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Parisian police getting help tonight from the FBI; French terror police are right now raiding neighborhoods across France; Aired 10-11p ET
Aired November 15, 2015 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[22:00:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer with CNN's breaking news coverage on the Paris terror attacks.
It's been a day of military retaliation against is and rapid fire developments in the global manhunt that is under way right now. Here's what you need to know.
At this hour, French fighter jets have launched a major bombardment of the ISIS capital Raqqa in Syria dropping 20 bombs on terrorist targets including a command center, a training camp and an ammunition storage base. The French military says all the targets were destroyed and all French planes they say returned safely to their bases in the United Arab Emirates and Jordan.
Also tonight, a French official tells CNN that at least three of the terrorists involved in the attacks spent time in Syria. An international manhunt that is intensifying for a Belgium-born French national who's suspected in the attacks. A source tells CNN that Salah Abdeslam was stopped and questioned by police a few hours after the terror happened across Paris but was not detained. We're told he was driving in the direction of the Belgium border.
Also tonight, officials fear that other suspects or accomplices in the attacks may also be on the loose.
Meanwhile, panic erupting in Paris earlier tonight. Take a look at this remarkable video. A crowd gathered at a memorial at one of the attack sites suddenly that crowd got spooked. People desperately dashed to safety. It turned out to be a false alarm with just two days after the massacre of at least 129 people, the fear of another attack right now in Paris is raw and real.
Our senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh is on the ground for us in the Middle East with the latest.
What do we know about these strikes, Nick?
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's very hard to get accurate information out of Raqqa because this is a place hermetically sealed by ISIS. We're simply talking to outsiders. Let alone, trying to leave can get you killed.
Now, we are dependent so much on information, Raqqa slaughtered silently, they initially said they heard about 30 airstrikes, refer to have the main target seemed to be, what they referred to as the (INAUDIBLE) stadium area, the political building, and the clinical hospital. The names of these places don't necessarily relate to the jobs they do right now. It's more buildings that have been taken over by ISIS and used for different purposes which now appear to other activists to actually be most headquarters and jails of ISIS.
Questions you have to ask yourself, the French defense ministry saying they had 12 jets in the skies, 10 of which were doing the bombing and they dropped 20 separate bombs. This is a substantial list of targets suddenly were available to them despite the fact the United States have had jets in the air for months now looking for similar targets and, frankly, why weren't they bombing them earlier? This may well be symbolism, political message, hitting well-known places by the French saying to ISIS, we are now military very much in the game. We'll have to see in the days ahead what quite level of damage this has done to is as a military machine and suggest whether or not any civilians were caught up in these blasts. I would say Raqqa slaughtered saying no civilians hurt here, we are told. In fact, some pro-ISIS activists suggesting these were, in fact, old sites being hit.
But there's a very clear message here to those inside Raqqa, the pressure is certainly on. ISIS has just lost Sinjar in northern Iraq to the Peshmerga. That's a significant blow to the supply route that heads from Iraq into Raqqa. This may be the beginning of something more from France or this may be a night in which they exact their a vengeance to try and make those feeling an enormous sense of loss and anger inside of Paris that something is being done in their name, Wolf.
BLITZER: Nick Paton Walsh, be careful over there.
While French warplanes unloaded bombs over the so-called ISIS capital, the city ISIS terrorists tore apart stayed under lockdown. And this man, Salah Abdeslam, a Belgium-born French national, he might be the most-wanted person on the planet right now.
CNN's Ivan Watson and Nic Robertson, they are working their sources in Belgium and France to get the latest on this growing investigation.
Nic, you're in Paris. In its message claiming responsibility for the citywide slaughter, ISIS said eight, eight of its so-called terrorists, they don't call them terrorists, we call them involved, were involved. The Paris prosecutors says only serve were killed. Do they think this man could be the other terrorist?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Salah Abdeslam, he appears to be. His brother has been identified as one of the attackers. They attacked the restaurants. He detonated his explosives. His explosive belt, suicide bombing himself, if you like, outside the (INAUDIBLE). That is believed to be Salah Abdeslam's brother.
Sala Abdeslam, the police in France and Belgium officials put out arrest warrants for him as a meter, one meter 75 centimeters high. He is described as dangerous, 26 years old. He was actually picked up and questioned by French police a few hours after the bombing that same night, Friday night as he was driving toward Belgium. He is a Belgium-born French national. And right now he is the one attacker that the police believe may still be on the loose. The police here describing him as dangerous telling people not to approach him if they see him, Wolf.
[22:05:50] BLITZER: They say he was actually stopped, picked up for questioning but released. Why did they stop him to begin with and obviously why did they release him?
ROBERTSON: Well, he is a Belgium-born French national. It appears that he was driving back toward Belgium. The French in the hours after the attack said that they were closing their borders. It doesn't seem that they were fully closed but they did have vehicle checks on the roads between France and Belgium in place. It appears he was stopped while en route back to Belgium.
They didn't detain him because they didn't have what they call (INAUDIBLE), that is a sort of a paperwork trail on him recording that he was a radical. Belgium-born French national, but he was living in Belgium at the time. So, perhaps, he was under the French police radar at least they had him in their custody, they questioned him. A cold-blooded killer, but somehow he was able to convince the police he was innocent and they let him continue, Wolf.
BLITZER: I'm sure they'll taking a closer look to see what happened. Nic, stand by.
Ivan Watson, you're in Brussels for us in Belgium. They have issued an international arrest warrant for this man, Salah Abdeslam. We saw police swarm a suburban neighborhood there, take several people into custody. Is it clear what police have learned from this men as we speak right now, Ivan?
IVA WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We still don't have results of whatever questioning has gone on there, but we know very clearly from the Belgian authorities that there is a strong Belgian link to the deadly attacks that took place Saturday night in Paris. You have this Belgium-born man named Salah Abdeslam and he is part of a group of three brothers that Belgian authorities are focusing their investigation on. One who, as Nic explained, was believed to have been killed in Paris during the attacks. Another who was arrested here in Brussels in a neighborhood called Mullenbach. That is a neighborhood with a very large immigrant community and that is also the neighborhood where Belgian police descended and arrested at least seven suspects today.
At least two of the vehicles that were believed to have been used in the Paris attacks had Brussels license plates. Another vehicle rented from here in Belgium believed to have been used to take people to move back and forth to Paris. So there is a very strong connection here that the Belgian authorities are looking into. And, again, that Belgian-born man Salah Abdeslam wanted who was last seen heading in the direction of this country - Wolf.
BLITZER: Ivan, we saw investigators focus in on Belgium in the aftermath of the "Charlie Hebdo" terror attack back in January. Now, again, it's central to this investigation. Here's a question a lot of people are asking. Does Belgium right now, or at least for the past year or two have a specific jihadi problem?
WATSON: You know, you've got top officials in the last 36 hours here in Belgium who said we do have a real problem. And they're pointing the fingers at that one neighborhood I mentioned, Mullenbach which has a very large population of first and second and third-generation immigrants. When you go to that neighborhood, you'll just as easily hear Arabic and Turkish as you'll hear French, the language of Belgium. And that is an area that has had jihadi and very serious fundamentalist Islamic groups in the past. There were roundups there last January after a deadly shootout between two men who were caught with Belgian police uniforms and weapons and explosives in another town. And that is an area that the interior minister of this country has said he's personally going to take charge on trying to figure out what is wrong, in particular, in that specific neighborhood. This country has had more jihadis exported to the Middle East from Western Europe per capita than any other country in Western Europe -- Wolf.
[22:10:02] BLITZER: Yes, they certainly do have a serious problem there in Belgium.
I want you to stand by, Ivan, as well. We'll get back to you. We're following the reports on this manhunt.
I also want to talk about the latest developments in this war against ISIS and the terror attacks with the former chief of staff of the department of defense and the CIA, Jeremy Bash. He is joining us. Also Fara Pandith, who is joining us. She served as first U.S. state department special representative to Muslim communities. She's now a senior fellow at the Council on foreign relations. Also with us, our terrorism analyst Peter Bergen.
Peter, you have some new information, I take it a source telling you the ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has ordered attacks on all countries fighting ISIS including Iran? What can you tell us?
PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, according to a senior Iraqi official, Iraqi officials briefed a number of countries including France about a plot that they had detected ordered by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, in which a couple of dozen militants were trained for an operation in Raqqa, the de facto capital of ISIS, and that they briefed this to French officials as recently as 24 hours ago.
Now, of course, you know, it's easy to say with 20/20 hindsight that this was, you know, sort of an overlooked piece of intelligence information. And as often in any of these types of events, Wolf, there's always plenty of signals in the system which suddenly become very clear after the event but were not clear before the event.
BLITZER: Jeremy, you worked at the CIA, you worked at the Pentagon. What does the U.S. military now need to do based on everything you're hearing, not just to contain is as they say, but actually destroy is in Syria and Iraq? JEREMY BASH, FORMER DEFENSE DEPARTMENT CHIEF OF STAFF: Well, Wolf, I
think the first thing that the United States military and their planners in the region are going to be thinking about is how to intensify, how to thicken, how to strengthen the effort of those air strikes into Raqqa. And as the defense secretary Ash Carter laid out in testimony before the U.S. Senate about a week ago, the three pillars to this strategy, one is to go right at Raqqa, the second is to really help the Iraqis retake Ramadi and the third is to conduct unilateral raids or raids with the Kurdish Peshmerga as was done in Sinjar province. But those raids, U.S. military actions are designed to retake military and decapitate the leadership of ISIS.
That was the playbook we used along the Afghanistan/Pakistan border in 2009 and 2010 to really decimate Al-Qaeda core senior leadership ranks, 20 to 30 people were taken off the battlefield. That has to be the focus strategy of the United States and our allies at this hour. That's what we did in the airstrike that took out jihadi John on Thursday. That's what we did in the airstrike that took out the ISIS leader in Libya. That's what we have to do intensify over the coming days and weeks.
BLITZER: Fara, you know, you're an expert on this region and so much of this coalition effort is based on these so-called kinetic airstrikes. But in order to really get the job done, some military personnel, whether the U.S., France, Arab countries in the region, some have to go in there on the ground and really fight directly in ground combat, right?
FARA PANDITH, FORMER U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE TO MUSLIM COMMUNITIES: So I think it's important to understand a couple of things. One is certainly there's an element here as Jeremy talked about in terms of the military dimension of this war. But you have to focus on the recruiting piece as well. And so far we do not have a strategy that has integrated both the hard power and the soft power.
And I would say to you that at this stage with the colossal damage that happened on Friday night in Paris, it is time for us to re- evaluate where we've been and where we must go in terms of how we think about stopping recruitment. That is not something that happens just through western governments or Middle Eastern governments. This is a global problem. There are one billion Muslims under the age of 30 around the world. And ideology has no borders, so the way the extremists are recruiting means that we need to be very serious about shrinking that recruitment pool.
BLITZER: But Jeremy, some serious ground operation is required, right?
BASH: I think ultimately we will have to put and intensify our boots- on-the-ground effort. They will probably be mostly our special operations forces operating in Syria. I think we will also have to develop a better connection as we have been developing a better connection with the Kurdish forces.
I think Fara actually makes an important point which is there really are two elements, but a major feature of ISIS propaganda is that they are winning. And the way we can reverse their momentum is taking their leaders off the battlefield and basically saying they are not going to win this thing. And the U.S. and our allies and France and other countries are going to gain the upper hand. A key piece of their propaganda on social media and out there to recruit is they are in ascendancy. I think we really have to reverse that narrative and put their leadership right back on our heels.
[22:15:14] BLITZER: Yes. But they are pointing out that the attack in Paris was clearly from their perspective a propaganda win to be sure.
All right, guys, stand by. We have a lot more to assess. There's new developments also coming up.
Also how the FBI here in the United States is helping the French investigation knowing that the killers of ISIS may also be plotting to strike in the United States.
[22:14:10] BLITZER: The American flag lowered at the White House tonight to honor the dead and wounded in the Paris terror attacks and to show international unity in the face of unthinkable violence.
Welcome back to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting.
Parisian police getting help tonight from the FBI as they try to trace how ISIS terrorists massacre 129 people in a Friday night attack. Our justice correspondent, Pamela Brown, is in Washington for us.
Pamela, how is the FBI helping this French investigation?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: And it is led by the France's investigation, Wolf. The FBI is providing support. In fact, it has already sent over several agents that are now on the ground in Paris to provide support as needed to provide forensic help, analytical help, investigative help.
This is just the beginning, and officials I've spoken to said this is an investigation that could take weeks until we have a clear picture. And it involved several different countries. It involved looking at electronics, through computers and cell phones. That is the kind of thing FBI agents are going to be helping with.
I'm told that thus far the names that the FBI has that they have been running through the database here in the U.S. There is no indication that these are people, the alleged attackers, are people that were known to the FBI, that in other words there was no open cases on these people.
I can tell you also, Wolf, a big concern among officials I have been speaking with is the fact that these attackers used encryption. They were communicating under the radar of officials through these apps, through encrypted apps, through apps that where you can send messages then they quickly disappear. And also, Wolf, there has been concern raised that they could have
used another tactic through gaming such as Playstation or Xbox. This is something that officials are seeing increasingly among terrorists where they communicate under the radar through gaming. And there's actually a special unit in the FBI dedicated to communication exploitation like that - Wolf.
[22:21:13] BLITZER: Do -- are they worried that these kinds of terrorists could pull off a similar operation in the United States?
BROWN: Absolutely. There's a lot of concern about that. And that's why the FBI, other agencies have been working around the clock since the attacks happened. What they have done, Wolf, is gone back and look at all the subjects they have, and that the 900 or so terrorism investigations, open investigation, look at the high priority, the highest concerned subjects, and increase monitoring of them, surveillance, wiretapping to ensure that, first of all, they're not a co-conspirator or attached to the Paris attackers at all, and also to ensure that we don't see a copycat attack here in the U.S.
Every official I've spoken to has said that is a big concern. That's why there's been a conference call this weekend with the FBI and law enforcement across the country to ensure that there is stepped up security and everyone is communicating and looking at those high- priority subjects - Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Pamela, when you get more information, let us know. Our viewers obviously want to know the very, very latest.
Let's talk about the ongoing threat right now with our experts, Art Roderick is joining us. He is a CNN law enforcement analyst, a former U.S. marshal. Also, Fara Pandith is still with us. She's a senior fellow in a council foreign relations and our national security analyst, Peter Bergen.
In your estimation, Peter, could is pull off a similar attack in the U.S.?
BERGEN: I actually think it's pretty unlikely, Wolf. I mean, if the kinds of cases that we are seeing in the United States are, you know, they tend to be informers. In the case where informers weren't in a case, we saw in Garland, Texas, two people inspired by ISIS, they weren't very successful. The only people who died in the operation were the two perpetrators.
So the kinds of cases we're seeing in the United States are very different. Of course, anything is possible. But we are not seeing people amassing large numbers of automatic weapons, building effective bombs, getting military training in Syria and coming back here and not being arrested. All those things you see in Europe.
And you know, there is a very big difference. I mean, you can drive from Paris and Damascus. You can't drive from Washington to Damascus or New York to Damascus. And so, we're insulated to a large degree by the oceans. You have to get on a flight. We have a very effective no-fly list. So, you know, of course, anything is possible, but I think the likelihood here, Wolf, is much, much lower.
BLITZER: Art, you agree?
ART RODERICK, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Yes, I do. I mean, that's a very good points being made. I think, you know, probably at this point in time, I've heard a lot of DHS, DOJ officials talk about that probably there probably already are some of the individuals in country here. It's just a matter of obtaining the resources and having the assets behind them in order to pull off this type of raid.
I mean, obviously when you look at this particular attack, it is very complex, complicated. There was communications involved, encrypted communications as we've heard. Logistics setup. I mean, you had rental cars. You had people ferrying people around. You had bomb makers involved. So it is a very complex type of attack, and I agree that it would be difficult to pull that type of attack off here.
BLITZER: Art, very quickly, the French, they are desperately searching right now for that suspect on the loose. You've led manhunts in your career. What do they need to do to find this guy, Abdeslam, obviously the most wanted man on the planet right now?
RODERICK: I mean, I think the key part of this her is obviously he is one of the three brothers involved in this particular attack. And I think going back to family members, looking at family members, associated and basically recreating what has this individual been doing the past two months? And looking at places where he has been. Safe houses possibly that he could get to. It's just interesting that out of the eight attackers, he's the only one that got away. Were there plans for any of them to get away after the attack?
Obviously, you got three suicide bombers. They weren't really going anywhere. But you got the others and what were their plans once they pulled off this attack? Where would they go from here? I think going back to associates and family members and getting, and cultivating informants is going to be the key to how they're going to catch this individual.
[22:25:25] BLITZER: Fara, as you well know, the U.S. government, the defense department, the state department, they already have a campaign to counter ISIS propaganda on the Internet. They acknowledged, themselves, top U.S. officials, so far it's been pretty ineffective. What do they need to do to beef it up, if you will?
PANDITH: So, as you know, Wolf, I mean, I think it's an important thing that the United States gets into and more active with countering violent extremist initiatives that are taking place already. I mean, we can see that both here in our country and around the world the kind of engagement that we are doing, the networks that we are building. The kinds of things that we are doing in the digital space.
They're important but they're not credible to the extent we need them to be. What we need to see is a proportional effort in the digital space by nongovernment actors that can compete with the narratives of the extremists. And the only way to do that is to find ways in which governments, both our government and across the globe, interface with the local organic efforts that are taking place. And that can happen in a lot of different ways.
What we've seen in 14 years since 9/11 is that there have been micro- solutions at a very grassroots level that have promise. And what we haven't seen is the ability for them to scale up. So I really think that Paris is an opportunity for us to take a really cold, hard look at where we've been and assess where we must go. And the only way to defeat ISIS is not just to look at the physical war. It is to diminish the ability for them to gain recruits in our country, of course, we've seen a change and around the world.
BLITZER: All right, guys. I want all of you to stand by. We're getting some new chilling details coming into CNN on the Paris suicide bombers. How one of them traveled from Syria to France by infiltrated crowds of refugees.
Much more on the breaking news when we come back.
[22:31:04] BLITZER: Welcome back. We're continuing our special live breaking news coverage of the Paris attacks. So far we have learned the names of two of the seven dead attackers, one a French national, the other a Belgium national. And right now, a worldwide manhunt is under way for a suspect believed to have been involved in the attacks.
CNN's Brian Todd has been digging into everything we know about the terrorists.
Brian, what are we learning?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight, we are piecing together the threats of investigation on all of the suspects. And a French official tells CNN tonight that at least three of the terrorists involved in Friday's attacks had spent time in Syria. The official didn't say which attackers those were. We have learned one man who allegedly worked with the terrorists is on the run tonight, the brother of one of the suicide bombers.
TODD (voice-over): Tonight he is one of the most hunted men in the world, Salah Abdeslam, 26 years old, a Belgium-born French national. CNN has learned Abdeslam was stopped soon after the attack just a three-hour drive from Paris near the border with Belgium. He was let go after questioning and now an international arrest warrant has been issued for him. He is one of three brothers tied to the Paris massacre. One is believed to be an attacker who blew himself up. Another brother was arrested and is in custody.
Could they lean on the brother and use any other family members out there as leverage on him?
RODERICK: I'm pretty sure they're leaning on the brother and family members. I'm sure they know exactly who all the family members are. It's a question if any of them are going to give this individual up. TODD: A French counterterrorism force close to the investigation
tells CNN it's possible other suspects directly involved in the attacks remain at large.
And chilling new details tonight on how one of the suicide bombers infiltrated the recent mass influx of refugees into Europe. A man who blew himself up at the Stade de France was carrying a doctor passport. He falsely declared himself to be a Syrian named Akmad Almohammad. That is according to a French lawmaker briefed by the interior ministry. The lawmaker says the man traveled from Syria, arrived on the Greek island of Leros on October 3rd then made his way through Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia, then to Paris. The investigation moved into Belgium as well with a number of arrests there linked to the assaults Friday night.
BERNARD CASENEUEVE, FRENCH INTERIOR MINISTER (through translator): We need to intensify this cooperation all the more because those who are in Belgium and helped to organize and carry out these attacks were not known to the French intelligence services.
TODD: At least two of the dead attackers are connected to bell yum including Bilal Hafdi, 19 or 20 years old. Another terrorist who attacked the concert hall, CNN has learned, was born in the suburbs of Paris, Ismael Omar Mostefai, 29 years old. French officials say he was common criminal radicalized several years ago.
As for Sala Abdeslam, the one alleged conspirator believed to be still alive. French police are warning, he is dangerous and people should not interact with him.
RODERICK: When we hear about the types of weapons that were used, AK- 47s, and they found a vehicle with several AK-47s and it abandoned in Paris, he is probably like a wounded cornered animal right now.
TODD: Former U.S. Marshall Art Roderick says one of the dangers law enforcement has to watch out for in hunting Salah Abdeslam, that whatever vehicle he's in or place he's hiding could be rigged for explosives or he, himself, could be carrying an explosive belt or vest - Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Brian. Stand by. Brian Todd reporting.
We're getting some breaking news coming into CNN right now. Actually in the last few minutes. French media outlets have been reporting that there is now an ongoing anti-terror operation happening across France way beyond Paris.
Nic Robertson is joining us live from Paris right now. What do we know, Nic?
ROBERTSON: Well, Wolf, those raids we understand through French media are happening in the towns of Toulouse, (INAUDIBLE) in the northern, also one of the suburbs of Paris here as well. Of course, our viewers will remember Toulouse was where Mohammed Mira (ph), a radical Islamist fighting he said for Al-Qaeda attacked a Jewish school in March 2012 killing several people there. He also went on to kill several French paratroopers.
But the raids tonight in that town of Toulouse, Grenalba in the center of France, Cale in the north of France right next to the English Channel, the suburb of Paris. We understand from French media the main French domestic anti-terror units, the GIPN and the RAID units are involved. Numbers of police. These police forces involved, we're told as many as 200 in one raid. That's what's being reported in French media at the moment, Wolf.
[22:35:55] BLITZER: And the suspicion, I assume, is these raids are only just the beginning. They are going to escalate dramatically in the coming hours and days. Is that what we can anticipate, Nic?
ROBERTSON: Wolf, the fact these raids going on in these towns or appear to be going on in these cities, cities where the French do have concerns about some of their citizens, some of them may be on these Fish-S (ph) files, that means the police believe that they're radicalized. And the fact that all these raids are happening at the same time tonight certainly indicates that they want to strike in a coordinated fashion. There may be other places that these raids are going on that we're not aware of yet. This is quite potentially a reaction to the attacks here on Friday night. Are they directly connected? Are there people that they believe were involved and somehow supporting the cells that operated here? Or are these raids out of precaution or caution or chatter, intelligence that the police have picked up about people who are under suspicion of being radicalized. Those details aren't clear.
But the fact that these raids appear, we are getting all this information coming in right now in the middle of the night here in France. The fact all these different raids appear to be happening at the same time, that tells you here the police want to act in a coordinated way so that no one affiliated with any of these groups, perhaps gets wind of an operation and takes flight, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, French government not wasting any time launching air strikes in Syria and Raqqa, Syria, where the Islamic state supposedly has its capital, now a wave of anti-terror operations throughout France.
I want to bring in the ranking Democrat, the ranking member of the house foreign affairs committee, Congressman Elliot Engel who has been briefed on what's going on.
I think you agree, Congressman, not only France but all of the allies about to undertake a new chapter. This is a game changer as far as the U.S. and its allies are concerned. What happened Friday night in Paris?
REP. ELLIOT ENGEL, RANKING MEMBER, HOUSE FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: Well, it certainly is a game changer. And I think that there is going to be a lot more coordinated efforts by the allies. And I think what France is doing now with these raids is just the tip of the iceberg. Look, the governments have to act because it's obvious that ISIS is
infiltrated a number of places in Europe. We hope not yet in the United States. But if we don't act, and act quickly, it might be too late. There will be other attacks.
BLITZER: What do you want to see the U.S. military, for example, do? Hillary Clinton wants a no-fly zone. Others want a no-fly zone over Syria. The president, he's resisting that, has resisted strongly in recent months. What's your opinion?
ENGEL: Well, I do support a no-fly zone and I support a place where some of the refugees can go to. I think we frankly missed the boat several years ago when we didn't aid the free Syria army when they were a viable organization. And instead they withered on the vine and ISIS moved into the vacuum. So I think we've got to do what we have to do right now. And I think a no-fly zone is something that needs to happen.
It's really two-pronged in Syria. We have to make sure that we attack is and at the same time that we get Assad out of there because no future can be had in Syria with Assad still leading. It's complicated now, of course, with the Russians in there, but we have to really concentrate on defeating and destroying is.
And of course, the second facet of it is we have got to protect the homeland, our homeland in the United States and homelands of our allies against these terrorist attacks. It's very hard to protect yourself when people are willing to blow themselves up in order to kill hundreds of people.
And you know what, these people talk about religion that they're doing this with religion or for religion. They are not religious people. They are fascists is what they are. They don't care who they kill. And they don't care what happens as long as they do it for some twisted causes they have. The allies really have to be unified and really have to work together and I think we're going to see a lot more of that now.
[22:40:00] BLITZER: Speaking of protecting the homeland, as you know, President Obama wants to bring in about 10,000 Syrian refugees into the United States between now and the end of the year. There's growing concern, though, that ISIS could infiltrate those refugees and come here to the United States. How do you prevent that from happening?
ENGEL: Well, I think you can never iron-proof prevent it, but you certainly can vet people and you can vet them much better apparently than they have done in Europe. I think we can vet people and we should not allow people into the country that are un-vetted properly. And if they are vetted, then we can take them on a case-by-case basis. But I think we have to be very careful.
And what happened in Paris gives us cause for thought. We want to -- after all, these refugees, many of them are fleeing because ISIS is inflicting terrible things to their people. So we want to be compassionate but we don't want to be fools so I think it's a delicate balance. We can vet them better than they have been vetted before. And that's what we are going to have to do.
BLITZER: Would you like to see much closer intelligence, military coordination between the U.S. and Russia, both of them are opposed to ISIS, and go after these targets directly working in coordination?
ENGEL: Well, Putin says he is opposed to ISIS, but so far the vast majority of attacks that he's been doing in Syria are against the free Syria army elements. Or the elements of people who are fighting the Assad regime. So I'm not convinced that Putin has decided that ISIS is the main enemy --
BLITZER: But in the aftermath of that Russian plane with 224 people on board blown up presumably by ISIS, they are determined, the Russians, to take action, retaliate.
ENGEL: Well, that's what we hear, but with Putin you really quite never know. Certainly there are similar feelings in the United States and in Russia, and it would be good if we could coordinate. By the way, we need to coordinate not only with our call lies but we need the Arab countries to come in to do their part. All the way around. It is a coordination with everyone. But I am not yet convinced that Putin is more interested in defeating is than he is in propping up the Assad regime.
BLITZER: Elliot Engel is the ranking member of the house foreign affairs committee. Congressman, thanks very much for joining us.
ENGEL: Thank you, Wolf. Always a pleasure.
BLITZER: Stand by. We're getting more breaking news coming into CNN. New anti-terrorist raids happening right now across France. Who's being targeted right now? We're going to tell you all the information that's coming in when we come back.
[22:46:13] BLITZER: Welcome back to CNN. I'm Wolf Blitzer.
We're following the breaking news. French police right now conducting anti-terror raids across the country. According to French media, members of an elite unit of the national police, they're sweeping into neighborhoods in Toulouse, (INAUDIBLE).
I want to talk about all of this with our CNN national security analyst, and former assistant secretary for the department of homeland security Juliette Kayyem, and Michael Weiss. He is the author of "ISIS: inside the army of terror."
What do you make of this new development, there are these raids apparently they are going around the country, Michael, looking for terrorists, picking them up and presumably going to arrest them and question them.
MICHAEL WEISS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well look. I mean, this attack, it was done with three separate teams, right. It was very coordinated all within the space of about a half hour. That suggests that there's actually probably dozens of people involved in some kind of sleeper cell or network scattered throughout France and also in Belgium. So a nationwide raid of this sort, this is the least that they could be doing, frankly.
BLITZER: Is this part of a, just the beginning, Juliette, based on what you suspect of much wider sweeps going all over the country, not just in a few cities?
JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Absolutely, and it's not even just France. And let's just begin with the obvious. These sweeps are over inclusive. They are overbroad. Where France is right now is the same way the United States was after 9/11 which is we're going to make arrests of suspicion then we'll see if these pan out. So we're probably going to see a lot more arrests and these kinds of raids than will actually pan out.
And then past France, I mean, just in the last three days, I'm looking at my list, you have France, Greece, Balkans, Belgium, Syria, Iraq, of which any member of this terrorist organization touched. This is a multination effort at this station because they would have left trails of what they were doing and who they were communicating with, half a dozen, if not 10 or 12 nations.
BLITZER: Michael, France in addition to anti-terrorist sweeps launching major air strike against the so-called ISIS capital in Raqqa in Syria from French fighter jets going in from the United Arab Emirates, bases there, bases in Jordan. Here's the question. For every action they say there's an equal and opposite reaction. What do you anticipate is will do reacting to the French very, very tough response?
WEISS: Well, I suspect that they already done, unfortunately, Wolf, is to put civilians, human shields in some of their military and political installations in Raqqa. I mean, we heard reports that, you know, hospitals have been targeted because those hospitals have been repurposed by ISIS to conduct acts of terror or to, you know, have some kind of military role.
But what these guys do is they know that the coalition escalates its bombardment in the wake of an international terrorist atrocity. So they are prepared for it. And in fact, activists in Raqqa now are saying, look, a lot of civilians are getting killed as result of this uptick in bombardment raid. So, you know, unfortunately, when they control so much territory, they have control over all the people that live in that area.
BLITZER: All right, guys, stand by. We're getting more information. We are going to get back to you.
France not only going after suspected terrorist in France, we are also going to talk about the fight against ISIS in Syria. France, the French military right now striking back. Stay with us.
[22:53:29] BLITZER: Welcome back. I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting. We are following the breaking news. Information coming into CNN only
minutes ago. Under the cover of darkness, French terror police are right now raiding neighborhoods across France specifically in Grenoble, in Cali, in Toulouse. That according to multiple French media reports. And it is all part of the country's response to the terror attacks that held the entire city of Paris hostage Friday night. It comes hours after French fighter jets ran bombing missions over the ISIS so-called capital of Raqqa in Syria. All this just as President Obama is vowing to redouble American efforts to eliminate the terror group.
Let's bring in our CNN global affairs correspondent Elise Labott.
Elise, how is the U.S. right now responding to these latest threats from ISIS?
ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we understand the targets of those French airstrikes on Raqqa we saw tonight came from U.S. intelligence. The most sensitive intelligence that the U.S. shared with only a handful of its closest allies, the French are sending an aircraft carrier to the gulf, will be stepping up their air strikes against is in Syria along with the United States.
But you have seen in recent weeks an increased attention being paid toward Raqqa, this is stronghold. The U.S. has been stepping up airstrikes and weapon shipments to the rebels on the ground, particularly Kurds in both Syria and Iraq to choke off those supply routes between Syria and northern Iraq. And I think you can bet, Wolf, that will intensify.
I also think we could see deeper cooperation against ISIS in Syria with Russia. Until now the majority of Russian airstrikes in Syria have been against U.S.-backed rebels battling Assad's forces. But Russia has stepped up air strikes against ISIS since the group's affiliate in the Sinai claimed responsibility for the downing of that Russian commercial jet in Egypt and there will be an even greater urgency now to negotiate an end to the civil war. You had talks in Syria where a lot of the countries involved are working. A lot more frantically to get some sort of cease-fire going. The hope is that if the bloodshed stops, so will the influx of refugees and that will deny is an opportunity to infiltrate them, Wolf.
BLITZER: Elise Labott reporting for us. Elise, we're going to stay in very close touch with you because I know you're getting new information on what the U.S. plans to do next.
Also coming up, we will return live to Paris. We are getting more information about these anti-terror raids. French police are conducting all across the country. Stay with us. Much more of the breaking news right after this.
[22:59:55] BLITZER: Welcome back to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting. CNN's continuing live coverage of the Paris terror attacks. Breaking this hour, French media reporting that anti-terrorist police
units, they are carrying out raids across France right now specifically around Toulouse, (INAUDIBLE) and Cali --