Return to Transcripts main page
ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Truck Hits Crowd During Bastille Day Celebration: Dozens Killed. Aired 8-8:30p ET
Aired July 14, 2016 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[20:00:10] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: It is impossible to say good evening right now because plainly it is not a good evening, not in the southern French city of Nice where the death toll has been climbing all night. Not a good evening anywhere. The images that you will see tonight are show.
We need to warn you right out front, they are very hard to stomach, let alone watch. But, first, it was a truck plowing through the crowd in Nice, running over anyone who could not get out of the way.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
COOPER: Now, remember, these are people who just moments before were enjoying Bastille Day, the equivalent of the Fourth of July, fireworks, music by the sea, and shots fired reportedly by the driver of the truck you just saw go across the screen, who got back behind the wheel, going block after block hitting as many people as he could. French media sourcing the local prosecutor now, putting the number killed as high as 73.
So, we've just gotten these images of the aftermath. They come from video that we turned into still images and tried to take the color out because, otherwise, they're simply too graphic to show you. Again, we are only showing this very sparingly.
What we will be doing throughout the next few hours is bring you everything we know and everything we are learning minute by minute. All we're hearing from authorities and intelligence sources and our team of experts.
CNN's Becky Anderson is reporting developments from Paris and Jim Sciutto is reporting out of Washington.
Becky, first of all, we go to you. What's the latest?
BECKY ANDERSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the latest, I'm afraid, is that that death toll continues to rise, Anderson. We are being told that as many as 75 have now been killed in what is being described as an attack. Hundreds or more than a hundred have been wounded.
The assailant in a truck drove as far as two kilometers along the Promenade des Anglais. This is the main drag in what is the southern French city of Nice. This is a tourist center. This was Bastille night.
The fireworks were ongoing. People reporting and they thought that this attack was just the noise of the fireworks. But clearly, that wasn't the case. This truck, it appear, authorities say now was full of explosives and arms, 75 dead, and more than 100 injured at this point, Anderson.
COOPER: And, Becky, let's just try to set the scene because I talked to a number of eyewitnesses and we'll be hearing from them throughout these next two hours. But -- and again, these are early reports and I do think it's always important in this situation to caution that these are some of these are eyewitness reports, some of them could be contradictory and even reports early on from officials are often contradictory.
But as best we know, Becky, is it clear how this person got through whatever barricades were set up because clearly this promenade had been blocked off in order to accommodate the thousands of people who were there to watch the fireworks? Do we know how this car or truck got through?
ANDERSON: No, you're absolutely right. It clearly was cordoned off, let's put it that way. Not necessarily, I think, and we haven't heard this confirmed by authorities, but not necessarily for security reasons, just for crowd control reasons as the Champs Elysees here in Paris was some three or four hours ago for the fireworks and earlier on in the day for the Bastille parade.
So, it isn't clear at present, but what we do know according to authorities is that this truck drove at something like 20 to 25 kilometers an hour over a distance of someone -- which is two kilometers in French distance here and plowed as eyewitnesses described, plowed through the crowd and eyewitnesses reporting that the driver at one point got out of the truck, got back into the truck and was fired on by authorities.
It does appear that he was shot and killed while he was in the truck. Was there any more than one assailant? That isn't clear, but authorities at this point are saying there was one assailant shot and killed in the truck, but clearly before that, as I report, had plowed through these crowds.
[20:05:00] COOPER: And, Jim, before I go to you -- before I go to you, just for one last time this hour -- again, I want to show you, there are a numbers of videos that we're not showing you because frankly -- they're just -- frankly, they're just too gruesome and graphic. Those still images that we've taken the color out, you get a sense in one stretch of just how many fatalities there were, in some cases there are still bodies out in the street now covered with sheets.
But we're hearing more and more from eyewitness reports and know you've spoken to people who were there, who saw what happened. What's the latest you've heard?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: I did, Anderson, I spoke with an American there who was part of this very international crowd there on the Nice waterfront. He said he was 15 feet away as the truck plowed through. In his description, he said it was mowing people over, accelerating in fact as it hit people, clearly intentional.
We know now that the French anti-terror authorities are taking over the investigation of this and they're looking at this as a terror attack, whatever the motivation, whether Islamist or not they're looking at it as an act of terrorism and mass murder. We know that that is also the leading theory now for U.S. authorities who were in close touch with their French counterparts as there have been, sadly, too many times now just in the last year as you go back to "Charlie Hebdo", you go back to the Paris attacks in November.
The other thing that witnesses had told me, Anderson, is And along the waterfront how the carnage was spread out and how they were able to drive through those crowds, mow people down before being challenged more than a mile and how along that mile you have the blinking lights of ambulances as they tend to the wounded and many of whom have been taken away and that is to the dead.
And that is what is unprecedented about this, Anderson. We have seen attackers use cars as weapons before, in France, we've seen it in Israel, we've seen it in Canada. We know that groups such as ISIS has encouraged its followers to do that.
What we have not seen is a successful mass casualty attack using a car as a weapon. We've certainly seen people use automatic weapons and mass weapons in mass casualty attacks and explosives and both together, but not to this degree of carnage and that's what's really particularly alarming tonight. It is in effect, a new weapon in the arsenal of people who want to carry out this kind of mass murder.
COOPER: And, Becky, you alluded to this, do French officials believe there is only one individual responsible for this or do they believe there are others who were either on the scene or elsewhere?
ANDERSON: No, what we are hearing at this point is just one assailant. An assailant who was in that truck who appeared as Jim rightly pointed out, plow through these crowds. Relatively slowly, it has to be said, as I said, 20, 25 kilometers an hour, which isn't fast along the Promenade des Anglais and then get out of the truck is what we are being told at some point, get back into the truck, at which point he was shot and killed by authorities.
So, as far as we understand at this point, it was just one assailant. What we do know is that the French president and the prime minister are on their way to the interior ministry here for what they've described as a crisis meeting and as Jim rightly points out, and you will be well aware of, Anderson, this has been a tumultuous time for France and a tumultuous 18 months starting back in January 2015, with the "Charlie Hebdo" killings eight months, the 130 people slain in those attacks in Paris.
We were just reflecting today on the unifying moment earlier on this week which was the Euro 2016 football tournament that the French team --
ANDERSON: -- had made it to the finals in and how that had been a moment in time and so short term given what's going on in this country and tonight such a tragic, tragic situation in the south of France.
COOPER: Jim, has anyone or any group claimed responsibility for this yet?
ANDERSON: No. To be clear, you have French anti-terror investigators taking over and they've not definitively identified this as a terrorism attack and they certainly haven't definitively identified it as an Islamist-driven terror attack, but they are investigating it.
At a minimum, it's an act of mass murder and let's look at other parts here that fit that terror playbook. One big gathering, a holiday, Bastille Day and essentially the French Fourth of July, a crowd that is likely to be very international.
[20:10:02] In fact, we know it is because I've spoken to people in the crowd who were American, who were Turkish, in addition to the many French. That fits the terrorist playbook.
And while using a car successfully or a truck successfully in a mass casualty attack would be unprecedented, using cars or trucks as a weapon is not and we know that, for instance, ISIS has called on its members to do just that. Al Qaeda in the past had called on its followers to use cars as weapons because the fact is and we see it tonight they can be very deadly weapons.
COOPER: Yes. Jim Sciutto, Becky Anderson and we'll continue checking in with you throughout the next two hours.
As I mentioned, eyewitnesses are coming forward just before air time -- minutes before airtime.
I spoke by phone with an American named Dominique Molina who was there with her family.
COOPER: So, Dominique, if you can, tell me where were you and when did you realize something awful was happening?
DOMINIQUE MOLINA, WITNESSED ATTACK (via telephone): Well, we were standing on the terrace of the apartment where we're staying and we're staying west of, on the Promenade des Anglais, and the fireworks show had just ended for Bastille Day, and there were thousands of people on the beach and they had just started to disband.
And they -- so people were flooding the streets just walking away from the show, and I heard a lot of loud noises and people were screaming and so to the west, a big moving truck was driving on the promenade just barreling over people and hitting -- running people over.
COOPER: You actually saw that?
COOPER: How fast was it moving?
MOLINA: I think about, like, 20 to 30 miles an hour. It was like, was there no way it was an accident. It's weird because your mind is trying to make sense of what you're seeing, and so, the thought is did somebody get lost? Are they drunk driving? But it took a few seconds just to register that this is intentional.
COOPER: I can't imagine what that's like standing there and you're with your teenager, with your husband.
MOLINA: Uh-huh. Yes. It was very -- it's just something you're not supposed to see at all, and I grabbed my son, and I just felt like shielding him and protecting him from seeing that because it was horrific, that it all happened so fast. It was like in slow motion.
COOPER: So you said the truck was to the west. Was that coming towards you?
COOPER: What happened then?
MOLINA: So the truck proceeded to run people over and the sounds were really horrific. You could hear banging sounds as the truck drove over people and things. So, people were carrying things in their arms and there are some benches there along the promenade
And just to the east of our apartment there is a series of about three pergolas that cover parts of the promenade and as he approached the pergolas, he veered left on to the street and there were people on the street there, as well, and it just went out of our view because there are palm trees there.
And as soon as the truck went out of view, we heard a barrage of gun fire and it sounded like a shooting range. And I was trying to make sense out of that as well because I couldn't see what was happening. I wondered, is that fireworks? But it definitely was not fireworks. And you heard screaming and then you see masses of people fleeing, like, running away.
And within a few moments of the gun fire, everything went very quiet, very eerily quiet and then you started hearing, like, wailing and screaming and crying and people seeing the victims on the ground and family members finding their loved ones dead, and there are bodies everywhere.
COOPER: Just strewn all down the promenade?
MOLINA: Yes, and, you know, I can see a block's length in front of my apartment, but when I look off in the distance because it's pitch black here, so you have to imagine the fireworks show is going off and it's pitch black and people are watching in the dark and squealing with delight and that is over in seconds and people get up and then the streets are flooded.
[20:15:05] It's just awful, the scene before this happened, so it's still dark. Now when I look off into the distance and I see where the emergency vehicle lights are, this guy started on the promenade at least like a mile to the west of us, and then when I look to the east, it continues at least another mile in the east.
So when I see directly in front of my apartment, I count ten dead bodies just in this block and you can see now because they're covered with tarps. So you can see where the bodies are and it's just, like, people are strewn everywhere and there are things strewn everywhere.
COOPER: And the people are still there. The people who have died?
MOLINA: Yes. The bodies are still there. Where I'm located, there's a triage that's been set up so the ambulances were taking away victims and then about ten, 15 minutes later, they all returned and they had set up a triage here just right here on the sidewalk and they started unloading the victims here.
I'm assuming the hospitals must be full. We're having a hard time getting information here, so we really don't know the bigger story of what's going on.
COOPER: The information is definitely slowly coming out. The earliest -- the latest report we have is that the driver or some gunmen opened initially and then the vehicle plowed in and whether it was the driver opening fire, and then moving forward in the vehicle, and it was finally obviously stopped by police. There's conflicting reports about how the driver was actually stopped, whether he got out and continued to shoot and was then shot or whether he was shot in the cab of the truck. Not clear on that yet.
But it seems like, Dominique, early on, I mean, there can't have been enough EMTs and paramedics on the scene. I saw a video very early on which we're not showing because it is just so horrific, where there are, you know, people horribly -- the remains of people on the street and civilians, it seems like, trying to do the best they can to take care of those who are still alive.
MOLINA: Yes. I mean, that's the scary part with something this massive. I mean, the crime scene itself, you have to picture is, the distance, but it's a couple of miles long, easily. So, if you imagine how much space there is to cover and how many victims there are, my first thoughts when this all happened, I was looking around and I said, where is everybody and where is the emergency personnel?
We had been out earlier in the day, and there were soldiers patrolling with weapons, and there was a big military parade earlier in the day and my thought is, like, where are those people? But there are so many -- there's just so many people that are victims in this. There's no way.
COOPER: How is your -- how is your son doing? He's -- he's really shaken. I have to say, we all are, and it's just something that we should -- people should not see these types of things. You really shouldn't. I don't think our brains can process the reality of that, and I'm very concerned for him.
MOLINA: Well, Dominique, I -- we're trying to piece together as best we can, as I said, the information is coming in in dribs and drabs and we really appreciate getting your perspective. I'm glad your family is safe and I wish you the best. Thank you so much.
MOLINA: I am, too. Thank you.
COOPER: One of the things also Dominique wanted me to point out that her thoughts and prayers as well as the thoughts and prayers of her family are with not only those who have lost their lives, their families and those who have been injured.
We have just gotten new video of the truck itself before it r6 became a deadly weapon. The driver ultimately killing people on the promenade for what must have seemed like an eternity for those on the promenade, driving for more than a mile, killing at least 75 people. But that was before, apparently, although it does seem like some people seem to be chasing after it.
Joining us, CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen, CNN terrorism analyst Philip Mudd, former senior official of the FBI and CIA, former senior homeland security official, Juliette Kayyem. She's also CNN national security analyst. CNN law enforcement analyst, Art Roderick, CNN intelligence and security analyst, Bob Baer, and on the phone, CNN terrorism analyst Paul Cruickshank.
Phil, just initially, what's your -- what are your thoughts on this?
PHIL MUDD, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, I look at this and a couple of things I look at, look at the steady state of how the truck was moving down the avenue and the amount of weapons in the vehicle, we're not talking about someone who decided yesterday he was going to do this.
[20:20:07] A lot of people in that state. They're going into what is not a suicide operation, but it is. He's going in to kill people. He may anticipate he's going to die. A lot of people are in an agitated state. They're not going to be able to take that steady route down the road. It suggests to me a lot of forethought.
The second thing I'd say, Anderson, if you contrast this to what we saw in Bangladesh, in Paris, in Brussels, in Turkey, you're talking about operations that were multiple people, they appear to be centrally trained and organized and suicide vests. This one as a professional, you step by and say, what do you want me to tell the American people, the European people, somebody wants to take trucks and weapons, I'm going to guess that he has very little if not any centrally connected linkages to ISIS.
What are we going to do to stop this truck? I'm not sure what the answer is, Anderson.
COOPER: It could be just somebody getting a truck and deciding to mow people down as a group like ISIS has encouraged.
MUDD: That's right. In the past we would have looked at a group like al Qaeda 10 years ago and said, they wanted to go after the big target to send a message to fundraisers, possible recruits, we're still in the big game. What ISIS says is, we're interested in three kinds of targets, one like Turkey, we might train people who go into a major attack and, two, like Bangladesh, we might inspire a group that's not directly connected to something. Three, like maybe Orlando, maybe this, we just want somebody to go run an operation that has no connection --
COOPER: Right. Get a hammer, get a weapon, get a vehicle.
MUDD: That's right, that's right. Fundamentally different terror game than we would have faced five or ten years ago.
COOPER: Peter, the fact that this -- I mean, it happened on Bastille Day, a national holiday and people have been gathered on this promenade and God knows how many people were there watching fireworks. When you look at that, latest reports say weapons and explosives in the vehicle, all clearly very deliberate.
PETER GERGEN, AUTHOR, "UNITED STATES OF JIHAD": Yes. And I mean, if indeed this is a terrorist attack which is seems to be, this is probably going to be the most lethal terrorist attack by a lone wolf if this person is acting alone than we've seen in history. This is the most lethal terrorist attack that we've seen in the past by a lone wolf and you'll recall, Anderson, was Anders Breivik, a sort of Norwegian neo-Nazi killed 77 people. The death toll is at 75 and unfortunately, this is likely to rise.
I think this has important implications of how we think about lone wolves because certainly, others have suffered from the idea that the lone wolf has a certain ceiling in terms of their lethality, but Orlando changed that where 49 people were killed at a nightclub. San Bernardino, of course, 14 people killed in December. And so, we're entering into a slightly new era if indeed this is a lone wolf terrorist attack where we're seeing lone wolves carry out attack that are much more lethal even than organized terrorist attacks. Think about the Brussels attack, in which, which was an organized ISIS attack, 31 people were killed. Here we have a death toll that's more than double that already.
So, this has important implications for the way we think about events, whether a lot of people were packed together and, of course, terrorists will be looking at this event with great interest as a way to create mass casualty attacks in the future.
COOPER: And, Art, obviously, security officials will be looking at what sort of barricades were up, was it barricades to just divert traffic or it was to stop vehicles and anti-terror prosecutors in France have taken over the investigation.
If you can walk us through what investigators are going to be looking for right now, I would imagine co-conspirators would be, I mean, A, the identity of this person in order to find out is there a large web here or network?
ART RODERICK, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Exactly. I mean, they're going to be looking at where the explosives come from. They mentioned grenades if there were grenades in there. Military-type grenades and those should be relatively easy to track, but I think they're also going to look at this, Anderson, and this is very important. Are we seeing a change in tactics because each time we have an attack, law enforcement, security agencies and intelligence agencies and the military learns from that attack and tries to counter it in the future?
But the terrorists learn also. And when you look at the attacks in Belgium, the attacks in Paris, those were very well-coordinated and not only from the logistics and preparation side, but also the execution side. When you have one person executing this type of major attack, the planning really comes down to the logistics and preparation and then just put them in the car or in the truck and let him do his thing.
I mean, it really is a lot easier. And is this a change in the terrorist tactics at this point if this was directed?
COOPER: You know, Paul, the other thing about this, just as we look at this video of the truck moving through and that was a very large vehicle, if there had been -- you know, if that had been packed with explosives obviously there could have been a huge detonation, that would have required a certain level of skill.
This doesn't really require -- it requires some sort of, you know, whatever the mental state is that allows you to do this horrific act.
[20:25:07] But it doesn't require a technical know how here.
PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERROR ANALYST: That's exactly right, Anderson. But this may have been a lone wolf attack. We obviously don't know yet, but there are some indications that there, could perhaps be a network behind this because after all, in the back of that truck, there were a substantial number of firearms, explosives and grenades and it would be very difficult, not impossible for just one individual to source all of those in Europe.
And so, investigators are going to be furiously looking at whether there is a wider network with this individual and whether this individual has connections to a terrorist group like ISIS and whether this individual perhaps has traveled overseas. We understand that in this attack, it wasn't just a question of driving this car, this truck into people, but also opening fire on people during this attack. The time line not quite clear at this point, but it would appear that was in the early stages of the attack suggesting that this individual may have some skills in firing weapons.
We don't know what yet what kind of weapon he was firing, but if it was some kind of Kalashnikov that we've seen ISIS fighters use in Syria, that can point investigators in a particular direction. So, too early to tell as far as I'm concerned whether this is a lone wolf attack or whether this is a more orchestrated terrorist plot. COOPER: So, the thing I don't understand is, A, again, and Paul
pointed out an important point, we don't exactly know the time line of the actions. Whether the initial reports now according to French officials are shots were fired by this gunman or by a gunman and then the vehicle started.
We don't know if those shots were fired from him outside the vehicle, from somebody else and then he got in the vehicle. I don't know exactly how it came to an end and as Becky Anderson was reporting, he stepped out of the vehicle and got back in or was killed inside of the vehicle. But, again, that's -- I don't think that's locked down yet.
COOPER: But if there were explosives, weapons, grenades in the back of the truck, why wouldn't those have been used by other -- if there were co-conspirators, by other co-conspirators? Why would one person go on what he must have known was a suicide mission with more weaponry in hat others could have used if there were others?
MUDD: Let me give you some simple rules, Anderson, we'll violate these rules occasionally, but as we look at this, some things to think about.
Number one, the difference between an individual operating and a group operating. In my experience as soon as you get an individual, the likelihood of understanding his mental state declines. As soon as you get two or more, they start weeding out people who have mental stability problems. So, my first problem is, not just terrorism, but what is the broader question about, where he was last night and what triggered him?
COOPER: You can't use a rational actor model, in (INAUDIBLE) about an individual --
MUDD: Exactly right. You have to look at the emotional state. Don't know what triggered him, but when I looked at cases like this as someone approaches, the date and time that they're going to operate, they're not only taking the step to kill other people. They're taking the step to understand that their life will end in 24 to 48 hours. So, believing they're stepping back to say, let me wait a moment and determine how to maximize casualties by really recruiting somebody else or belling a weapon. I think that is a rational actor model to an individual would not be in a mental state that we can understand.
COOPER: You know, Juliette, we've seen the attackers to attempt to, not only maximize carnage, and death toll and wounded, but also maximize the time, the length of the attack itself to, frankly, maximize the global impact, to maximize media coverage. We've seen a number of attacks where people are checking media coverage, whether they're trending on Twitter and the like, and even in Orlando, the killer called into a television station.
I mean, this -- does this have any hallmarks that link it to other attackers on is this unlike anything you've seen before? JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST (via telephone): It's
pretty unique, Anderson, and I'm going to be pretty honest and this one is confusing and part of it is that the data is just coming in. I think, Paul, there is a lot to what Paul says. I find it hard to believe that someone would have fully been able to sort of arm that and those were the first reports that we were hearing. We have to be careful here, but fully arm a truck like that --
COOPER: We don't know how armed this truck was. Was it one grenade? Was it one rifle in the back?
KAYYEM: That's exactly right, Anderson. So, if the first report was right that there was a lot going on in that truck and you would want the investigation to look at least a number of co-conspirators. If it ends up, as it often does, and we know this in every single case, that the first report we're hearing, even eyewitness reports remember are often wrong and someone may sounds like they knew exactly what was happening. But if ends up that it was just an individual, it does show that, you know, this is the idea that you could just get into a truck and have this kind of lone wolf carnage in a place that is at least on semi-high alert and is a high-profile night in France during a high-profile time, this exposes the vulnerability for any of these, you know, these mega events and that's, you know, if you want to look for good news, that's the challenge right now in this case.
COOPER: And Peter Bergen, we should point out since you had mentioned the death toll earlier, the death toll now, according to French officials, has been raised to 77.
Peter, what do you make of the fact that this is the third major, again, what appears to be has all the signs of a terror attack in France in the last year or so?
PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, you know, there's been a huge wave of a frank -- of not just French, but also Belgian foreign fighters going to ISIS and have also -- and obviously, there's a network that exist in both countries and, of course, people inspired by ISIS. And as the investigation moves forward, we'll find out, you know, how this event fits into that pattern.
You know, interestingly, Anderson, while there's certainly being a great deal of concern in other European countries, you know, we haven't seen these types of attacks in Britain. We've seen a lot of arrests, seven plots, especially being linked to ISIS in the last couple of years, have been averted in Britain and in other European countries.
But what you're really seeing is a francophone phenomenon that is seemingly can find mostly to France and Belgium, it's not in entirely. And the fact that the French, you know, continue to suffer these attacks is, you know, is an indication of, you know, I think the key statistic here, Anderson, is 10 percent of the French -- 10 percent of the Muslim -- sorry, 10 percent of the population in France is Muslim. 70 percent of their population in prison is Muslims. So, they have this very disadvantaged group of people, very marginalized. And if you look at all the attacks we've seen in France whether the Charlie Hebdo attack or the big attack in November, in which 130 people were killed, almost without exception the perpetrators have gone through the French prison system, often have radicalized in the French prison system. So that's something certainly that we want to be looking at as we know more about this perpetrator.
COOPER: And Bob Baer, obviously, another thing is sort of, where are the weapons comes from? What weapons were actually used? And again, we don't know the extent of weaponry that this individual had. But, you know, how easy is it to get grenades, to get explosives, to get, you know, semiautomatic or automatic weapons in France?
ROBERT BAER, FMR. CIA OFFICER: Anderson, as an individual, it's virtually impossible. You need to be plugged into a network. I spent three years working at the French police. They're completely on the arms mark, illegal arms mark. You can't buy guns or automatic weapons or really rifles and grenades were. They just never found. Sometimes organized crime had them, but it was very, very rare.
And so, this is what makes me -- if indeed grenades were found in the back of this truck, it suggests there was some sort of organizational connection where you're into a smuggling network or even, as I've been saying, you know, bringing this stuff in from Libya, which has worried the French for a long time.
You know, all of the refugees being smuggled in it would be very easy to bring in military weaponry into France, Italy and the rest of Europe. And I think that's what has -- have the French concerned so much is this chaos on their borders and the chaos in Syria and Iraq. And it's just backlash that's hitting the Europeans particularly hard and they just have no idea where it's going to stop.
COOPER: And again, I just want to caution, we don't know the extent of what other weaponry was found inside that semi.
Again, French officials have now raised the death toll to 77. We've heard as well from the U.S. State Department, it is warning Americans in these to contact family members and loved ones to notify them that they are safe, also advise them to avoid the area, monitor local press and exercise caution.
President Obama released a statement a short time ago. CNN's Suzanne Malveaux is at the White House. What did the President say?
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, the President was notified of the attack really just moments after it happened. His National Security team is updating him minute by minute, hour by hour.
I'm going to read just part of the statement here from the President. He say, "On behalf of the American people, I condemn in the strongest terms what appears to be a horrific terrorist attack in Nice, France, which killed and wounded dozens of innocent civilians. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and other loved ones of those killed and we wish a full recovery for the many wounded. [20:35:00] Anderson, the statement goes on to say that the U.S. of course, is in touch with French officials. The President has offered the assistance, any kind of assistance, that they need at this time in terms of an investigation and other resources, talking about the important relationship the U.S. has with France, its resiliency as well as the shared Democratic values it has.
It should be noted, Anderson, it was just past April when we saw President Obama and French President Francois Hollande here at the White House. They were talking about ways of combating terror. Now, they're not specifically, and certainly, the administration being cautious not saying this is ISIS.
But certainly, we have seen these two leaders previously really kind of dig down, digging their heels in the fight against ISIS. It was just days after the Paris attack, you might have remember, recalled that these two leaders talked about the importance of going after ISIS in Iraq and Syria, that they were going to increase the air strikes, that they were going to bolster the intelligence sharing, and also try to take some of the resources, the finances away from ISIS.
Officials, again, Anderson, saying it's much too soon to know who is at the bottom of this terrorist attack, but the U.S. certainly vowing its solidarity, its friendship and its commitment to its oldest ally this evening. Anderson.
COOPER: Suzanne Malveaux, thanks very much. Back with Phil Mudd, yeah, you're thinking something?
PHILIP MUDD, FMR. SENIOR OFFICIAL, FBI AND CIA: Yeah. Looking at what the President is saying in cooperation with the French, there are a couple of questions that will come up in the coming days neither of which is easy to answer.
The first is in the past few days, Bashar al-Assad has said, the president of Syria said, Russians aren't telling me to leave as he and the Russians gain momentum in Syria, as that society, that stateless society where ISIS operates continues to be a stateless society.
There's an interesting question. Do we maintain the civil war there, which allows ISIS to operate or do we talk to the French and other to say we can't stand this level of violence? We will cut some kind of deal with the Russians.
The second and final question, Anderson, is equally difficult. Europeans, Belgians, French, Brits are asking questions over time about how much information we share about citizens who have not committed a crime. You're a French citizen and an American citizen, if you're up on a website, if you've traveled to Syria or Turkey should we start sharing information about our citizens that prevent them from travel, from acquiring a weapon before that citizen has done anything wrong? An interesting question and an important question about privacy that I think will come up again in the wake of these attacks.
COOPER: Interesting. Joining me now by phone is Regis Le Sommier editor in chief of the French news magazine "Paris Match".
Regis thank you for being with us. I'm sorry it's under these circumstances. The fact that anti-terror investigators have taken over this investigation, what does that tell you at this point?
REGIS LE SOMMIER, "PARIS MATCH" DEPUTY EDITOR CHIEF: Well, it tells us that, you know, there's no doubt that (inaudible) and, you know, everything bears the sign of ISIS or, you know, it's, you know, I hate the term lone wolf because it turns out that every time we use that term the guy is connected -- has been connected in the past. And from what we know, it was one guy driving a truck that went in the crowd and we also know that in the past weeks, ISIS sympathizer had been urging their (inaudible) especially in France to use that type of weapon or to use that type of, you know, anything they can and they are urging, they are doing so, you know, it's terror related, there's no doubt about it.
COOPER: Is it clear at this point, and again, you know, we all know this is very early hours and it's difficult to kind of get an exact sense of exactly what happened, but this boulevard, which is obviously, you know, the main drag in Nice, the promenade facing the ocean was cordoned off. No one was supposed to be able to drive down this street. Is it clear how this truck actually got through whatever barricades there were?
LE SOMMIER: Yeah. It's, you know, everything had been cleaned up. You're perfectly right to say that there was no car and only, you know, pedestrians were walking by and actually leaving the place where the fireworks were. We don't know how the truck managed to get through. And it was obviously, you know, from the field which the only vehicle, you know, crossing there and, you know, it's something that will probably be investigated in the next hours. And we'll probably, you know, know what has gone on and, you know, how that truck, particularly, and that driver was able to go through.
But to go back to what happened. I mean, now the number of casualties reached 77. And I was talking to a source in Nice, and they, you know, it could very well be that at the end of the night the number with the one -- or even go above the one at the Bataclan, which means that, you know, was using one truck and one guy, you know, that they're able to create more casualties that, you know, maybe complex operation that they're led in Paris
[20:40:13] COOPER: That's extraordinary.
LE SOMMIER: It's very scary for the future. They've been urging to do this so, they've been saying to some of their fans also not to come to the caliphate, not to come to Iraq or Syria. Stay in their place and, you know, and act over there and this is what the scary part especially given that ISIS on the ground in Syria and Iraq is on the defensive now and hasn't had any victories in the past and it's shrinking.
So, this is very critical moment, I believe, and what we're seeing in this, of course, it's, you know, a tragic repercussion of what's going on over there. COOPER: And just one final question. I mean, there was so much talk in the wake of Charlie Hebdo and in Bataclan about intelligence sharing between various agencies, you know, France and Belgium, other countries in the E.U. and elsewhere. Has that improved as far as you know?
LE SOMMIER: Yeah. As far as I know especially, you know, between France and Belgium. You know, believe it or not before November 13, unfortunately, things were not coordinated very well and now they're very well coordinated.
I know it from that part of the investigation that they share as much information as they can and, you know, especially given the fact that a number of the people that attacked Paris, coming from Brussels and that's been, you know, a lot of -- a number of people arrested given coordination between the French police and the Belgian police.
With the intel abroad I believe that from what -- the American intel and the French intel has been working very closely but that has been going on for quite a number of years now. And, of course, you know, we all hope that this will go, you know, better and better so we can catch these people before they act.
COOPER: And, I'm sorry. Finally, have you heard any more reporting or do you have any more reporting on what was found in the vehicle? Because there are initial reports of some sort of explosives or grenade or grenades and other weaponry, do you know -- do you have any further details on that?
LE SOMMIER: Yeah. I heard that. You know, one of the local politicians have said that there were with some weapons and, you know, then there was -- grenades were found as well and the driver might have been carried a light weapon with him.
As far as I know, there was also a video where we can hear gunshots and it's hard that being, you know, knowing if those gunshots were the results of the, you know, the police stopping the car or the truck, I mean, or that it happened before because one, you know, (inaudible) apparently said that the driver started firing before their getting their truck, you know, so it's still very, very confusing and we have to be very careful with what's being reported you know, until -- I mean on the full night done on ...
COOPER: Absolutely. I mean ...
LE SOMMIER: It's a horrific tragedy.
COOPER: We've certainly learned that lesson time and again, and initial reports are often on the contradictory, but often turn out to be just flat-out wrong because eyewitnesses see things from different advantage points and they conflate, you know, different sounds.
So, Regis, I appreciate your time tonight. Thank you again. Sorry, it's under these circumstances.
Joining us now by phone is American eyewitness, Paul Delane. Paul, where were you and what did you see and hear?
PAUL DELANE, AMERICAN WITNESSED ATTACK: Well, we had just finished watching the fireworks show and decided to go closer to where the DJ was playing all the music, and all of the festivities were being taking place, which is in the direction of the Negresco and then we were talking about walking back home and in the direction of where the truck was and all of a sudden people, just thousands of people, started running in one direction.
Well, my partner took my hand immediately and we started running with everybody, but honestly, in my head I had no idea what was going on because the music was so loud, so we couldn't hear anything. I didn't really see a truck, but just people running and screaming and crying and people carrying their children, and it was just -- it was very frightening.
I didn't know if I should hide or if I should continue running, you know, because everything that's been happening in the world I wasn't sure exactly what to do and obviously in that situation nobody knew what was going on. We all just knew that we had to run for our lives.
[20:45:01] Well, that's basically what happened. That was my experience.
COOPER: At any point, did you actually see the truck or was it just a situation and you just -- you were able to run from the area?
DELANE: Yeah. Literally, we were 200 meters away from where the truck had actually stopped. But with all of the people in the way, to tell you honestly, I wasn't looking in that direction to see what happening in that way.
DELANE: I was, you know, debating. I was just wondering what I should do. Should I run to the beach and hind behind or find something to hide behind ...
COOPER: Yeah, of course.
DELANE: ... or keep running, you know.
DELANE: And so, we just decided to keep running and that's what we did. We ran all of the way home to the -- next to the train station and turned on the news.
COOPER: Yeah. Well, Paul, I appreciate you talking to us. I'm glad you and your partner are OK. Thank you very much, Paul Delane.
We have much more ahead tonight as we bring you the latest developments in this breaking story.
Up next, I'll talk to another eyewitness which she saw and heard from her balcony. I'll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
COOPER: Breaking news, at least 77 people now dead in Nice, France after a truck driver plows into a crowd after Bastille Day fireworks. Thousands of people watched this unfold in front of them including Zeynip Akar. We spoke by phone shortly before air time.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Hey Zeynip, if you can explain to me when you first realized something terrible had happened?
ZEYNIP AKAR, WITNESSED ATTACK: Well, I was in -- I watched the fireworks and I went in because I wanted to watch the Paris concert which was more attractive to me than the loud music outside.
Then among the music, there was kind of a crash, a metallic sound, and then I just, you know, I went in to the balcony and watched.
[20:50:04] I saw people yelling and running. Then I saw the bodies on the avenue, on the promenade.
COOPER: So, you faced the -- your apartment, you're facing the promenade? You actually face the water?
AKAR: It's right in front of me. I can still see the -- I mean, the police and everything, the truck. It happened right in front of where I am, unfortunately.
COOPER: So, you heard the crashing, you heard metal sound when you went to ...
COOPER: When you went to the balcony, what did you see happening?
AKAR: The -- I mean. It was already done. The people were on the asphalt already, on the road already. And then, you know, as I stepped out of the balcony, I saw these people running and I saw people on the -- well, on the road, and gunshots. So I went in, I was afraid. I switched off the lights. There was heavy gun shots.
COOPER: How long did the gunfire last for?
AKAR: Oh, very short, very short. I mean, we heard very short, it's not just -- not one or two or three shots, but many. I -- because it's coming into the house at 7:00, I saw the army, I mean, lots of -- I just saw three very big army guys with their machine gun and everything so they were patrolling. They were among the crowd.
COOPER: And how far from your apartment did the truck actually stop, do you know?
AKAR: The spot is -- the truck is about 50 meters away, right. I still see it.
COOPER: Have they been able to attend to all the -- those who have been wounded and all those who have died?
AKER: Yes, yes. There were lots of people, lots of people there.
COOPER: It seems like I saw a video which we're not showing to our viewers because it's so graphic.
COOPER: But none of many bodies laying in the streets and it looked like there were civilians attending to people, trying to help them as best as they could before the -- before ambulances actually arrived.
AKAR: Yeah, but I cannot tell you how crowded it was. So there's no way, you know, you're going to run off and let those people, I mean, it could have been much more worse. This is one of the reasons I stayed in, because it was packed outside.
COOPER: And just to be clear, are there still dead lying in the streets?
AKAR: They are taking them one by one, I assume. I don't want to go out there. It's very sad.
COOPER: The scene is terrible.
AKAR: It is terrible. Yeah. It is terrible.
COOPER: I was in Nice just about, probably, about three weeks ago on that very promenade.
COOPER: For those who haven't been there, can you just explain, I mean, this is really the main boulevard really in Nice. It's right -- it faces the ocean, it's -- I mean, that's -- if you're going to get a one place in Nice, that's where people would stroll around.
AKAR: Of course, of course. This is the main, main beautiful, beautiful road all the way to the airport and there's the beach underneath. It's an elevated road from the beach and there are beaches, private beaches and popular beaches all along.
COOPER: Well, Zeynip, I'm sorry for all that's happening in your city.
COOPER: And I appreciate you talking to us tonight. Thank you.
AKAR: Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Back with our panel, Phil Mudd, Peter Bergen, Juliette Kayyem, Art Roderick, Bob Baer, Paul Cruickshank as well. Once they, I mean, they clearly now have this person, they have access to the vehicle, if they find a cell phone, something like that, that can be a huge step just as it was in the Bataclan attack when they have found that cell phone outside the Bataclan.
MUDD: Anderson, there's a couple of basic questions you got to deal with the aftermath. We're watching T.V. We're watching the episode from France live. If you're in the business, you don't have time to grieve, because the question is not what just happened. Question one, if for example, you acquire a cell phone, who did he text today? Did he text someone one minute before the attack? What's his call history? Is there somebody else involved in this?
COOPER: So, you're saying the question is not what happened, because that's already done.
MUDD: That's correct. Done.
COOPER: You were trying to prevent something else from happening?
MUDD: Correct. It's almost two parallel investigations. The law enforcement investigation, the scene investigation about what happened on the street ...
COOPER: And those are different teams.
MUDD: Correct, intelligence investigation. Was he involved with someone who maybe thinking about something to do tomorrow? So, if he's got a cell phone on him, we don't know that yet. My first question, who do you text and call today?
[20:54:59] The second is tougher, Anderson. People will be looking that at this in America and in Europe, people who are unaffiliated with him, who are ISIS sympathizers, saying he's not a coward, he, from their perspective, is showing courage.
Do I have the same courage to get over the bar he had? You've got to think about people who are sympathetic who look at this and say I got to do the same thing.
COOPER: Essentially copycats. People ...
MUDD: That's right. And furthermore, people who are saying it's shameful if I don't. He had the courage, why don't I?
COOPER: You know, Juliette, you raised this, I think before, which is, you know, how do you prevent something like this? I mean, this is somebody getting in a vehicle and just mowing people down, you know. We all know the reality of this.
KAYYEM: Yeah. That's exactly right. I want to -- and I think the nerve wracking part of this. I'm looking at the pictures now. I'm calling you from a phone but I have CNN on. What's striking me is just how big this truck is. We are not talking about a car. This is a -- this is, you know, Beirut style, you know, Lebanon 1980 size truck and appeared to have gotten through no bar -- I mean, there's no barriers at the station.
So, from a defensive perspective, if you can't stop the thing from happening, right because maybe this is a lone wolf, you know, we are going to have to start to think about on these parades, mobile barriers, barriers that you could put up and down as for, you know, as the street is cleared. You know, quick barriers that you can put up to try to stop trucks.
And it's the kind of flexibility that, unfortunately, you know, our defensive actions aren't as quick as their offensive actions.
But I'm still, you know, we're in early moments. Obviously, we don't know all the specifics, but just at least from the pictures, the size of the truck is at least good news from the investigation purposes.
It suggests that there might have been a lot of things in the back, we don't know, but also that's a big footprint. That's, you know, this is not a small car that you can just get from a rental agency.
So, I do think that with the investigation will at least unfold others who may have been involved if there were others.
COOPER: We have much more ahead on this two hour edition of "360". Another terror in Nice, France and attack has killed at least 77 people, the death toll pretty possibly will go higher, injured more than 100 others.
As you saw the tractor trailer truck leaving trail of carnage more than a mile long in a crowded promenade. We'll have more ahead.
[21:00:04] COOPER: It is early morning in France, and we are continuing to get new details on the horror, on the act of mass murder that unfolded there just hours ago.
It happened in the southern French city of Nice on a national holiday Bastille Day ...