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AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA

Terrorist Attack at Radisson Blu Hotel in Mali; AFP: All Hostages Freed from Mali Hotel; Al Qaeda Claims Responsibility for Mali Terrorist Attack; Death Toll Rises, Additional Body Found in Paris Apartment; CCTV Footage of Abaaoud in Paris During Attacks. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired November 20, 2015 - 11:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[11:00:13] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm John Berman, live in Paris. A week after the terror here, a new terror attack rocks a different capital city.

Welcome to our viewers in the United Stats and all around the world.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Kate Bolduan, joining you live in New York.

Let's get straight to that breaking news. This is coming to us out of Mali, as we've been tracking a hostage situation all throughout the morning there. But in just the last minute, the French news agency, AFP, is now reporting that there are no more hostages in the Radisson Blu Hotel in Bamako, Mali. CNN has not independently confirmed this information as of yet. But they say there are no more hostages being held there. AFP is quoting the Mali security minister saying all the hostages are now free. But we have to be very careful in the developing situation because this may not mean that the siege is over as gunmen could still be hiding inside that very hotel where the hostages were.

This is what we know as this very moment though, at least three people have died in the standoff that started early this morning after two or maybe three gunmen stormed the hotel and opened fire inside.

For the very latest, let's bring in CNN correspondent, Robyn Kriel, from Nairobi.

A lot of stuff has been changing minute to minute with regard to this hostage situation. Robyn, what are you hearing there?

ROBYN KRIEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: AFP also just saying that two gunmen were killed in the Mali hostage siege, according to the Malian military. It does not necessarily mean it's over. This is a huge hotel. There are many, many rooms, plenty of floors, lots of spots for gunmen to hide. Of course, they're probably likely going to be sweeping floor by floor, really trying to make sure no gunmen remain. So at the moment, AFP saying two gunmen were killed in the hotel siege, and also saying the hostages, they are holding no more hostages, but not saying that the gunman have all been killed. Also body count rising. We understand from a free lance journalist

we've been speaking to on the ground that he has seen a number of body pass. As to the number of injured, we've heard up to 18 bodies, and even perhaps more than that could have at least been seen and counted at the scene.

A very, very sad day for the Radisson Blu. It was -- it is, I believe, a very beautiful hotel. Very popular with Westerners, and it was always full.

BOLDUAN: And always full. There's a lot of moving parts there, Robyn. Do we have a firm number of how many people were inside? Also, what about claim to responsibility? Who were these gunmen?

KRIEL: We do understand that an al Qaeda affiliate has claimed responsibility for this attack. There are two favorites from the al Qaeda -- al Qaeda movements operating inside Mali. There's al Murabitoun, and al Marcene (ph). Those are the two al Qaeda affiliates most likely to have pulled this off. The one, al Murabitoun, staged a very similar attack to this in early August. They attacked a hotel, the hotel in central Mali and killed 17 people. It was also a very upscale hotel. Killed a few foreigners, as well as a number of Malian security services, officials. And very similar M.O. Attacked it early in the morning, early on a Friday morning, and managed to keep people hostage for a number of hours before Malian security services went in. Much similar to the case today. The other group, al Marcene (ph), their leader released an audio recording encouraging more attacks against France.

Of course, Mali is a former French colony. Mali was home to the French intervention in 2013 where they tried to work to stamp out these very fanatical movements that looked to be behind today's attack.

BOLDUAN: Robyn, it's also coming through that six American citizens were among those rescued so far in Mali. That coming from U.S. Africa Command that was sent out on Twitter. What else are you hearing about who could have been inside that hotel? Who were among the rescued?

[11:05:00] ROBYN: The hotel seemed fairly full. A number of Chinese people were inside. We understand some of them were rescued. The German foreign office said two Germans were able to escape. We heard there were Russians who managed to get out as well. Also not sure if there were others who remained inside. Six American citizens, as you said. And American Special Operations Forces on the ground there assisting in some way. We're not sure in what capacity they were assisting Malian forces who were running the operation along with the U.N. mission there. A number of others, Indian nationals, Algerians rescued as well. At the moment, in terms of the people who died, we know two Malian security services died in this attack. One French national and, according to AFP, one Belgian national as well.

BOLDUAN: Robyn Kriel, in Nairobi.

As Robyn points out, this was a hotel popular among international travelers. And Robyn was describing, the different nationalities, the different types of people that could be in there, could be a prime target for an attack such as this.

Again, to reiterate, while AFP is reporting all hostages have been freed, CNN is working to independently confirm that. And that also doesn't mean this siege is over. Very tense, ongoing situation there as we continue to follow developments in the horrific situation in Paris.

Let's get straight there and John has it -- John?

BERMAN: Kate, absolutely. This attack in Mali, definitely an international target, as you said.

We just learned six Americans were rescued from inside, at least six Americans. Two U.S. military personnel involved on the outside of the hotel, we are told. French Special Forces also involved in the rescue and the raid.

Here in France this morning, all the news coverage turned from the attacks here that were one week ago to the attacks in Mali. Why? Well, the feeling that it could be in a way an attack against France outside of France. French military personnel have been involved in operations in Mali for a couple of years now. In fact, they went in, in force, to Mali two years ago to push al Qaeda back as they moved towards the capital there. That was a successful operation.

I want to bring in CNN terror analyst, Paul Cruickshank.

Paul, we understand an al Qaeda group has claimed responsibility. We haven't confirmed that. Here in this country, such keen interest in what's going on there. Obviously, France under attack by ISIS one week ago. Now a sense perhaps French interests, a hotel, where a lot of French travelers stay, under attack as well. Who might be involved?

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, there's chatter at the moment on Twitter from al Qaeda supporters suggesting that al Murabitoun, a jihadi grouped aligned with al Qaeda, based in Mali, was responsible for this. This hasn't been authenticated. Al Murabitoun is the group of Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a one-eyed Algerian terrorist, who launched a siege of a gas facility in southern Algeria in 2013, been responsible for a lot of terrorism in Mali, the wider region. Also responsible for an attack in Bamako in March this year when several gunmen went after a restaurant. So it could well be Belmokhtar's group.

He was targeted by a U.S. strike in Libya in June. The group's leader said he had not been killed in that strike. There was some hope he was dead.

The French security services have a nickname for him, the Uncatchable. He's been very, very elusive. He's got lots of connections with smuggling networks. And his loyalty lies to al Qaeda's Ayman al Zawahiri. But there's also a powerful ISIS-aligned group in Mali, Musho (ph), which split off from Belmokhtar's group in May and announced their allegiance was with Abu Bakr al Baghdadi.

But we'll have to wait and see and sort through this to see who is responsible.

BERMAN: It is very much ongoing at his point. AFP reporting no more hostages inside. We haven't confirmed that yet. We do not know if the people who took the hotel, if the terrorists have been subdued or apprehended.

Paul, security analysts I've heard from say there's a disturbing trend. We saw in January with "Charlie Hebdo," when al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula claimed responsibility. Some ISIS affiliated members wanted to get in a game of one-upmanship. Abdelhamid Abaaoud could have been involved in that, wanting to prove that ISIS could do more than AQAP. Do you worry that that's what could be going on Mali? Perhaps al Qaeda affiliates seeing what ISIS affiliates did, could be saying, hey, we can do this, too?

[11:09:51] CRUICKSHANK: I think that's a great point, it's a global rivalry between ISIS and al Qaeda, one-upmanship to launch bigger, bolder international terrorist attacks. ISIS is getting into international terrorism in a big way in just the last year. We've seen a string of plots and attacks starting in Belgium in January, but also think about that beach attack in Tunisia, and more than 100 people being killed in Ankara by ISIS suicide bombers, Beirut, all the suicide bombings in Kuwait, the Gulf, Yemen. They're competing, these two groups, for a finite group of supporters, trying to appeal to the global jihadi movement.

Where does this all lead for ISIS? What's going to be the biggest possible benefit to them in terms of a target? The United States. I mean, al Qaeda can still brag about the 9/11 operation. I think that's why ISIS is ratcheting up the threat to the United States. There is legitimate concern that ISIS will try and find a way to get through. The number-one way they could do this is by sending European extremists they recruit in Syria and Iraq and train and got back to Europe, they can get on a plane to the United States. Several of these people in the Paris attacks were apparently not on watch lists -- John?

BERMAN: Paul Cruickshank here with me in Paris.

Again, just getting word six Americans were rescued at least from the Radisson Blu Hotel in Mali. The siege, we're told, after AFP reporting there are no more hostages involved. Unclear if the standoff between the Special Forces raiding that hotel and the terrorists inside is over or not.

New today, French officials here in the investigation of the Paris terror attacks one week ago, they found another body in the wreckage of the raid that killed the planner, perhaps the ringleader of the attacks here. So who else was in that terror hideout? The identity as the manhunt for the surviving jihadi continues.

Plus, Congress now one step closer to suspending a program that would bring thousands of Syrian refugees to the United States. But is it enough? Do they have enough to get past a possible presidential veto? We'll have the latest on the contentious fight over refugees in the United States, coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:16:07] BERMAN: Welcome back to CNN's special coverage in France. I'm John Berman.

The latest on the terror attacks in a few moments.

But first breaking news in West Africa, the nation of Mali, the capital of Bamako. AFP reporting there are no more hostages inside the Radisson Blu Hotel there. Earlier this morning, gunmen stormed that hotel, killing at least three people, although perhaps many more, taking more than 100 people, including six Americans, hostage. We've just been told by U.S. Africa Command, the military in Africa, that six Americans have been rescued from that hotel, at least. There could be more in there. At this point, we do not know the state of the gunmen in that siege. Could still be very much active.

We'll keep you updated because we're getting new information by the minute.

Meantime, here in Paris, the death toll from last week's terror attack has been revised. It has risen. 130 people have now been killed. This news coming as officials say they found another body, an additional body inside that apartment in the suburb of Saint-Denis where they killed Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the ringleader. This also, as we get word, Salah Abdeslam, the man who could have been the eighth attacker that night, still very much at large, still an active manhunt for him.

Joining me to discuss; Paul Cruickshank; and independent journalist, Stefan de Vries, in Paris, who's been following the situation very closely.

First, I should say, not surprising the death toll has been revised. I was talking to the deputy mayor yesterday and still over 100 people in serious condition in the hospital. An awful event gets worse by the day.

STEFAN DE VRIES, FREELANCE JOURNALIST: Yes, and we're one week on now, and the story continues to develop. Of course, there's still a lot of people in hospitals in very critical condition. I'm afraid the death toll will rise in the next couple of days.

It's a very sad story. We're learning more information. For instance, the lady who was in the apartment as well who blew herself up, some details are coming out right now. It was actually a girl who was pretty well known in the area of Molenbeek, the neighborhood in Brussels. She was actually a party girl, smoking and drinking a lot, having a lot of boys. She was radicalized only six months ago. This shows how difficult it is to actually monitor potential terrorists in Europe.

BERMAN: Paul, word there was a third person inside that apartment. Any sense of the identity of that person? Any sense of the identity of the eight people taken into custody from that raid? CRUICKSHANK: Not yet. Everything we've found out about this cell, as

people involved in the two ways, they're all French and Belgian. That's the nationalities at play here. We also found out many of them, most of them identified so far have gone to Syria to connect with ISIS in that country and have come back. That's the profile of this terrorist attack.

Here's why that is very concerning because ISIS is still plotting new waves of attack against France, against Europe. Indeed, people connected with and working with Abdelhamid Abaaoud are right at the center of that. One of these is Fabien Clain, we've been talking about together on our air, who's a long-standing French jihadi, who has risen up the ISIS hierarchy, has a pretty prominent position and has a reputation of being a master brainwasher, somebody who was involved Toulouse in the 2000s, radicalized people, trying to get them to go find Americans in Iraq. What he's now trying to turn back all these French and Belgian recruits coming in, giving them very, very quick training, and then sending them back. The reason they're going so quickly in this training is because that means these French and Belgian extremists can just book a holiday to Turkey, a two, three- week vacation, beach vacation, and quickly disappear into Syria, so the Europe security officers don't suspect they went to Syria at all.

[11:20:26] BERMAN: I want to bring in Nic Robertson, in our Paris bureau, because there's another couple other developments I should tell you about.

Abdelhamid Abaaoud, closed-circuit television -- we haven't seen it yet -- of him in a subway station around the time these attacks took place Friday night, one week ago. It seems he was nearby or at least in the city itself while it was happening. Also, Nic, we're getting a new look at the raid that ultimately killed Abaaoud in Saint-Denis two days ago.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yeah, This sighting on the CCTV footage at the subway station is interesting in that he was clearly here in Paris at the time of the attacks. But what's particularly fascinating about it, one would imagine for intelligence officials will be trying to dig deeper on this angle, is that the neighborhood that he was spotted in Paris was where one of the attacker's cars was later discovered. So, was he meeting with them prior to their attack? Was that his level of involvement and engagement in this? It isn't clear at the moment.

The death toll has climbed from 129 to 130, not because someone who was critically injured has died. We understand there are now 29 people that are in he very critically injured category. That has gone down a little. More are in serious condition. This man was discovered two days ago, dead in his apartment. It appears he was hit by a stray bullet. He was in his apartment, close to the gun battle, and a stray bullet went through his window and that's what killed him. For three days, he lay there without being discovered.

BERMAN: That is such a shame.

All right, Nic Robertson in our Paris bureau. Stefan, I want to get one comment on the breaking news in Mali,

because it is connected to France. Everyone in Paris has been watching closely today. The French consider Mali within their sphere of interest. French troops, more than 1,000, have been active in there for a couple of years now.

DE VRIES: Yes. Since there was the threat of al Qaeda two years ago, France decided to help Mali to prevent that al Qaeda was taking over the country. It's still a very dangerous country. The south is secure. The north is very dangerous. And Bamako, the capital, is, well, was supposed to be relatively secure. We're seeing today that's not the case. And it also shows French targets or countries in the French influence sphere can also be a victim of terrorism.

BERMAN: That was the concern this morning that you could have an attack on France outside of France, which is why there's so much interest.

Paul Cruickshank, Stefan de Vries, thank you so much for being with us.

Again, the breaking news, this ongoing assault at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Bamako in Mali. AFP reporting there are no more hostages inside but we don't know if the battle with the terrorists is over.

Coming up, tens of thousands of refugees have fled Syria. Will they be allowed to make their home in the United States, any of them? The U.S. House voted to put severe restrictions on their entry. One of those voting in favor of the restrictions joins us in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[02:28:04] BOLDUAN: We're continuing to follow break news out of West Africa. A lot of new developments that continue to come in, almost by the moment. A colonel with the Mali army now tells reporters at a press conference that 10 bodies were found in the hallways of the Radisson Blu Hotel. This is a hotel popular with international travelers. The army colonel also said to reporters in this press conference that there are still attackers inside the hotel. So, this is very much an ongoing and urgent situation. AFP is also reporting that two gunmen have been killed in the Mali hotel siege. Not sure exactly how those two threads of information line up. We'll continue to obviously bring all of you the latest -- all of the latest developments to you to make sure you have -- bring you up to speed. This all started early this morning. Gunmen stormed into this luxury hotel, taking what we believe is more than 100 people hostage, including at least six Americans captive. We don't know, however, if there are more surviving gunmen necessarily. We do now that they say this -- this army colonel has given the update there are still attackers in the hotel as we speak. The State Department continuing to warn the situation is, quote, "still ongoing." We're following all of that.

And also on the heels, obviously, of the horrific situation and terror attack in Paris, this has fed and fueled fear of terrorists being able to enter U.S. borders. And that in itself has been fueling a political debate over refugees coming here. House lawmakers voted yesterday to restrict those coming in from Syria and Iraq until tougher background checks can be put in place and there can be more assurances of their background. While the White House has vowed to veto it, 45 House Democrats defied the president, joining Republicans, sending a strong message here.

Here with me to discuss is Republican Congresswoman Martha McSally, a member of, very importantly, the House Homeland Security and Armed Services Committee, and she is also a former combat pilot with the U.S. Air force.

Congresswoman, thank you very much for being here.