Return to Transcripts main page
ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Manhunt for Market Attack Suspect; Trump's First Public Comments on Berlin Attack; Trump Sons Distance Themselves from Inauguration Fundraiser; Search Underway for Victims After Fireworks Blast Kills 32. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired December 21, 2016 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
POPPY HARLO, CNN ANCHOR: "Outfront" next. Breaking news, an international manhunt underway -- a 24-year-old Tunisian man now the prime suspect in the Christmas market terror attack. Also, charges to Donald Trump's children are selling access to themselves and to their father.
Is it a case of paper play? And the deadly fireworks explosion that killed more than 30 people -- what went so horribly wrong, let's go "Outfront."
Good evening, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow in tonight for Erin Burnett. Tonight, "Outfront" breaking news, a race against time -- a desperate manhunt throughout Germany and across Europe for the man identified as the key suspect in the terror attack on that Christmas market in Berlin.
German officials tonight identifying this man, Anis Amri, a Tunisian migrant, the focus of their investigation. Amri's identity papers found inside that truck that mowed down dozens of Christmas shoppers, killing 12, injuring 48 more.
This, as President-elect Donald Trump makes his first public comments today on the attack. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT-ELECT: That's (ph) an attack on humanity. That's what it is. It's an attack on humanity. And it's got to be stopped.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: Erin McLaughlin is now "Outfront" for us tonight in Berlin.
Erin, what more do we know about this man who is the key suspect? They don't know if he's the only one. But this is who they are hunting for.
ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Poppy. And we're learning more information about his past as well as potential security failures.
Now, we know here in Germany, he had at least two run-ins with the law. German intelligence officials believe that at one point, he was trying to get a gun.
He was also arrested back in August for illegally trying to cross into Italy on forged travel documents, a judge taking a decision to set him free, unclear why. We also know that in June, authorities tried to deport him but were unable to do so because they weren't able to establish his identity.
Now, he's on the run, potentially armed and dangerous.
MCLAUGHLIN: The manhunt is on for 24-year-old Tunisian, Anis Amri, his identification papers found in the cab (ph) of the truck that plowed into a Berlin Christmas market killing 12 people and injuring 48, many of them critically, Germany offering a reward of just over $100,000 for information leading to Amri's capture, warning the suspect is considered armed and dangerous.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): The person we are talking about seems to have entered Germany in July 2015. He was mainly in Berlin since February.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MCLAUGHLIN: German authorities had been aware of Amri for some time. Deemed a security risk earlier this year, his request for asylum in Germany was denied.
And he'd been facing deportation for months. Police arrested Amri in August, trying to enter Italy with forged documents. But a judge soon released him.
Amri has been linked to Islamic extremist pro-ISIS network run by a 32-year-old Iraqi known as Abu Walaa (ph), the ring leader of a group charged with radicalizing and recruiting young Muslims in Germany. Abu Walaa (ph) and four others were arrested last month.
At one point, a German security official said, he was looking for a gun. Monday's attack, one of the deadliest in Germany in decades now fuelling a backlash against Chancellor Angela Merkel, critics blaming Merkel's generous immigration policies for a rise in terror tactics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): It would be wrong if you made our German chancellor responsible for this horrendous act.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MCLAUGHLIN: Merkel's bid for a fourth term now facing fierce opposition from right-wing opponents, who lay blame for the attacks at her feet. Merkel joined mourners at a memorial service in a church next to the scene of the attack, while outside, members of Germany's Muslim community turned out to pay their respect to the victims.
MCLAUGHLIN: There's already been political fallout from this attack, legislatures pushing new laws that would increase government powers to electronically surveil (ph) German citizens as well as increase the number of security cameras located in public places, measures that have been previously unpopular.
HARLOW: Yes, absolutely. And this year alone, as you know, Erin, 900,000-plus immigrants coming into Germany, obviously some backlash to that tonight, debate on both sides. Erin, thank you very much.
Also, breaking tonight, a man claiming to be the father of the suspect that they are hunting for right now is speaking about his son. Our CNN terrorism analyst, Paul Cruickshank, is "Outfront" with that.
Paul, I'm interested, obviously, what is the father saying? This is the first we've heard of this. Also, has he been in touch recently with his son?
PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: He's been giving an interview with Mozaka (ph) family, a Tunisian radio station, in which he said his son left Tunisia about seven years ago, went to Italy as an illegal immigrant but then was convicted and served four years in a jail for an arson attack on a school and a robbery.
Once he got out of jail, the next day (ph) then traveling to Germany, where as we've been hearing, he came onto the radar screen of German counterterrorism services. He's saying that he has not been much in touch with his son.
But some of the siblings have been more occasionally in touch with him. But a picture being painted as somebody who was violent even before that they were radical.
And of course, the question is when did this individual become radicalized. Was it perhaps possibly during his jail sentence?
We've seen that with so many people who've taken this radical trajectory that it's in prison that they've been radicalized.
HARLOW: Right. Exactly. And as you said, he served four years for that arson attack on a school -- a lot more we need to know but some light being shed on all of it from his father.
Paul, thank you very much. We appreciate your reporting tonight. Also "Outfront" with us to discuss, Phil Mudd, former CIA counterterrorism official, Art Roderick, former assistant director of the U.S. Marshall Service and Chris Swecker, former assistant FBI director for the criminal investigative division.
Thank you, gentlemen, for being here.
And Phil, let's just talk about where he could be because the issue is, you know, these -- these porous borders. You've got the Schengen Agreement.
You've got the ability to drive in and out of Germany to the surrounding countries with little to no check points. You've also got the fact that they didn't know his identity for a while.
They didn't know who they were looking for. So -- so could he have gotten on a plane?
PHIL MUDD, FORMER COUNTERTERRORISM OFFICIAL, CIA: I doubt he got on a plane. But let's think about a couple -- the other things you mentioned.
That is what -- is he in the surrounding area? Or as we talked in the past, might he have made it to Syria? The world in Syria has changed substantially.
You're looking at a place where ISIS is on the run. It's not as welcoming an environment for foreigners as it would have been even a year or two ago.
So I think the likelihood is he would find it difficult getting there. The second option is does he find this network that we are talking about, Poppy...
MUDD: ...this network of radicalizers in Germany? There is one quick problem there that's not only a problem for him. That's an opportunity for security services...
MUDD: ...who have already looked at these people to know where they are and...
MUDD: ...to talk to them as well.
HARLOW: That would be likely the group they looked at.
Chris, you had (ph) an interesting point. You've said that you believed that the authority is potentially at this hour could be playing somewhat of a mind game with him leading him on a bit, perhaps knowing more of his whereabouts than they are making public, to lead them to this network.
CHRIS SWECKER, FORMER ASSISTANT DIRECTOR FOR CRIMINAL INVESTIGATIVE DIVISION, FBI: Well, that's what I would do, if -- if I had any inkling of where this where this person was, subject, of course, to making sure that he doesn't commit any more violent acts. We know that in Germany, about three weeks ago, they hit about 200 locations, the counterterrorism officials did.
And they -- out of those type of operations, you get a lot of intelligence. And that's about the same time that they arrested several associates or alleged associates of -- of this attacker.
So I think the police -- the counterterrorism officials know a lot more than they're putting out. And that's a good thing.
They need to hold things close to the vest and play it -- play it cool right now.
HARLOW: So Art, the concern, obviously, for the public is that this man, they believe he's armed, that he's dangerous. And if they have him cornered, a major concern right now is -- is the potential for a follow-up attack, especially if he feels like his hours are limited and he wants to kill more people.
Should they be concerned that, you know, that something could be eminent?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If there's any...
ARTHUR RODERICK, FORMER ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, U.S. MARSHALL SERVICE: WELL, Absolutely. And -- and I agree with -- I agree with Chris, too, that -- that I'm sure that the German law enforcement are holding information back. He's going to be like a cornered animal when they actually get to him.
I'm -- I'm sure over the past 48 hours, that a lot of the information that's been put out or lack of information actually that's been put out kept reminding me of the days when I worked with German law enforcement. They held things very close to the vest, would not let out information, would try to run the leads down themselves before they went to the public, knowing full well that when they went to the public with good information, that it could expose the information to the fugitive themselves.
And -- and, you know, when you boil this down, you use the same fugitive techniques you would looking for an individual wanted for a terrorism crime or an individual that you're looking for -- for standard criminal-type crime. So it's the same methods you would use in both type of cases.
But -- but obviously, this individual is armed and dangerous. He's killed a person already. And, you know, he's not going to have any hesitation to shoot at law enforcement or take innocent lives again.
HARLOW: Taken 12 lives and injured 48 more.
Phil, to you...
HARLOW: ...here is what we do know. We know that this suspect was known to German security services as someone in contact with radical Islamist groups, that he did pose a risk.
He was arrested for these forged documents in August. The judge released him. At one point, they knew that he was looking for a gun.
You say, wait, though. Don't be so quick to call this an intelligence failure. Why?
MUDD: Simple reason. You used a word that has a lot of meaning in my world. And that is "in contact." What does that mean?