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U.K. Terror Threat Level Raised to Critical; Trump Presidency; North Korea Threat; Hurricane Irma's Aftermath. Aired 0-0:30a ET

Aired September 16, 2017 - 00:00   ET




NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Britain raises their threat level and a manhunt is underway after a bomb blast on an underground train.

In the wake of North Korea's latest missile launch, the U.S. says there are military options to deal with threats from Pyongyang.

Also, a harrowing tale of two boys' survival during Hurricane Irma and the country music star who came to their rescue.

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


ALLEN: Thank you again for joining us.

The U.K.'s terror threat level is up to critical after an explosion on board an underground train in London early Friday morning. That burning bag you see inside detonated, wounding 29 people but no one seriously. A manhunt is underway for whoever is responsible and prime minister Theresa May is warning the public to stay alert.


THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: The Joint Terrorism Analysis Center -- that's the independent organization which is responsible for setting the threat level on the basis of available intelligence -- has now decided to raise the national threat level from severe to critical. This means that their assessment is that a further attack may be imminent.


ALLEN: Our Brian Todd is following the investigation. Here's his report.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Flames emanate from a crudely built bomb placed by the doorway inside a train in London's Underground. Officials say this IED sent more than 2 dozen people to the hospital with wounds like flash burns and singed hair.

Witnesses say it also caused a stampede of panicked commuters, desperate to get out of the Parsons Green tube station in Southwest London.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People just got trod on. It was every man for himself.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This wall of fire was just coming towards us.

TODD (voice-over): The suspect or suspects still at large.

MAY: A further attack may be imminent.

TODD (voice-over): The full resources of Scotland Yard and British counterterror forces engaged in an intense manhunt.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are many urgent inquiries ongoing now with hundreds of detectives involved, looking at CCTV, forensic work and speaking to witnesses.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The bomb itself did not go off, which, for law enforcement, is a great thing because the bomb, in and of itself, it's sort of a fingerprint of the individual who made it.

TODD (voice-over): A British security source tells CNN a timer was found on the device, that it's clear that although this was a crude bomb, it was intended to cause much greater damage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're only aware of one device. So we now have the remnants of that device. It's being examined by our experts.

TODD (voice-over): One source briefed on the investigation says an initial assessment of the bomb indicates it's highly likely to have contained TATP, an unstable explosive, that packs a nasty punch.

This video shows TATP combusting just from a tiny film canister.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: TATP is one of the most sensitive explosives known to the bomb tech community and it really takes very little initiation to set it off.

TODD (voice-over): Now the fact that a timer was used and the suspect is still at large has Londoners bracing for the worst.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The timer is really what's freaking people out.

And did this individual place bombs at other locations?

I mean, they are, obviously, sweeping all the train stations in London, all the tube stations right now at this particular time. They're looking for other devices.

TODD (voice-over): This marks the fifth significant attack this year in Britain after the attacks at Westminster Bridge, London Bridge, the mosque at Finsbury Park and Manchester arena. TODD: Experts say these attacks in Britain, along with the recent attack in Barcelona, means terrorists are going to keep coming at these European cities, that they remain a very high-value target for jihadists, second only, possibly, to cities here in the United States -- Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


ALLEN: Joining me now is CNN law enforcement contributor, Steve Moore, who is a former FBI special agent.

Steve, thanks for talking with us.


ALLEN: What does it mean that the threat level in London has gone from severe to critical?

MOORE: Natalie, what that means is that they know a lot more than they're letting on. You don't do that if you just see a bomb that went off, low order, or an IED that went off, low order, unless you know this source of that.

And what that tells me is they know or they at least have a suspect and likely know that there is more explosive material out there that hasn't been used or there could be people who are unaccounted for.

ALLEN: I see.

And so, as for the device, analysts say it appears to be crudely made; it did have a timer; it may have continued explosive TATP.

What does that say?

How does that give them information?

MOORE: It gives them a wealth of information. First of all, TATP is very hard to make without killing yourself. And --


MOORE: -- it is very hard to get to go off when you want it to.

And what it says is this was an amateur. This was not somebody who trained in the camps of Afghanistan.

And there's a thing -- when something goes off high order, that's called a detonation. When it goes off low order, that's called a deflagration. It basically just burns very rapidly. So they know that this person isn't very adept. But it doesn't mean they won't get it right the second time.

ALLEN: Right. And ISIS is claiming responsibility.

Does this look like the mark of ISIS?

Or is there any way to know that?

MOORE: TATP is certainly the go-to explosive for ISIS right now because you make it at home with peroxide and acetone, where you can -- what you can get in stores.

But they're going to claim it no matter what. And I don't believe it was anything more than an ISIS inspired attack, if that. It was somebody who was not in contact with them, who took this upon themselves to do it for whatever reason he felt he needed to contribute to jihad.

ALLEN: And as far as trying to thwart these types of attacks, Steve, London has been hit over and over again and now it's the subway, the tube, the oldest subway in the world. It's very, very difficult to thwart something like this just as somebody behind the wheel of a car that runs people over.

MOORE: You're absolutely right. And in a way, the crudeness of the devices, which are forced upon the terrorists, actually makes it harder for law enforcement because you can't use a cellphone to detonate. You can't radio detonate an explosive device in the tube.

So you have to use a timer or something like that. While that complicates it for the terrorists, it makes it infinitely harder to detect. You can't jam cellphone signals but, again, it makes it much more critical and it makes it harder for the terrorists to determine where the explosive is going to go off unless they're standing there pushing a button.

ALLEN: And now we know that there be more police officers on the streets.

What does that do?

They know terrorists could strike anytime, anywhere. So you would think the presence is there before an attack, right?

MOORE: Yes, but there -- keep in mind that what they're doing right now is they have reason to believe, for reasons they're not sharing with us, that another attack could be imminent. So this is potentially before the second attack.

And people in these situations are frequently risk-averse. And what you're going to do is not necessarily prevent the attack but you're going to channel it away from areas where the police are. And if the police are in areas where there are high concentrations of people, at least what you're doing is limiting the number of casualties potentially.

ALLEN: Steve Moore, we always appreciate you joins us. Thank you.

MOORE: Thank you.

ALLEN: U.S. President Donald Trump called British prime minister Theresa May after the London attack. Downing Street says he offered condolences but he's also drawn rebukes from British officials for his response on Twitter. For more on that, here's Athena Jones.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to say that our hearts and prayers go out to the people of London, who suffered a vicious terrorist attack.

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump responding to Friday's terror attack on London's subway system.

TRUMP: Radical Islamic terrorism, it will be eradicated, believe me.

JONES (voice-over): Those comments coming after a flurry of early morning tweets about the incident.

"Another attack in London by a loser terrorist," Trump wrote, adding, "These are sick and demented people who were in the sights of Scotland Yard. Must be proactive."

The president's national security adviser, H.R McMaster, later trying to explain what Trump meant by "in the sights of Scotland Yard." The London police department headquarters.

LT. GEN. H.R. MCMASTER, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: I think what the president was communicating is that obviously all of our law enforcement efforts are focused on this terrorist threat from, you know -- for years. He didn't mean anything beyond that.

JONES (voice-over): The president's tweets prompted strong pushback from London police, who said they didn't yet know who was involved. And similar criticism from British prime minister Theresa May.

MAY: I never think it's helpful for anybody to speculate on what is an ongoing investigation.

JONES (voice-over): The president seizing on the incident to push his proposed travel ban, targeting nearly all refugees as well as people from six Muslim majority countries, a ban that is facing several legal challenges.

Trump tweeting, "The travel ban into the United States should be far larger, tougher and more specific. But stupidly, that would not be politically correct."

Asked to explain his tweet, he would only say --


TRUMP: We have to be tough and we have to be smarter.

JONES (voice-over): The latest terror attack on an ally coming in the wake of yet another missile launch by North Korea, the second one to fly over another key ally, Japan, in less than a month, a problem international diplomatic pressure has, so far, been unable to solve.

Amid the escalating threat from North Korea, the president visited Joint Base Andrews outside Washington Friday, where he talked up the country's military might.

TRUMP: When our enemies hear the F-35 engines, when they're roaring overhead, their souls will tremble and they will know the day of reckoning has arrived.


ALLEN: Joining me now is Josh Rogin, he's a CNN political analyst and columnist with "The Washington Post."

Josh, thank you for being with us. Yet again President Trump begins the day with tweets and jumping to conclusions on the London terror.

Why does he keep doing that?

And why does that rattle some people in London?

JOSH ROGIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: There are two theories about why President Trump decided to speculate about the London terrorist attack, as the police investigation was just getting underway. One theory going around is that he was watching "FOX & Friends" and "FOX & Friends" was speculating that the London police must have known the identity or been tracking the identity of the terrorists beforehand. And Trump simply regurgitated that without checking his facts.

Another theory is that the president was simply looking to feed some positive messages to his base, to give them something to bolster their spirits after going against them on the issue of immigration earlier this week.

Either way, the result was the same. He put out information, which the London police immediately said was pure speculation and extremely unhelpful. He was then forced to talk with prime minister Theresa May about it.

He didn't apologize but they did talk about it. And the end result is another in a long line of incidents, where the president has jumped ahead of the facts, created an international diplomatic incident for no reason and used it to advance part of his domestic political agenda.

ALLEN: Right. Theresa May's former chief said on Twitter, "True or not -- and I'm sure he doesn't know -- this is so unhelpful from leader of our ally and intelligence partner."

Where's General Kelly in this?

He was supposed to bring some order to the White House. He's apparently done that somewhat but we have a president who still does this, speaks his mind without checking his facts.

ROGIN: Right. What we've learned is that General Kelly generally has the ability to manage down. He's put in processes to control the staff. He cannot manage up. He cannot manage the president. He cannot take away the president's phone. He cannot stop him from tweeting nonsense. He cannot stop him from starting diplomatic incidents before anyone figures it out.

And that's the best that anyone has been able to do with President Trump. So there is more order. There is more semblance of a process for the way that the president gets information. But the president can always turn on the TV and hear something wrong and repeat it. And it doesn't seem like General Kelly or anyone else can stop that.

ALLEN: And it doesn't seem to bother him, because he chose not to apologize to Theresa May.

ROGIN: Unfortunately.

ALLEN: As far as North Korea goes, he said today, on Friday, that military options would be robust as a result of their latest missile strike; whereas other analysts and former Trump allies say there is no good option with North Korea.

ROGIN: Right. I mean generally, you know, we call a Kinsley gaffe in Washington, is when you say something publicly that everybody knows is true but you're not supposed to say it. And that's what happened when Steve Bannon, shortly before he was fired, said that there is no military option for North Korea because tens of millions of South Koreans would die in that scenario.

Now the president still maintains and his senior staff still maintains that military options are on the table. And technically, that's a true statement. Those options do exist. They are a last resort.

At the same time, the credibility of those options is waning day by day as North Korea's military nuclear and missile programs advance. There's no real enthusiasm for starting a war with a nuclear-armed North Korea.

But for the purposes of the negotiation and for the purposes of posturing, this is what the president's going to continue to say. And I think you're going to see a lot of that next week at the United Nations general assembly in New York.

ALLEN: We'll be waiting for that. Josh Rogin, thank you so much for joining us.

ROGIN: Anytime.

ALLEN: Outrage is growing in the U.S. city of St. Louis as protesters take to the streets, rallying against what they say is police brutality. On Friday, former police officer Jason Stockley was found not guilty in the 2011 shooting of African American man Anthony Lamar Smith.

Soon after the verdict, demonstrators started marching through the city, chanting "No justice, no peace."


ALLEN: A short while ago, police used tear gas against the crowd; so far, 13 people have been arrested during Friday's rally. Prosecutors accused Stockley of planting a gun to justify the shooting while the former officer told the court he acted in self-defense.

This verdict is drawing comparisons to the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson in the same state of Missouri.

Still ahead, North Korea's Kim Jong-un is sounding as defiant as ever toward the international community. He said Friday's missile launch was flawlessly perfect and he indicated there will be many more.




ALLEN: North Korea has now released photos that it says show leader Kim Jong-un overseeing Friday's launch of an intermediate range missile. It was North Korea's 22nd missile launch of the year and the second to fly over Japan in less than one month.

According to state media, Kim praised the launch as flawlessly perfect and called it a meaningful and practical step toward nuclear deployment.

Our Ian Lee is following the story from Seoul, South Korea. He joins us with the latest.

Certainly those aren't words or conditions of this military might that's building in North Korea that South Korea wants to hear about.

IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Natalie. We heard from President Moon Jae-in here in Seoul, speaking to his National Security Council, saying that South Korea's ready to grind North Korean provocations in the early stages as well as permanently disable North Korea if any war were to go out or if there was any attack against South Korea or one of its allies.

These are tough words that we're hearing from the South, tough words that we hear time after time after North Korea conducts either a missile launch or nuclear test.

And it's interesting to point out that, while that intermediate range ballistic missile was in flight, South Korea also carried out its own missile test that could hit the Sunan air base in North Korea where North Korea launched its missile.

Now those two missiles that South Korea launched, one of them failed. But South Korea says it just shows that they could hit North Korea anywhere at any time.

ALLEN: Right.

And isn't there talk now -- and this is something new for South Korea -- that some are talking about getting tactical nuclear weapons in South Korea?

LEE: You know, that has been part of the conversation here for a while. But, you know, you don't have leadership that really tries to pursue that. But there was interesting, a Gallup poll came out recently that showed over 60 percent of Koreans are not opposed to that idea, are interested in looking into the possibility --


LEE: -- of acquiring their own nuclear weapons. It's also -- we need to point out, though, that there was a generational divide there. The older South Koreans believe that that was necessary while younger South Koreans weren't as keen to acquire their own nuclear weapons.

But this is something that they're definitely talking about. Opposition parties are bringing this up, that the only way to counter a nuclear North is for South Korea to acquire its own nuclear weapons -- Natalie.

ALLEN: My goodness. Ian Lee for us there in Seoul, thank you, Ian.

Coming up here, two teen brothers who lost almost everything in Hurricane Irma have left the U.S. Virgin Islands, thanks to an unexpected gift. We'll have their story for you just ahead.




ALLEN: The once beautiful islands in the Caribbean are struggling to recover after Hurricane Irma. The ferocious storm struck the area last week, killing at least 44 people. Almost all the buildings on the island of Barbuda were destroyed.

Many survivors are still lacking food, power and fuel. No one basically lives there anymore. In the U.S., Florida, of course, felt the brunt of the storm. About 1.5 million people still don't have power. Residents who evacuated the Florida Keys are starting to trickle back in. But the governor cautions against returning before it is safe.

On the island of St. John, that's in the U.S. Virgin Islands, two teenage brothers who survived Hurricane Irma are left with almost nothing. But their story has a happy ending, courtesy of country music star Kenny Chesney. Our Sara Sidner has that report.


SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A heartfelt goodbye to the complete stranger who took the Bruce brothers in after the storm. The teenagers were on St. John when hurricane Irma blasted the island and decimated the home they grew up in while they were inside.

JAH-HAILE BRUCE, ST. JOHN RESIDENT: We were inside the shower laying down against a concrete wall, and five minutes later the roof gets ripped off our head. JAHBIOSEH BRUCE, ST. JOHN RESIDENT: That's the moment I was terrified,

because I felt like Irma was a spirit, because, like, I felt like I saw the hand grab the roof, squeeze it, and throw it off into the wind.

JAH-HAILE BRUCE: Ripped it off.

JAHBIOSEH BRUCE: It was just crazy.

SIDNER: They survived alongside their grandfather, but the winds tore nearly everything else apart on the island.

JAH-HAILE BRUCE: I feel like the best way to put the image in your head is picture a car on the highway going 185 miles and you know you put your hand out the window sometimes, you feel the wind, picture your face outside, picture your body outside, you feel you're going at this speed, that's what it felt like.

SIDNER: When it was all over, they were left with nothing, their childhood home gone along with almost everything in it.

JAHBIOSEH BRUCE: There's basically nothing to go back to on St. John's.

SIDNER: The brothers were picked up by a private boat like this one to St. Croix, taking them supplies and picking up evacuees. That's where they met Sue. Her sons owned the boat. She took one look at the boys and said you are staying with me, not in a shelter.

What are your lives going to look like now since the house is gone?

JAHBIOSEH BRUCE: Well, we're trying to make it to Philadelphia to our mother right now.

SIDNER: But there were no commercial flights out of the island. Then an unexpected gift arrived.

JAH-HAILE BRUCE: I don't even know what to say, but thank you. There's really nothing to say. I heard that the guy wants to stay anonymous. Thank you very much.

SIDNER: The brothers were told an anonymous donor had donated his private --


SIDNER: -- jet to fly them to safety. We found out who that anonymous donor was. It's country star Kenny Chesney.

JAHBIOSEH BRUCE: I kept saying one day this is going to be one hell of a story to tell. It's going to be one good story to tell.

JAH-HAILE BRUCE: And now we're on CNN telling our story, you know. It's crazy.

SIDNER: Soon they'll be telling their story in person to their mother, who is anxiously awaiting their arrival back in Philadelphia -- Sara Sidner, CNN, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands.


ALLEN: How wonderful. We need more stories like that in this disaster.

Another hurricane in the Atlantic still calls for some to be concerned.


ALLEN: Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Natalie Allen. "BUSINESS TRAVELLER" is coming up next here. You're watching CNN.