda have put out in the past few years.

There's hardly anything on Spain. There is hardly anything on Barcelona. The only thing about Spain, Spain is more of a transit point for militants and radicals to France and Germany and Belgium and other places. But what we're talking about here, even though it's this particular early stage, this is a transnational phenomenon. This is not about just Europe. This is really about transnational phenomenon that involve lone wolves. It involves small cells and of course it involves operations directed by ISIS and al Qaeda. The fact is, this could be either a ISIS-directed or al Qaeda directed operation or troubled souls. It tells me given the fact that Spain has not really been prioritized by ISIS or al Qaeda, this could be a small local cell that subscribes to the ideology of ISIS or al Qaeda.

BALDWIN: If we know that this sort of vehicular murder is the M.O. of these, you know, terror groups, what needs to be done in these major pedestrian thoroughfares in places like Las Ramblas. Fawaz, thank you so much. I just want to get now, we do have this eye- witness on the phone from Barcelona who witnessed the attack there from Barcelona. Can you hear me? You're live on CNN.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I can hear you. Hello.

BALDWIN: Are you safe? How are you doing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm doing well, considering the circumstances. I'm definitely safe. I was super lucky, and I was barely three to four meters from the actual impact from the van that crashed into the people. But I managed to get away from there, and I managed to get home to my apartment.

BALDWIN: Tell me where you were and what you saw.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was on my way home from work. Walking just a normal route that I take every day, back and forth to the office. I was just about to go on to the Las Ramblas, which obviously is one of the most popular tourist streets in Barcelona. And I came to a crosswalk and the light turned red just as I was about to cross, and so I stopped, and all of a sudden, a white van started speeding out of nowhere and took a drastic right turn, right on to the walking part of the Las Ramblas street and right on to the people that were standing on the opposite side of the crosswalk therapy a that I were at and he just continued to plow them down.

BALDWIN: I want to hear more from you but we're about to get some news dropped on us. Paul Cruickshank, you got a big piece of year.

CRUICKSHANK: The news agency which is semi-affiliated with ISIS has just put out a claim saying that soldiers of the Islamic State carried out the Barcelona attack. In making this claim, they offer absolutely no evidence whatsoever to prove that they were behind this in any way. It may well be an opportunistic claim, given the media attention this afternoon. But there is now this claim from this ISIS affiliated media agency, often in these cases, statements come first to them and then ISIS more officially makes further claims. But a significant development now that ISIS is claiming ownership of this terrorist attack without any evidence at this point.

[15:50:02] BALDWIN: Fawaz Gerges, your thoughts on that? What Paul just reported.

GERGES: As we all know, since 2014, ISIS has claimed responsibility for every single operation in the world, every single operation. Whether you're talking about France or Belgium or berlin or Britain or Sweden, anywhere. Regardless of whether there's evidence or not. I am not surprised that is the pattern of ISIS. The second point, it could be. It could be is-inspired and directed operation. But the reality is now, ISIS is under terrified pressure in Iraq and Syria. ISIS losing big. ISIS really bleeding and I would not be surprised, whether it's directed by ISIS or inspired ideologically by ISIS --

BALDWIN: Forgive me. Let's go to the vice president.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Scenes of carnage and mayhem sicken us all and as the president said earlier today, the United States condemns this terror attack and we will do whatever is necessary to help. Whatever inspired today 's terror attack, the United States stands ready to assist the people of Spain and find and punish those responsible. On this dark day, our prayers and the prayers of all the American people are with the victims, their families, and the good people and the good people of Spain. Thank you.


BALDWIN: Preplanned event. Obviously, we wanted to top it with the news out of Barcelona and, you know, reiterating what we heard from the president in that initial tweet just saying, you know, condemning the terror attack and saying they will do whatever we, the United States, can do to help. Let me go back to you. Do we still have him, I believe you're in London is my guess. Where were we in the conversation? You were making a point about is claiming responsibility.

GERGES: The fact is that ISIS is losing now in both Iraq and Syria, ISIS is leading. The reality is I would not be surprised if ISIS has directed this particular operation. This particular operation is big. It is a big terrorist operation. It gives ISIS traction both for recruitment purposes, for its base and also the fact is that is, what ISIS or al Qaeda is trying to say they have capacity. We have to wait and see the evidence first both about the identity of the purpose traitors and also the in your opinion of the perpetrators, but in the short term and midterm, I would not be surprised if ISIS does not really carry out more attacks along similar lines. Final point, Brooke, we need to remember that vehicles now are the preferred weapon of extremist groups. Whether you're talking about is or al Qaeda or western alt-right, the groups, they're simple, they're easy, they're terrorizing instruments of terrorist organizations worldwide.

BALDWIN: They are hell bent on carrying these attacks out even, you know, hitting police officers at a check point, doing their jobs, stop them outside of the city of Barcelona. Thank you. Art, you've been listening to the reporting, this claim of responsibility. I mean, you tell me just from an investigative perspective, we've been talking terror, but from an investigative perspective, if you know that these terrorists are hell bent on attacking and, you know, take no prisoner, you know, mow down law enforcement on the way out of town, what are investigators dealing with?

ART RODERICK, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: I'll tell you, Brooke, we initially looked at this, it is unsophisticated as this seemed in the beginning, when we start talking about there is possibly two or three arrests that have been made. Then we have this incident at the check point which is not confirmed yet. Whether it's connected, but if it is, then we're talking about a good-sized cell that had planned this particular incident. And, you know, arrests are going to be made here over the next couple days.

Once they start getting into who are these people? Where'd they come from? Social media issues. I mean, this investigation is broadened very, very quickly, and I will say that, you know, U.S. law enforcement does -- do have offices over in the embassy over in Spain. And I'm sure they're monitoring this very closely to see what other connectivity they have. Not only to Spain, but in the surrounding areas of Europe, possibly here in the U.S. so, this thing is expanding very quickly.

[15:55:01] Hopefully we'll get a bunch of information that comes out from the press conference is supposed to be coming out fairly shortly.

BALDWIN: Right, we've been waiting for a while. We to want all the t's crossed and the i's dotted before they brief the public and really the world. Thank you. James and Paula and Karen sitting over here, thoughts on all of this.

CRUICKSHANK, Well, ISIS is making this claim that their soldiers so to speak carried this out. They put nothing out there to confirm this in any way. Certainly, it would bring this to a whole different level if these were literally soldiers of the Islamic State, people they dispatched back to Europe to carry out attacks. They used exactly the same language for people they inspired and had no connection with whatsoever. In past claims, so that all remains to be seen, they're not putting out any sort of identifying things about the attackers, they're jihadi names but they are saying multiple attackers, more than one, that fits with what we are hearing about multiple arrests two people arrested in connection with this attack.

And whenever you've got more than one person, that is a terrorist cell involved, a terrorist conspiracy involved, and they'll be looking now, Spanish police, to see whether there are other people still out there connected to these individuals who might strike, might have been part of this in some ways might have helped who may have their own plans, their own orders to move forward with terrorist attack. They'll be going through all of those kinds of connections, all the of the CCTV, the people they have in custody. If they're in a fit condition, they will be questioning them urgently to try to find as much as they can about the threat that's out there.

BALDWIN: Where do we go from here? We've had so many people talk about how could this have happened in this massive pedestrian area, you know, tourist central, a vehicle could have accessed?

JAMES GAGLIANO, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: The lessons learned will be something law enforcement will be studying worldwide. And a piece of that is this, it doesn't require sophistication anymore. You don't have to get arms and weapons in. You don't have to have a bomb builder or a chemist or figuring out how to make an explosive device. You can take a vehicle, small vehicle weighs about 2,000 pounds, a ton, this one clearly was about 4,000, 6,000 pounds, and you find an open thoroughfare and drive as fast as you can to kill as many people as possible. Where this is going, remember after 9/11, we started -- we stood up TSA and we started screening at airports much more closer and much more scrutiny. This is going to go to the point where I believe concrete bollards, which are surrounding the federal buildings and --

BALDWIN: All over D.C. GAGLIANO: Yes, and all over New York in certain places as well.

You're going to start seeing these things put up around pedestrian thoroughfares. You're going to see a separation between vehicular traffic and pedestrian traffic. That's where we're moving.

BALDWIN: You're nodding. You agree?

GREENBERG: I think that's true. I think there's something interesting about this attack in terms of taking the ISIS plan, if that's what it turns out to be a little further, which is a number of these van attacks have resulted in death of the drivers. Right? And so, they've been almost like suicide by cop in a very certain way. This one, no. This one they got away. Now, we know from the other attacks they're going to pretend these guys, they're going to find them, whilst in Spain or wherever they get to. The intelligence effort will go find them, but this combination, the original prototype for these attacks is rally where you see van attacks or vehicle attacks and then almost like waiting for the cops to shoot them. And so, this separation of the suicide attack and the end attack is I think an interesting step. And it will complicate how we think about responding to these attacks going forward.

BALDWIN: Let me cut you off. I'm getting news. Let's go live to Senator Ted Cruz talking about the president.


SEN. TED CRUZ, (R), TEXAS: When it comes to the Klan, when it comes to the Nazis and white supremacists, they are unambiguously evil. That racists -- they're bigots. And as we saw tragically in Charlottesville, far too often, Nazis and Klansmen have resorted to violence and murder. The first amendment protects free speech, even hateful speech, but it only protects our rights to speak peaceably. Not to carry out acts of violence, not to carry out murder. And when you do see hateful, racist, bigoted speech, personified by Nazis and Klansmen.

[16:00:03] I believe all of us have a moral obligation to call it out unequivocally.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Senator Cruz, what was your reaction when you heard what the president said?

CRUZ: You know, there are plenty of folks providing day-to-day running commentary on the president's various comments, on the president's various tweets, and I feel confident that our good friends in the media will continue to provide that commentary. I'm going to leave that to others. But I am going to focus on addressing the issues of the day. And in the hours that followed, particularly the horrific scene that all of us have seen of that young man driving the car into the crowd and murdering a young woman, injuring a number of others, that was an act of domestic terrorism. And --


BALDWIN: OK. So, Senator Cruz there, didn't call the president out by name. Somebody who did, Gloria, somebody who did, Senator Tim Scott, the only African-American Republican in the U.S. senate, telling -- saying that Trump's moral authority is compromised. So, add Senator Scott to the growing list of Republicans who are calling out the president.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. And we know that it was slow to start, but you had Senator Corker today, questioning the president's stability and confidence. And then you have Senator Tim Scott, a friend of the president saying I'm not going to defend the indefensible. And he said that the -- while the comments on Monday were strong, he said that Tuesday, started erasing those comments and that what we want to see is clarity and moral authority. You know, you were hearing this over and over again, and he said, and that moral authority is compromised when Tuesday happened.

BALDWIN: Gloria, thank you so much. There has been so much just today alone in some of these Republicans calling out the president. The president's tweets that has been debunked on General Pershing and that terrorist attack in Paris. Twelve dead, more than 80 hurt. I'm going to hand it over to Jake Tapper in Washington, I'm Brooke Baldwin. Special coverage continues with Jake right now.