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Massive Manhunt Underway After London Attack Injures 29; Source: Device Crude and Poorly Designed; U.K. Responds to Fifth Terror Attack This Year; Londoners Open Hearts, Fill Kettles. Aired 5-5:30p ET
Aired September 15, 2017 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[17:00:03] NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, terrorists strike London again, this time leaving 29 people injured following an explosion on an
underground train. We get the latest on the investigation and analysis from the renowned terror expert, Peter Neumann.
Also ahead, after five terror attacks in less than a year, how can Britain deal with what's beginning to feel like a new normal. I ask a former
member of the U.K.'s Intelligence and Security Committee, Fiona Mactaggart.
ELBAGIR: Good evening, everyone. I'm Nima Elbagir, in for Christiane Amanpour.
Behind me, on the streets of London, a massive police investigation and manhunt are underway after a device exploded on a packed community train
during morning rush hour. It happened at Parsons Green Station, just a short distance away from me here.
The blast sent passengers running from the train. No one was killed, but 29 people were rushed to hospitals with injuries. One passenger filmed
this video of the device, which had a timer on it.
A security source is telling CNN it's a sign that the intent was to cause even greater damage. Police say they're treating the incident as
terrorism. It's the fifth such terror incident in England this year, a reminder for many of the dark days of the IRA bombing campaigns in the
Prime Minister Theresa May chaired a security meeting known as COBRA and issued this message to the nation soon after.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
THERESA MAY, PRIME MINISTER OF THE UNITED KINGDOM: I would urge any members of public who have any information or footage about what happened
this morning to pass it to the police urgently.
The threat level remains at severe. That means that a terrorist attack is highly likely, but this will be kept under review as the investigation
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ELBAGIR: Well, you can still hear the sirens going off around us. The blast itself happened at a busy tube station during the heart of rush hour.
Panic and chaos ensued as terrified commuters ran for safety. A witness says several of the injured suffered bruises as the crowd fled.
Nina dos Santos has more reaction to this latest incident of terror in London.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Guys, can we ask that everybody move back.
NINA DOS SANTOS, CNNMONEY EUROPE EDITOR: Terror on London's tube, commuters caught up in chaos as an improvised explosive device detonates at
the height of the Friday rush hour.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why is that bag on fire?
DOS SANTOS: Leaving more than 20 injured and an entire city reeling. Ambulances rushed to the scene, treating many for burns and the effects of
trampling. Some of the victims included children.
SALLY FOLDING, WITNESS: It was bedlam and pandemonium on the train platform. People were falling down. People were clearly injured. People
were screaming. People were crying.
Then I found my colleague here from my school. She was further down the carriage. She actually saw the surge of fire like water.
ALEX WELDON, WITNESS: There are people that are obviously being treated for burns either to their face or to limbs. They've been wrapped in cling
film, and you can see that their skin's red.
DOS SANTOS: The device, stored in a bucket in a plastic bag and fitted with a timer was intended to cause greater damage. This is the fifth
attack on British soil so far this year, with four of those events taking place inside the capital.
But what's different about the events in Westminster and London Bridge from what happened in Parsons Green in that this wasn't an attack on tourists
and Saturday night revelers. Instead, it was commuters and people taking their children to school who were caught up. And that's left the community
in this affluent West London suburb shell-shocked.
For local resident, Katy Llewelyn-Jones, this is the second time she has seen terror up close after finding herself in London Bridge on the night of
that attack in June.
KATY LLEWELYN-JONES, WITNESS: It is frightening that they've been able to attack so many times. And you get a sense of it not stopping so that is
quite is really concerning.
DOS SANTOS: The scenes at Parsons Green a reminder of the vulnerability of London's transport network, one of the busiest in the world and vital to
residential neighborhoods like these. It was last hit 12 years ago when 52 people lost their lives in four suicide bombings.
A manhunt is underway to find the individual behind this attack. And once more, security will be stepped up.
Nina dos Santos, CNN, in Parsons Green, London.
ELBAGIR: Peter Neumann heads the International Center for the Study of Radicalization at King's College. He says this attack has all the
hallmarks of an amateur attack gone wrong.
[17:05:06] Peter joins us now.
Peter, thank you so much for joining us on the program.
PETER NEUMANN, DIRECTOR, INTERNATIONAL CENTER FOR THE STUDY OF RADICALIZATION: Thank you.
ELBAGIR: So talk us through this. What leads you to believe this is an amateur attack, and is that good news or bad news for Londoners?
NEUMANN: Well, it was a very primitive device, first of all, and it probably didn't go off in the right place. And even though it was viable -
- it was a functioning explosive device, we've heard that from the Security Services -- it didn't explode properly.
I suspect that if you wanted to carry out a terrorist attack in London, you wouldn't necessarily want to do it in Parsons Green. I don't think that
was necessarily the final destination for that explosive device.
And I also -- I also think they would have preferred to explode it underground because that would have increased the impact of the device.
So looking at the device, as well, I think that it is pretty primitive. It looks like something that was constructed based on an online description,
and it was probably put together by people who haven't done it many times before.
So all of that, taken together, leads me to conclude that this was probably not the work of highly trained experts who were going abroad or were being
sent back from Syria.
ELBAGIR: And that tallies with what we were hearing from British security sources, that a timer was found on the device. So as you said, clearly,
they would have preferred to have this detonate at a -- in a location where it would have caused much greater damage.
But as you also rightly said, this looks like it could be the kind of work that could have just been copied off the Internet. But that comes back to
the heart of a concern the Security Services have had some time for, this influence and impact that terrorists and jihadists can have from locations
all over the world, making it so difficult to keep an eye on these networks.
NEUMANN: Yes, that is the biggest challenge. It's the sheer number of people. The Security Services in Britain believe that there 3,000 people
that they consider to have terrorist sympathies in Britain alone. And it takes about 20 officers to monitor someone 24 hours a day. So you can do
the math, and you can easily see it is not possible to monitor everyone all the time.
The threat has really shifted. The head of the Metropolitan Police said it this summer. She said this is not just a spike. This is a shift.
We're seeing a dramatically different situation. We've had six attacks this year, of which, of course, a number of them were prevented. But of
course, this will not always be possible. And this kind of small incident, comparatively small incident, is continuing, is likely to happen in the
ELBAGIR: Well, the IRA famously said that the authorities have to be lucky every single time and they only have to be lucky once. Why do you think,
though, London is such a particular target for jihadists? What is the attraction?
They've been able to detonate devices across European capitals, but there seems to be so much effort and concentration put into striking in London.
Even if it's ultimately not that big an attack like the one we saw today.
NEUMANN: So I don't have a perfect answer to that question. If you had asked me the same question a year ago, you would have asked me, why is it
Now, we've had a number of attacks in London, and it's always about London. I do think that London remains a very important city. It's a symbolic
city. It's a city where you can also have a lot of media impact with these attacks, and at the same time, of course, Britain is a country where a
significant number of people have been radicalized and are interested in doing precisely this.
So these two factors coming together, London being a symbolic city and having a lot of people who are interested in doing this, this probably
explains, to some extent, why we are seeing this higher frequency.
But as you rightly say, there is a higher frequency everywhere in Europe. And I think this has to do -- if it turns out to be jihadist, this has to
do with the fact that jihadist organizations like Islamic State are telling their supporters to stay home and to turn against their own home countries.
Now, I think that explains the increased frequency to some extent.
ELBAGIR: And just quickly, Peter, this is a fascinating conversation but we are running a little bit out of time. What do you think the propaganda
gain will be from this attack today?
NEUMANN: It's very unclear. I have been asking my colleagues to look at the channels on the Internet where jihadist supporters are discussing. And
they aren't quite sure what to make of this. There is remarkably little discussion because quite a few of them would consider this to be a failure.
[17:10:02] Yes, of course, it was an attack. It showed that there are people out there in the west who are willing to act. But at the same time,
no one was killed, and the explosive device didn't go off. In fact, it made them look a little bit amateurish. And of course, that's not the kind
of impression that they want to give.
So the jury is still out there as to whether jihadist supporters come down on this. And, of course, we haven't had any message, any official message,
from Islamic State or any other group yet.
ELBAGIR: And they are usually very, very quick claim success.
Peter Neumann, thank you so much for joining us on the program.
NEUMANN: Thank you.
ELBAGIR: CNN's Erin McLaughlin has the latest on the major manhunt underway now.
Erin, we didn't expect to be talking about news of an IED attack here in Europe. Is unusual and do we have anything sense yet who is behind this?
ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Although authorities have an idea about who was behind this attack, Nima, they're certainly not saying at
this stage of the investigation. But you're right, this is pretty unusual when you consider the recent attacks that we've seen across Europe.
We've seen knife attacks. We've seen vehicle attacks, suicide bomb attacks, but we have yet to see of late this kind of IED attack. And the
device really is at the center of this investigation.
We've seen that footage. The still image taken by a passenger on that train of the
Device inside of a bucket, inside of a supermarket bags.
We understand, from a British security source, that a timer was found on that device, which is raising eyebrows because it suggests whoever created
it, whoever planted it, was not on board the train at the time of this explosion. Which is perhaps why we're hearing from the London Mayor that
there is a manhunt underway in the capital tonight, Nima.
ELBAGIR: The British Prime Minister, Theresa May, have said that they will not be raising the threat level despite the fact that the suspected bomber
is presumably still at large. Why do you believe that hasn't been raised, Erin?
MCLAUGHLIN: Well, it's not clear why they haven't raised it, especially if a suspected bomb maker, a suspected IED maker, is on the loose tonight. It
suggests that perhaps this individual could be planning more attacks.
So that is an open question, Nima. We are not sure why they haven't raised the threat level. That threat level would be raised if they felt that
another attack was imminent. That hasn't been done so far.
Meanwhile, here outside the tube station, they have maintained a security cordon, although they have been moving it towards the tube station, inch by
inch really, so that people can go home. It is evening here. Many people are prevented from the surrounding areas from being able to go inside their
We understand from the police that this security cordon remains as they secure the remnants of this device, which is very much the focus of this
investigation. But, you know, this happened in a very peaceful, affluent neighborhood in London. It happened on an eastbound train.
I was speaking to the leader of the local council of this area, and he was telling me his impression, that this device could have happened -- this
explosion could have happened at any point along the district line. Which, as you know, Nima, cut through other affluent neighborhoods.
So all these factors likely to be a consideration in what has been described as an ongoing investigation and what the London Mayor has said,
is a manhunt underway in the city tonight.
ELBAGIR: And of course, with the increased frequency in these attacks, we've been seeing, time and time again, that London and -- the London's
authorities, London's Mayor, they've all wanted to get people back into their homes, back on the tube, back into the rhythm of normal life as
quickly as possible, Erin.
MCLAUGHLIN: Yes, that's right. They are urging people to go about their lives as usual. They're making that point. At the same time, though, I've
been speaking to residents in this neighborhood, Nima, and they are in shock.
Some of them are scared, but there is that sense of resilience that Londoners, people across the U.K. will not be cowed by terrorism. And
again, that is a message that we've heard echoed time and time again from authorities.
At the same though, we do understand that while the threat level has not been raised, the London of Mayor is saying that they have increased
security presence across London's transportation networks.
[17:15:00] ELBAGIR: Thank you so much for joining us, Erin.
Five terror attacks in the U.K. this year, and we're only midway through September. When we come back, I talked to a former M.P. who served on the
Intelligence and Security Committee about the government's response to this latest attack, and what can be done to prevent more from happening.
ELBAGIR: Welcome back to the program. The latest terror attack in the U.K. is a familiar scene to my next guest, Fiona Mactaggart. As a former
member of the U.K.'s Intelligence and Security Committee, she has followed this year's string of attacks closely.
Fiona, thank you so much for joining us.
RT. HON. FIONA MACTAGGART, FORMER MEMBER OF THE INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY COMMITTEE OF THE PARLIAMENT: Thank you.
ELBAGIR: This is, of course, the fifth terror attack this year. And, Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, has -- he's -- well, he's been trying to
thread a very diplomatic line, hasn't he? But he has, in the past, said that he does need the resources to get the job done. What would you hope
to see from the government after this latest attack?
MACTAGGART: Well, one of the difficulties that we're facing is that, although the government has protected the high-level security police, we've
actually got fewer bobbies on the beat in London than we used to have, 10,000 fewer than there were seven years ago.
So a lot of the intelligence which helps to protect us is collected not by the very high-level specialist police who, at the moment, are trying to
track down the person who was responsible for this atrocity, but is actually picked up by a neighborhood police officer who sees something
that's unusual, different, someone behaving oddly, the CCTV cameras which are being watched, seeing someone leaving a bag, those sorts of things.
And unfortunately, the reduction in police spending has meant that there are, as I say, 10,000 fewer police officers in the street. And those who
are on the street, their pay hasn't gone up at all in any real way in that time.
ELBAGIR: That's extraordinary.
MACTAGGART: They've had slightly less of the inflation every year for seven years. As a result of which, I think policing is not as kind of
confident and ambitious as we need it to be to deal with this kind of atrocity.
ELBAGIR: Because as you rightly say, it is the small things often --
ELBAGIR: -- that people will pick on that might not necessarily be that obvious.
MACTAGGART: Well, it's one of the messages that Sadiq Khan, our mayor, has been giving out, is be vigilant. Notice. That us, as citizens, can
actually see sometimes. We're there on the streets all the time, so we can see things that the police aren't necessarily there, even if there are
10,000 more of them.
So I think that's one of the things we should do. We have brilliant police. We have very excellent security police. And we've got a really
good chance of catching whoever did this. And I hope that we do because in most of the former atrocities, the people who were responsible were,
[17:19:48] So when -- I was in the House of Commons when the Westminster Bridge driver crashed into the House of Commons and were shot by police
officers on the border of the House. And on this occasion, it looks as if the person who planted the bomb wasn't there. Nobody was killed, so
whoever is responsible is still alive. It's a real intelligence resource for the police if they catch him, which I expect that they will.
ELBAGIR: This has to ratchet the political pressure up, though. I mean, it just -- there has been an extraordinary amount of patience for the
London Mayor who, we should say, is a member of the same party as you.
MACTAGGART: Thank you.
ELBAGIR: We should say that. But at some point, that patience has to run out. This has now been a string of attacks within the same year.
MACTAGGART: Who's responsible? The first thing we have to do is we have to say that the terrorists are responsible. The people who are perhaps
recruiting, we're not sure, through the Internet kind of amateur bombers, which is what this looks like -- I don't want to say that that is what it
is -- they're the ones who are responsible.
To protect us, we do need more policing. But the Mayor can only have the police the government budget allows him to have. And unfortunately, it's
the government who has decided on the policing budget. He has put in extra resources from the bits of money that he can raise, but actually, it's
fundamentally government grant which decides on how many police we have.
ELBAGIR: And President Trump's tweets today? Are they particularly helpful?
MACTAGGART: Well, President Trump just doesn't get anything, does he? He is -- it seems to me that -- I remember the tweet that he said -- when he
said that Sadiq Khan's saying don't panic, stay calm, he said that that was him being wet.
Well, it wasn't. It was saying to the people of London you're best defense is to keep on going. That's what --
ELBAGIR: To carry on, yes.
MACTAGGART: -- Winston Churchill said to us in the war. You know, just keep -- I think he used a rude word -- on.
MACTAGGART: And I think that's quite important in these circumstances.
I mean, you've been asking why the threat level doesn't increase. It isn't severe. And a severe threat level means it's more likely than not that an
incident will happen. And that's pretty high. And I think --
ELBAGIR: Does this impact the relationship, though, when you've have two incidents now where President Trump has put out information that -- I know
that the Prime Minister said it's unhelpful to speculate, but she still didn't deny that he could have been telling the truth when he said that
this person was known.
So you've put out information into the public sphere that could be helpful to someone on the run. How does that impact the relationship between the
U.S. and the U.K.?
MACTAGGART: Well, I think the relationship between the U.S. and the U.K. has been damaged by the whole behavior of President Trump, frankly.
And we, at the moment, we are about to leave the European Union. We're in a risky position, in terms of our international relations. We depend on
our relationship with America to create trade deals and so on.
But, you know, it's quite clear that President Trump's view of trade deals is ones which benefit America. So it's not going to be great for Britain.
And he isn't, in my view, helping, but he doesn't really want to.
MACTAGGART: I mean, what he wants to do is to show off about America, I think, and not to help his partner countries.
ELBAGIR: I'm so sorry. We're going to have to leave it there, but thank you so much for joining us.
MACTAGGART: Thank you. It's been interesting.
ELBAGIR: It was a fascinating conversation. When we come back, in times of crisis, we imagine a London filled with tea and sympathy. The people
opening their hearts and filling their kettles, next.
[17:25:18] ELBAGIR: And finally tonight, we imagine a world where the British stiff upper lip melts away to reveal the heart on its sleeve. As
this morning's terror incident spread fear and panic, here in Parsons Green, local residents came to the rescue with the most British of
responses: invitations to share a cup of tea.
Katy Dunn taking to Twitter with these words of support: if anyone is feeling shocked or confused at Parsons Green, I'm round the corner and the
kettle is on.
James Edge wrote: anyone how's now stuck in Parsons Green/Fulham, drop me a line and I'll get the kettle on.
Meanwhile, Jo Bowes said: I'm in the area and I'm free if anyone needs a cup of tea and a hug.
Showing that even in the darkest of times, Britain's best shines through.
That is it for our program tonight. Thank you so much for watching, and goodbye from London.