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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
UK Police: 19 Killed, Around 50 Injured At Ariana Grande Concert. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired May 22, 2017 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[20:00:13] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And a good evening to you. We're in two places at once tonight, Washington, D.C., and Great Britain. There are reports of an explosion, with injuries and fatalities at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England.
Now someone who was there telling BBC, it was bedlam, horrific.
Also tonight from here in Washington, a string of late and significant developments to the Russia collusion probe.
We begin, though, with Manchester being especially careful not to get ahead of the facts which are terrible enough as they are at this point. We want to point out there is probably more that we don't know than we do now right now.
CNN's Phil Black joins us with the very latest.
So, what have you learned about this incident? And again, I'm giving our viewers a heads up. This is very early moments and often initial reporting is from eyewitnesses and it's inaccurate and there's a lot we don't know. So, what have you learned, Phil?
PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, indeed, Anderson. The police in Manchester are describing it as a significant incident. They are being careful in their language, saying they're responding to reports of an explosion, but we know that it was deadly. We know that whatever has taken place there has claimed lives. Police say there are confirmed fatalities and other casualties as well. But we don't know the precise number.
We can see from witness accounts, from video that has been posted to social media, what followed in the moments after, and that looks to have been a truly terrifying scene. Within this venue, some 20,000 people almost certainly, young people, teenagers, perhaps children with parents, people who had gone there to witness, or watch Ariana Grande perform that night, all of them screaming desperately trying to escape this venue in a pretty uncontrolled way, something resembling a human crush.
So, it's also possible that people have been hurt in that sort of scenario as well. But what we've consistently heard from witnesses on the ground, at least one loud noise, a bang, a blast of some kind. And then that has triggered the fear and the frenzy that followed. At the moment, police are simply desperately trying to get to the scene and help the people who need it so urgently and asking people to stay away from there as they get on top of this. Work out what the cause was, and precisely how man people have been hurt or worse as a result.
COOPER: So, Phil, let me just a couple things, do we know where the sound, whether it's a blast, a bang, I've heard it described in different ways and, again, we don't know what caused it. Do we now where in this arena it was? Because in the video, which is inside the arena where the concert is, it does not seem from the video that we've seen that's thereto any kind of an impact area from the video. Do we know did it happen inside the arena or did it happen on the periphery?
BLACK: You're right. The video doesn't show any sign of an explosion of any kind within the arena, itself. CNN heard from a witness just a short time ago who says he believes the blast came or the loud noise came from just outside the arena, somewhere in the hall ways just outside, that people use to enter and exit the arena space, itself. He spoke of the loud noise, one loud noise, was what he heard. In addition, some smoke as well.
So, what we're hearing is that it may have taken place not within the arena, itself, but just outside and it seems to have taken place just moments after the concert finished.
COOPER: So, we should also point out, in a concert venue like this, often especially in Great Britain, bags would be searched. So, if it took place outside, one possibility would be that this occurred from someone who was trying to enter, but, again, we just don't know at this point, but it's important to point, it does not seem that this occurred inside the arena with the pictures that we're looking at.
BLACK: Indeed, from the pictures, what we've heard from a witness, it doesn't appear it's taken place within the arena, itself. That's what we've heard and understood so far, but, of course, you're right in making the point, it's very early days in reporting this. So, we do need to be careful.
What we do know is that security at these venues for events like this -- well, it is incredibly tight. There are bag searches. There are private security guards.
At the main entrance to these venues, checking people, checking what they're carrying, in addition to police out on the streets as well, usually managing these crowds also. So, it's not easy to get something into a venue like this, but we can go by is what we've heard from witnesses at the scene so far who talk about at least one loud noise. It looks like it was just outside the arena venue, itself, but what it has triggered is that wave of panic and fear, 20,000 people mostly young people, I would say, within that venue have desperately tried to get out and escape that space.
COOPER: All right. Phil, stay with us.
We're joined on the phone by CNN producer, Zayn Nabbi, who is there.
Zain, explain where you are and what you have learned thus far.
ZAYN NABBI, CNN PRODUCER (via telephone): Hi, Anderson. Yes. I arrived onto the scene about approximately an hour after the incident.
[20:05:02] The police have activity presence outside the Manchester arena. They cordoned off the entire area and they're obviously assessing what happened and how this reported explosion has taken place.
To reiterate what Paul has said, the greater Manchester police are currently investigating. They've confirmed that there was an explosion and this was at Ariana Grande's concert. There are fatalities. They say there are a number of fatalities but they have not confirmed the exact number.
We know there are serious injuries and this is currently under investigation. I spoke to an eyewitness who was in the front row. Of the arena when the incident happened. He told me when it happened, it was a large explosion, it was at the end of the concert and he actually suffered an asthma attack and was dragged on to stage by one of the security personnel and actually was rescued in that way.
So, we'll still wait on the facts to come in. Emergency services are reacting and what they've also done is the local hotels around the arena, like the holiday inn, that's where families are encouraged to go to because young kids who are at this concert are being allowed to go in there, they're being taken in and the greater Manchester police are in the process of setting up a line for people to call to get more information and, of course, to find out about any loved ones who might have been at the arena.
COOPER: So, Zayn, it's just past 1:00 a.m. there, about 1:06 in the morning. Do you know what time this incident occurred at?
NABBI: Yes, the reports are it happened around 10:55, 11:00 p.m. local. Of course, we only have those confirmed by the Greater Manchester Police. At some point when they've conducted their investigations. There have been conflicting reports.
Initially, there were concerns that there was gunfire and two explosions. What the police have said is that there was one explosion, there was one noise in the arena, and that has resulted in several or -- well, I can't give you a number because the police haven't given one, but there are numerous serious injuries and also confirmed that there are fatalities, again, we're waiting on the police to confirm how many that is.
COOPER: Also, Zayn, just to be clear, you were saying people have been encouraged to go to local hotels. I understand cabs are basically taking people for free out of the area because police want people to leave the area. If this was a smaller venue and an incident like this occurred, often the police would want to try to keep everybody somewhat nearby so they could interview people and see if there was anybody who was involved in this in any way who may still be there.
But obviously in an incident like this with a venue of some 20,000 people, people have just -- people have fled in all directions. So, that's not an option. NABBI: Yes. I mean, police will do the best to gather as much
information as they can. Of course, we all know how vital it is in the early stages of any form of incident or attack that the right information is gathered from the eyewitnesses, from people on the ground, so as many people who are either being treated or either being put up in local hotels, the police are doing their best to get out and interview those people.
NABBI: And try to get as much crucial information as they can.
COOPER: Shimon Prokupecz joins us right now as well.
Shimon, what are you learning?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN PRODUCER: So, both Pamela Brown and I have been talking to U.S. officials since this happened. Some of which whom have been briefed on the investigation.
What we're being told is they believe, at least they've been briefed by people at the scene, that there was an explosion that occurred outside the venue which then possibly caused a stampede, this sort of rush of people out of the arena, that may have caused some of these injuries.
You know, officials, it's very preliminary, and they're just starting to get some of the briefings. But it does appear there was an explosion. Obviously, as of right now, they're looking at maybe terrorism, but no one has definitively said what caused this, but they do believe there was an explosion which then caused people to run out of the arena, which probably caused some of the fatal injuries.
COOPER: So, it's not clear when you say explosion outside the arena, there had been one eyewitness who said that possibly something near the box office, but it's not clear if it was in the outer rim of the arena or out on the street. You're not sure.
PROKUPECZ: That's exactly right, Anderson. So, it could have been on the outer perimeter, because you'd think there would be security and pretty difficult for someone to bring any kind of bomb or explosive material into the arena, so it looks like it was on the outer perimeter and then that's what sort of caused the stampede, the rush.
But, again, you know, this is just happening, and a lot of the officials who are on scene are telling us that they're still trying to piece it all together, trying to figure out exactly what happened here.
[20:10:05] COOPER: Right. And given this now has happened several hours ago, if this had been a blast inside that arena, not only in the video we're looking at right now, would we probably see some sort of an impact zone, given it's 20,000 people, many of whom are videotaping particularly the end of a concert, we would probably have video right now inside the arena if that is where this occurred. But given the fact that we have none of that video, we'll have to wait
for CCTV images or anybody else who happened to be nearby to -- and investigators are no doubt searching for that video as well to find out what the cause of the explosion was.
PROKUPECZ: Right, that's exactly right.
You know, when I was looking through some of the video, that's exactly what I saw. I was just trying to figure out if this had occurred inside, we probably would have seen smoke, some kind of fire, perhaps some more kind of destruction inside. And you're not seeing that in this video.
You know, I've talked to someone who basically is getting briefed from some folks on the scene and they basically say that it did occur on the perimeter, Pamela Brown has spoken to someone who gave her the same sort of information. And, you know, it's exactly like you said, Anderson, when you look at that video, it doesn't look like any of this happened inside.
COOPER: Right. Shimon Prokupecz, I appreciate you working your sources. Pamela Brown as well.
Phil Black is with us as well as Eric Hall.
Phil, just from a -- you know, as you work both at CIA and the FBI, you know, for news organizations, often the early reports that we get, eyewitness reports, turn out to be inaccurate because three or four people say they heard multiple blasts but what they really heard is the same blast or, you know, that I saw one gunman but they saw them in different locations so people make it more than it is. What do you -- from investigators, what is the, you know, the British intelligence, British investigators, doing right now?
I'm sorry. Actually, Phil Black, let's go to you. Are you hearing any public statements from British police?
BLACK: No further update from their initial reports which were simply a significant incident, reports of an explosion, asking people to stay away. Emergency services and first responders are trying to get in there still to try and deal with that very human need that has followed this. So, what you're talking about there is absolutely true, Anderson. We don't have a sense of what caused this.
Consistently now, I think we're hearing from witnesses that there was one loud blast. Initially, there were reports of more but increasingly the consistent line coming through from witnesses on the ground is there was one loud noise of some kind. Just outside the main arena, itself. You've made the point that from the video that we can see within the arena, there is no obvious sign of some sort of explosion or detonation there. No smoke, no point of blast.
But what you can see from that video clearly is the terror, as people try to get out of there in one large huge crush.
COOPER: Phil, let me interrupt you.
Manchester police just confirmed 19 deaths have been confirmed, 19 fatalities, around 55 people have been injured. Again, you saw that long line of ambulances heading toward the arena. So, this is the first actual confirmation of fatalities, 19 confirmed dead, 55 people injured so far.
Steve Hall, you worked with the -- I'm just being told the explosion was at 10:35 p.m., 10:35 p.m. local time. It is now 1:13 a.m. local time. So, this was some 10:00, 11:00, 12:00, three hours, just about three hours ago.
Steve Hall, from your work in intelligence over the years, in terms of the investigation, in these kind of early hours, with all these conflicting reports coming in, how difficult is it with these large numbers of people in this arena to kind of sift through eyewitness accounts?
STEVE HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes, Anderson, I mean, especially in the early going, it's extremely chaotic. The police and law enforcement obviously have a lead. Not just any early steps of the investigation. To try to determine, you know, was it a terrorist attack, could it have been something else?
But, also just to triage the situation, make sure, you know, people who are injured get taken care of. You know, just basic crowd control and also as you mentioned earlier, trying to make sure that if there are key witnesses, that those people, you know, remain, or at least reachable in the future.
But what's going on behind that in terms of the intelligence service pieces is that you got all the different disciplines, the human intelligence, signals intelligence, going back over recent intelligence saying, okay, was there any indication, did we miss something? Most importantly, is there any indication that this is only the first of, perhaps, a series of attacks? So, some of the technical collection of stuff becomes incredibly important, that gives you -- in an attempt for the intelligence services attempting to determine whether or not there are other indications that would give law enforcement and the government indications there may be something else coming in the future.
[20:15:11] It takes time. The intelligence piece, you have to collect it and analyze it, but in the coming hours, you can be sure that the Brits will be working very hard. They'll also be reaching out I think to their -- to the cooperative intelligence relationships that they have with other Western intelligence services saying, had you guys heard anything, what can you guys bring to the table that will help us determine whether there could be additional attacks, not just getting to the bottom of the attack that's already occurred.
COOPER: Yes, I mean, Steve, you think back to the attacks in Paris that we saw, there were multiple explosions, attempt to attack at a soccer match that really the bombs there were detonated outside because they found it difficult to get inside. Security at an event, something like this in Great Britain, no less,
is going to be tight. Bags are going to be searched. Most likely magnetometers as people are entering the venue.
HALL: Yes, the security when you have any large event, this was a good-sized event, especially for even larger things, the cooperation between the intel guys and the law enforcement folks is critical because you have concentric circles of security, you have rings of security, you know, starting at the outside with just police presence, getting more and more aggressive as you get closer to the venue.
So, the initial reporting sounds consistent that, you know, if it was a terrorist attack or whoever the attacker was, got probably through the initial stuff, got close enough, then, you know, when it became impossible to go much further, you know, perhaps decided to detonate an explosive or something. That's all speculation but that's consistent with some of the things that we've seen in the past when you had these concentric circles of security around a big event like this one.
COOPER: And, Steve, I mean, we are now nearly three hours after this event, this explosion took place. We're told now according to Manchester police, explosion, whatever it was, took place at 10:35 p.m. local time. It's now 1:17 a.m.
How long does an early investigation like this, how does it play out? What is the timeline on something like that? I mean, how many hours does it usually take before a greater picture is known, before CCTV camera images are looked at? Great Britain has an awful lot of cameras on the streets, a lot of eyes everywhere.
HALL: Yes. No, there -- London, itself, as well as most other British cities and locations in the U.K. have a very, very pervasive video coverage capability. That a good news/bad news story. The good news is, is that it's likely something is on a camera someplace. The bad news, of course, is you have to process that and do it in a timely fashion. Rest assured, these guys are crashing on this trying to find out, you know, where are there tips and where are there indications? You remember with the Tsarnaev brother, it took a considerable amount of time before the video of that Boston bombing attack yielded information that was actionable.
So, they're going to try to push as hard as -- a lot of it depends on how lucky they get. How much information they're able to get in these first hours. But it's definitely going to be a long night for both the law enforcement and intelligence folks over in the U.K.
COOPER: Phil Black, I just want to, for our viewers who are just joining us, you see it on the screen, Manchester police now confirming 19 people have been killed, around 50 or so injured. Do we have a sense of anything about the extent of those injuries? And has everybody been treated?
Given it's been three hours, I assume most have been taken from the scene. Wounded or the injured. We saw the ambulances either heading to or leaving from the venue. BLACK: It's likely those who are receiving help are currently
receiving it, you wouldn't think they'd be waiting for it at this time. The shocking thing, the figures that we're hearing now, from the police, itself, at least 19 people killed and 50 wounded.
And as we've been talking about, this is an Ariana Grande concert. This is mostly young people, teenagers, possibly children with parents. Those are the sorts of people that were caught up in the middle of this and were terrified as they left the venue shortly afterwards.
There's another key line in the police statement which has only just been released in which we're talking about now. That is the police say this is currently being treated as a terrorist incident until police know otherwise. I guess you could say that's pretty standard in a sense. What they're not doing is speculating. They're presuming perhaps the worst-case scenario here at the moment, that this was an organized attack.
And if that is the case, as we've seen from previous incidents here in the U.K., the initial concern is getting first responders there to help the wounded and getting them the help they need. But also trying to determine to what extent there could be a further threat there at the location or perhaps in other places as well.
[20:20:05] So, the police will be in the process of locking that place down, searching it incredibly thoroughly. To be absolutely sure that the threats to people there and to the emergency services and first responders who are working there, that that has, in fact, passed and there is no further threat or the possibility of further loss of life there as well.
COOPER: And, Steve Hall, I mean, this doesn't present real challenges for law enforcement, not just investigating what happened but when you have an arena with 20,000 people and there's been some sort of explosion outside, local authorities on the scene in that moment are faced with the idea of I assume do they just try to get everybody out of the venue, out of fear there may be something more inside? Or is -- having 20,000 people exit a venue, that make them potential targets if there was some other aspect of this incident waiting outside?
HALL: Yes, I think in my experience working with law enforcement, mostly foreign law enforcement, not U.S. law enforcement in cases like this, they're going to try to area as soon as possible, because there is always a concern of, you know, was there -- are there other explosive devices that have not yet been detonated?
You'll recall that was a key question in the St. Petersburg metro bombings that happened recently in Russia. They did, indeed, the Russians did, indeed, end up finding another device in another metro car. So I think the key thing for law enforcement at this point is to clear the area to make sure that there's no other -- that there are no other risks, you know, that could do further damage at that particular site.
But it's extremely chaotic. They're going to want to be in contact with people to get key and critical information that will help unravel this. So, that's trying to keep track of people who at the same time they're trying to get out of the area is going to be a challenge as well.
But there's so much data out there now that they're trying to pull down, corroborate and try to make sense of that it's going to be -- it's going to be at least a number of hours before either the intelligence or law enforcement folks have a better idea as to what really happened.
COOPER: Joining us also, Sam Ward right now who lives right now. I understand heard the blast. Sam is joining us on the phone. Sam, can you just explain what you heard, if you saw anything?
SAM WARD, WITNESS IN MANCHESTER (via telephone): Yes. We heard an extremely loud bang, really sharp, sounded nothing like I've ever heard in a sense before. So just as you was talking, we just had seven ambulances exit the Manchester central fire station with blue lights and sirens flashing and really rushed down to the arena. I'm not too sure what just happened but a large amount of ambulances just left the venue there.
There are at least another 25 ambulances positioned on the pavement just almost literally sat there waiting. It's five or six fire engines I can see all with the crews stood by as they're waiting to be given the nod again to just go. A very, very, very large police presence from tactical units to armed response, just general police. I don't know if you can hear the sirens --
WARD: -- but some are kicking off again. Seems to be coming in waves, all the convoys. None of the vehicles seem to be moving on their own. They all seem to be five or six deep at any one time. The firemen are actually running into the fire station now. I'm not too sure what's happening. Yes, it's just absolutely mental at the moment.
COOPER: So, Sam, about how far away from this arena do you live? Or are you?
WARD: Two hundred meters, 200 meters from the arena and I'm about 100 meters away from the city center fire station which is a very large city center fire station. They've got two (INAUDIBLE) currently being occupied from everything from Salvation Army vehicles, all the way through the ambulances and the rapid response vehicles as well.
COOPER: And, Sam, have most of the people who were in the arena, I mean, we were told some 20,000 people are there. Are they gone from the area now?
WARD: Yes, the area is still. It's very quiet. It's very quiet for the city center. Initially after the first wave of sirens and initial evacuation, it was filled with cars. The roads were absolute bedlam. People going through red lights. It was very much families, there were kids, moms and dads. They were
all doing everything to get out of the city center and looks like the emergency centers did a really good job of managing that traffic, because it was really bedlam for about five minutes and now the roads are extremely still.
I'm not too sure if you can hear it but we've got two helicopters above us, both hovering extremely low. You can almost feel the force from the blades coming from them.
COOPER: Sam, I appreciate you talking to us and I appreciate your clear head in all this and describing what you were seeing right now.
[20:25:05] Sam Ward, thank you so much.
Freelance photographer Joel Goodman is also on the phone joining us.
Joel, I understand you arrived on the scene. Can you tell me, when you got there, how soon after, whatever it was, whatever explosion it was and what you saw and heard?
JOEL GOODMAN, FREELANCE PHOTOGRAPHER (via telephone): Yes, I think I got here quite early, to be honest. It's difficult to say but when I arrived there were quite a few sort of walking wounded, lots of ambulance and police running around backwards and forwards. People with quite severe injuries both on the ground and sort of walking.
Very quickly, they sort of pushed cordons back further and further, obviously trying to keep the area clear and safe so they can work safely in there. But I can probably give you an exact time if you gave me a minute. Hang on a second.
COOPER: We understand the blast, itself, took place at 10:35 p.m. So if you know --
GOODMAN: OK. Thank you. That's more than I know. I got there 11:20.
COOPER: OK. You said you saw a number of walking wounded, people with injuries. I obviously don't want to get into too much, you know, detail, but the nature of the injuries, was there anything you could deduce from that whether they were people, you know, there's a question of how much -- how much injuries were caused by the explosion or blast, itself, how much may have been people being, you know, pushed or the crush of people trying to --
GOODMAN: The injuries I saw, you know, I'm not an expert on that and I couldn't say for certain, but it didn't look like the sort of injury you'd get tripping over someone in a hurry. You're talking about people with bandages on their heads and legs with blood. So, yes, I think it was -- it was more severe than that.
COOPER: Do you have any sense, Sam -- sorry, Joel, of where this blast actually occurred in -- because we're told it seems from the video we're seeing, it's unlikely it was actually inside the arena, itself, given that we've seen video from in the arena. There's no sign of it that it may have been on the outskirts of the arena and we're looking at one of the photos you took of a gentleman being helped, it looks like, or several people being helped.
Do you have an idea of where this blast may have occurred?
GOODMAN: Well, those pictures were taken near the entrance of Victoria Station, which is a railway station adjacent to the arena, it will link up internally. Once you get into the station, there's a box office area before you get into the arena. I don't know where these injuries occurred, but I imagine it would be between where I was stood and that box office area. Just -- just based on the gut of what I could see. I don't know that for certain.
COOPER: So, can you just explain the geography of that? That's interesting. There have been other reports this perhaps occurred near a box office. You're saying the subway station, the tube station actually links up with the arena?
GOODMAN: Well, it's a railway station so it's a below the ground station called Victoria Station and, yes, it's in t and the arena are effectively joined. So, you walk from one to the other. The same route. You're sort of part of it.
COOPER: And when you talk about a box office, is that a box office for the train or is that is box office for the arena, itself?
GOODMAN: No, that would be the box office for the arena. The box office for the arena is accessible from the train and metro link station, again, over-ground tram, which linked via a walkway. So, yes, you can come straight from the arena and get straight on the tram.
COOPER: And, Joel, I'm just getting word that the arena, itself, just tweeted out that this incident took place outside the venue in a public space. That's a tweet from the Manchester arena. The -- so just -- if I could get specific on that box office that you talked about, you said someone getting off a train could walk heading toward the box office without --
GOODMAN: Yes, walks two minutes from the train or the tram, you've got a flight of stairs and across a very short walkway and you'd be at the box office of the arena.
COOPER: And there's no security -- is there security for -- before the box office or is security, I assume, after the box office?
GOODMAN: Yes, I mean, domestic security, so it's sort of everyday sort of stuff, you know, in case something goes wrong on an everyday level rather than specifically -- I mean, you know, there's lots of armed police in and around the streets right now which for Manchester is extremely unusual to see. There wouldn't have been routinely any armed police on the street. They would be low key and certainly wouldn't be anyone with a weapon at all in the arena officially. COOPER: In terms of being searched -- in terms of when you would be
searched were before going to the arena, it would be after the box office, I assume?
GOODMAN: Yes, box office then there's a queue from the arena space where everybody's searched. I was covering an event there two days ago. Everyone gets searched going in. Everyone gets patted down.
GOODMAN: You got like a public space which is, as I say, joins the train station and then you got the arena space.
COOPER: Joel, that helps.
GOODMAN: Searched and patted down going in routinely.
[20:30:06] COOPER: Yeah, we appreciate it. It helps to try to piece together what may have happened. Joel Goodman, thank you so much.
I want to go back to our Shimon Prokupecz, who is down there. More reporting, Shimon what are you learning?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN PRODUCER: That's right, Anderson. We're just getting word here into our newsroom in Washington D.C. that the possible cause into this explosion was a suicide bomber.
Three officials who have been briefed on this investigation, two U.S. officials and a western official to Pamela Brown, all have said that right now investigators on the scene believe that a suicide bomber detonated a bomb as people were leaving the venue, which then caused all of these injuries and the deaths. This is again, it's very preliminary, because investigators are still trying to piece together what happened. You know, though it is a couple of hours into this explosion, there's still seems not to be 100 percent certainty as to what caused this, but they do believe right now that was some kind of a terrorist act, and potentially that suicide bomber set off a bomb.
COOPER: And, as far as what you're learning there was just one person, one possible suicide bomber?
PROKUPECZ: That's right. And I spoke to actually a U.S. official on that, Anderson, who basically said, you know, if this is a suicide bomber, this changes everything, because the question now becomes, how did this person get to the venue? Is there a larger network behind this? And so now, that process is underway to try and figure out, who this person was? Who is he working with? Are there others out there who maybe plotting other similar explosions?
COOPER: Shimon, I appreciate that, continue to work to your sources. We'll check in with you with Paul Brown, as well
Joining us now, a CNN Terrorism Analyst Paul Cruickshank. Paul, the notion that Shimon Prokupecz is reporting based on three sources that he and Pamela Brown have talked to, that this would have been a suicide bomber, that certainly does change the situation in terms of the investigation, it's very unlikely that a suicide bomber would actually manufacture the device or the vest that they themselves were using. Usually, it's somebody else who is too valuable for whatever this group is, to actually detonate them themselves.
PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, Anderson, we don't know that yet, we have seen some instances where there have been individuals who have taken action, managed to build their own devices in the past, we saw that in New York City, the Chelsea devices back in September of last year. But to say the concern at this hour will be -- that those -- a Islamist terrorist cell behind this.
They'll be worried about follow on attacks. It's not lost right now on British authorities that with the Paris attack back in November 2015, there was also an attack on a concert hall, the Bataclan that night. And that was part of a multi-wave coordinated attack on the French Capitol. So that's why you're seeing armed presence right now on the streets of Manchester, concerned there could be follow on attack from the rest of the cell. If indeed there is a cell involved in this, a very worried night for British authorities.
I've been told in recent weeks by British officials that the threat level here is blinking red when it comes to Islamist terrorism higher than any point in British history. That's because of the fact that so many British nationals, residents in this country have gone off and fought in Syria and Iraq joining groups like ISIS, almost 900 have made the trip. A good number have returned to the UK. They're seeing increased return rates coming back really right throughout Europe, Anderson.
But there's also a big homegrown radicalization problem which is feeding this, radicals who are staying behind and being encouraged by groups like ISIS to take action and being given instructions over the internet, over secure and encrypted channels in how to do this.
COOPER: And Paul, correct me, you know this better than I do certainly. If memory serves me correct, Manchester, we have seen arrests in Manchester in recent years, have we not?
CRUICKSHANK: That's right, we've seen quite a few arrests in Manchester in the years since 9/11, there has been sort of local Islamist scene there, the problem of extremism in Manchester and the surrounding areas, back in 2009, there was a major Al Qaeda plot targeting a shopping center in the city, which has really full at the last minute by British authorities, Easter 2009.
And we've seen other arrest in the city over the last few years that we've seen people move from that area to Syria and Iraq, people move from Syria and Iraq back to those parts of the UK. So that's kind of the mix that they're facing right now, a very elevated terrorist threat, and of course there's a election -- general election coming up here in just a couple of weeks.
[20:35:20] ISIS has not yet got a big attack through in the UK. They've got big attacks through in other countries, there was, of course, that attack which is inspired it seems by ISIS, back in March. The truck driver, Khalid Masood, in Westminster, it kills four people knocked over pedestrians and policeman. But there has not been a mass casualty attack that's gone through by a group like ISIS.
Really since the London bombings all the way back in 2005, but at this hour, no claim of responsibility yet from any terrorist group. So we're going to have to wait and see but they're scrambling right now in Manchester, all over the UK, this country tonight is on maximum alert.
We're going to have to see if that threat level goes up, we'll expect that to be a cobra meeting of the Prime Minister at Downing Street, I think, in the hours ahead, they're very, very concerned.
COOPER: Paul, I jut learned Manchester Police are reporting that there will be a controlled explosion of some sort of a deem suspicious item abut a block away from the arena in an open space that is called Cathedral Gardens. Again, this is going to be a controlled detonation of a suspicious device, Paul, which is pretty standard procedure, this is about a block away. Often times, if this is in fact a suicide attack, we have seen it's become almost common place in these kinds of things, to have multiple attacks or even diversionary attacks, even in the -- the Bataclan as I recall, there were, I believe, correct me if I'm wrong, Paul, if memory serves me, two people who attempted to detonate devices or and did that to make devices outside of soccer stadium.
CRUICKSHANK: That's right. I mean, in Paris back in November 2015, there was essentially three-ways of attack, one was at the Bataclan Concert Hall, three kamikaze suicide bombers on the (inaudible) that killed security guard outside, stormed at the concert and killed almost 90 people in the space of just about 10 or 20 minutes before the police response came, at the same time that night there were attacks on cafes by a group led by Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the ring leader, in that plot.
And so, this was a sort of multi-coordinated strike back in Paris in November of 2015, Anderson. We haven't seen any reports of that yet, so far, in the UK. But there's concern that there may be more coming down the pipeline when it comes to this threat.
COOPER: And Paul, you were saying that, I mean, how does this change now that there is reports that this may have been a suicide bomber? Just in terms of the level of attention intelligence service pays to this, how does that ratchet this up?
CRUICKSHANK: Well, obviously a suicide bomber, that would be the hallmarks of an Islamist terrorist plot attack. So they'll be looking in that direction tonight if they indeed do confirm that was a suicide bomber involved. There are also eyewitnesses interviewed just in the last few minutes on BBC radio, talking about what they're describing as nuts lying all over the floor. And that would be consistent with a kind of (inaudible) type of device which we've seen groups like Al Qaeda or an ISIS encourage their recruits to build.
So that's the only way this is pointing tonight. We cannot conclude from sure at this stage. We're going to have to wait for police to tell us much more in the hours ahead. But given the fact that they're looking into this real possibility, and there is -- it would appear to evidence that this was a suicide bombing. That certainly takes you down the Islamist terrorist direction.
It must also be noted that in recent months in Europe, there's been a number of false flag plots where right wing extremists have trying to blame Islamists for terrorism. We've seen that in Germany in recent weeks. But, a suicide bomber really does take you down to direction of Islamist terrorism.
COOPER: It also -- if it was an individual or individuals, given the amount of surveillance cameras that I imagine are around this arena, certainly Great Britain has an extensive video surveillance network, cctv network.
[20:40:03] The fact that if it was an individual, they tried to -- it seems timed it for when people would have been leaving this venue at around 10:35 p.m. There would probably be it relatively easy to find given that there's also a train station who captures this, cctv footage of somebody, this person waiting around or approaching, it won't be long before investigators are able to figure out, Paul, kind of the direction this person came from and get an image of this person, I would think.
CRUICKSHANK: That's right. They'll already be looking for all those tapes. Now, they'll presumably be able to retrace where this person came from, how they travels if they're on public transport, (inaudible) every train and bus in metro in this country has some kind of CCTV capability. So they'll be also presumably very quickly identify who this individual is, who they may be connected to, there also be a lot of forensics at the scene, in terms of DNA, or fingerprint analysis to see if this is somebody on their radar screen. And we have seen in so many plots really on both sides of the Atlantic, that the individuals have plotted these attacks have already at some point been on the radar screen of security officials. And it's very difficult for the intelligence services to monitor everybody all the time. They just have the resources to monitor a fraction of the people that they consider a threat.
We saw with the Westminster just a couple of weeks ago here in the UK, Khalid Masood, he had a certain point that (inaudible) is previously had been on the radar screen of MI5 British, a security services. They'll be putting all that together try to figure out what if any network was behind this and they'll be racing to make arrest if necessary to prevent follow on attacks.
COOPER: We should also point out, we have just gotten word that there's going to be a Manchester Police press conference in the next several minutes, and I was going to bring that to you live when it happens for the latest of information, but right now Manchester Police have confirmed 19 people have been killed, at least around 50 or so people have been injured, police said that they're going to have a controlled detonation of what they determine to be a suspicious device, very close to this arena.
And they are looking at this based on their reporting of Shimon Prokupecz and our Pamela Brown, based on three different sources, two U.S., one western with knowledge of the incident that their are looking at this as a possible suicide bomber. A lot of questions obviously still to be heard and hopefully in that press conference we'll get a lot more information. Phil Mudd is joining us. Phil you worked with CIA and also obviously FBI, just in terms of -- when you see this what goes through your mind, what's happening on the ground?
PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: First nightmares of living here through for 10 years post 9/11, remembering as a practitioner. But, looking forward what happened. You see this in two waves, the first is the immediate event, what do they find in the scene, what are people saying, the eyewitnesses will not be reliable, questions like the forensic analysis --
COOPER: -- not reliable because so many people see things from a different vantage point? It's just too confusing.
MUDD: It's not confusing, people will say it was a yellow shirt, it was a blue car, they're inevitably wrong and then they will confirm that over time because their mind starts to say, I'm sure I saw yellow car, I'm sure I saw a blue shirt, nottrue.
What I want to see is the video. I want to see what happen with the device, for example, not only what kind of device it was, but was does appear a resemblance from devices you've seen elsewhere that suggest somebody trained them who has trained other operatives.
COOPER: Devices have sort of signature?
MUDD: They do. And the people who train you to do this kind of thing are not going to train you on 10 different kinds of devices, so that could quickly tell you whether this person came from -- for example, a Syrian trainee -- I'm not suggesting that, I'm just saying the people who conduct that kind of training are going to have a standard type of device that they train you on.
COOPER: The possibility of a suspicious package could be -- a caution also would not be out of the realm of possibility that somebody would want to plant multiple devices.
MUDD: Yeah, that's going to tell me a lot if turns out to be device that's actually active, what that would tell me is did someone bring in two devices, I doubt it, that's immediately bringing to my mind the suggestion that this wasn't one person, it was two who are going to -- maybe with someone who wasn't just a lone wolf, do we have a conspiracy here.
COOPER: Although, it could also just be someone who in panic dropped a bag.
MUDD: Could have been. What you see in these incidents, when you get a perimeter like this is panic, that person is high strung, emotional high alert. If they were -- for example, approached by a security official they immediately going to be saying, I better detonate because if I don't my whole opportunity is lost, that's why security perimeters are so important. It might have been worse if it turns out that this was a device and with the suicide attacker. If they hadn't obviously been intercept at the perimeter, but somebody with that kind of alert mental state, that kind of emotional disturbance as soon as they get confronted more than likely is going to say, I better go now.
COOPER: On the phone, joining is Paula Robinson, who I'm told was nearby (inaudible) to help. Paula, if you could just tell what you saw, what you heard.
[20:45:08] PAULA ROBINSON, WITNESS IN MANCHESTER: Hello, I was on Victoria train station waiting for our train home, and we heard an explosion, we heard in South a loud just one explosion. As we evacuated, we're about 10 yards from the arena, when we got outside, everyone was running from the arena. And as we passed, there were children that were supposed to meet their parents outside there and we just got a hold of them and said, come on, we need to get away, and we went to the holiday inn which was a safe distance away, both for the parents on the way out to safety and there (inaudible).
COOPER: Paula, let me ask you, had you attended the concert?
ROBINSON: No, we hadn't. We were out for our anniversary. We were at the station, which is right at the side of the arena.
COOPER: You heard the explosion. Do you have any sense how close it may have been to you, how loud it was?
ROBINSON: Well, we could feel the explosion as well as hear it. It was just -- it was muffled but it was just like a huge boom.
COOPER: When you say -- sorry. When you said you could feel it, are you talking about an air blast or shaking of the ground?
ROBINSON: Just like it -- just like shaking of the ground possibly.
ROBINSON: You could just feel it. It was very, very loud.
COOPER: My own understanding is the explosion took place around 10:35 p.m. according to Manchester Police. Were there many people in the area where you were? Had many people already exited the venue?
ROBINSON: Well, we were just at the side people -- but as we got, literally outside of the arena where hundreds and hundreds of people were just coming down the -- is like two steps. They were coming down the steps onto the main walkway to leave. But they were just all evacuating quickly.
COOPER: Just --
ROBINSON: -- both side where everyone left -- it seems -- everyone seems to be going.
COOPER: And were police already at the scene when you got there?
ROBINSON: No, no, not at the time, but very, very soon afterwards. There was ambulance. I don't think people really knew what was going on, the seller outside was still selling t-shirts. We were getting past them. And so, perhaps people scream -- and then all of a sudden, there was panic. And everyone just ran everywhere.
COOPER: Paula, it's lovely that you reacted the way you did to try to help those kids and get them to a safe place and contact their parents. Thank you so much. I'm glad and the people you are with are OK on your anniversary.
Jamie Waller was at the concert, joins us now by phone as well. If you could, Jamie, just explain what you heard and saw.
JAMIE WALLER, CONCERTGOER IN MANCHESTER: We were just -- she just finished singing. Then she walked off the stage. And then I went down to go out and there this huge explosion. It's huge -- funny everyone just liked looked at each other and everyone just ran. We just needed to get out because we didn't know what was happening. It's just a mass panic.
COOPER: So, as soon as you heard this explosion, you knew this was not part of the concert itself?
WALLER: Yes. We knew something was wrong.
COOPER: And so, had the concert had ended? Ariana Grande had stopped singing? Was she -- she was off the stage?
WALLER: Right. Yup, she just finished doing "Dangerous Woman", and then she left. And she went off the stage and then we know, obviously, got the lights came on and everything was finished. And then we -- everyone starting coming and that is when the bang happened.
COOPER: And how -- what happened after the bang? You said people started to rush?
WALLER: Yeah. We just all ran -- we all just wanted to get out. It was panic. We didn't know what was happening. The felt we need to get out there just in case anything happened again.
COOPER: Was there any announcement made at any point as you were trying to get out?
WALLER: No, nothing. We were all completely -- we were all just -- we didn't know what was happening at all.
COOPER: How difficult was it to actually get out? I mean, it looks obviously very chaotic. Obviously, a lot of people are very frightened. There's kids there. How difficult was it to get out?
WALLER: Me and my sister were out in seconds. But, there was -- everyone was on the same page. Everyone just wanted to leave. Everyone was just running in the same direction.
COOPER: And as you left, what did you do? WALLER: I just kept going, kept going. And the police were all just coming and moving, coming and moving so we get to follow the crowd. And we found a place and we stood. And then, all the police that (inaudible) now the ambulances and those people on the floor and all the paramedics came around and we were just waiting and so -- waiting a little bit more information.
[20:50:11] COOPER: And I assume you -- how close were you to the train station?
WALLER: I think we were above it. I'm not completely sure. (Inaudible) we were literally probably meters away from it.
COOPER: Jamie, I'm glad you were able to get out quickly and thank you very much for talking to us tonight. A very difficult night for so many of those who were there.
Late word on that controlled explosion that we told about a few minutes ago. According to police the item in question was abandoned clothing, nothing dangerous. And we will continue to be here with Phil Mudd.
Phil, obviously that's a good thing in that there's not -- it seems like -- more than there's one particular incident or more than one attempt.
MUDD: Sure. But any time you're going down this road -- and you heard this referred to as a potential terrorism investigation. That's not a suggestion, excuse me, that practitioners believe that's what happened. It's just -- you don't have time to waste in the event that there's a broader network. You talked about just one potential device here. You still have a lot of questions. Who trained them? Who radicalized them? Where the money come from? You can have a conspiracy even if you have one attack, especially with a device that looks this significant. I'm looking at this saying, are we sure that this is a single suicide bomber? He had the capability to build a design like this with this level of lethality by himself? You got to go conspiracy even if you have no evidence that suggest that.
COOPER: How likely is it that somebody built their own device or, you know, was that usually is the device built by somebody else?
MUDD: In this case, I'm going to look at and say, if you have a one off, that to me starts to decrease the likelihood of a conspiracy that involves somebody overseas training. The one piece here that I'm looking at is the size and potential sophistication of the device, but there's a clear signal you can look at in these investigations.
As soon as you get more than one person, the likelihood you have outside assistance that they sat around and sought a bomb maker, for example, overseas could help them increase. When you have a one off individual likelihood he acted alone, maybe built the device alone, increases. People typically like that in my experience sometimes also have psychological problems. They decide they got to do something and they'll go do it. COOPER: Paul Cruickshank, remind our viewers, we are waiting for a press conference from Manchester Police we believe is going to take place any minute at the latest about we're told maybe at the top of the hour about seven and a half minutes from now. It's 1:52 a.m. in Manchester. The investigation obviously well under way. The area has largely been cleared.
Paul Cruickshank, we understand from the concertgoers who were there, a device was just detonated. We had an eyewitness, Shimon, just a few moments ago was looking out on the street, there were helicopters flying low. He still saw ambulances heading toward the arena from the local fire station which is right next to the arena.
But Paul, there's a lot going on not only in Manchester but also in London and really probably throughout Europe at this hour as police and intelligence are trying to look for any possible leads on this.
CRUICKSHANK: That's right, Anderson. The entire apparatus that the British have put together to counter terrorism since 9/11 days is going into full gear tonight, into full gear to understand where this threat came from and whether there are more threats out there given the fact that we are hearing the possibility that this was a suicide bombing. The concern will be that this was an act of Islamist terrorism. The concern will be a group like Al Qaeda or ISIS could be behind it, groups with networks of operatives who have cell structures which they can potentially put into operation for these kinds of attacks.
But it shouldn't be ruled out that this could be a single individual, somebody who has managed to put a device back together just on their own. We've seen ISIS over these encrypted apps online reach out to sympathizers and operatives in the west providing very detailed bomb making instructions. They'll be doing a lot of forensics right now at the same -- try to see what type of explosive was used. Was it something like TATP which is a signature for ISIS and its recent attacks in Europe, notably in Paris, in Brussels or was it some other type of explosive that was used?
Given the force of the blast, it may well be that this was a high explosive that was used, a devastating high explosive in a confined space. They'll be running all of the CCTV to try and to trace back where this attacker came from, which address, how they reacting in the minutes before the attack. Were they given something by anybody that's been caught by the huge number of CCTV cameras all across Manchester?
[20:55:20] This investigation is where you're going to be going at full speed. And the key concern is to prevent future attacks, more attacks from any kind of cell that's still out there, Anderson.
COOPER: Yeah, I mean Paul, when you -- and again, we are waiting a press conference any minute now. We're going to bring that to you.
Paul, when you look at the, you know, the volume of attacks that we have seen in the United States, in Europe and elsewhere, do you have a sense of how many of suicide bombings, how many were carried out by just an individual who manufactured their own device and went ahead and did this, whether they were encouraged online or not and how many -- or is the vast majority of this somebody who is connected to some sort of a network, whether it's sophisticated or a couple of individuals?
CRUICKSHANK: We've seen plots, many plots with just individuals who plan to be suicide bombers. We've also seen plots from networks, ISIS and Al Qaeda, where that's the case. I don't think that gets us anywhere closer to knowing whether this was a single individual who was responsible for this or a wider cell. I think those answers are going to come in the hours ahead.
The first we will know about it if there are major raids across Manchester and what we hear from the results of those. I think given the fact they'll be going through all the CCTV trying to figure out where this person was living, that there are likely to be raids in the hours ahead in different locations perhaps in the UK. We often see that after these kinds of incidents.
But this appears to have been a major mass casualty terrorist attack. And then this country has not suffered one of those since the London bombings all the way back in 2005. And that's really a testament to the professionalism of British Security Services who are regarded by many of their peers around the world as best in class. They put a lot of resources, a lot of technology behind preventing what we saw play out just a few hours ago in Manchester.
But given the scale of the threat, they cannot stop all kind of attacks that are getting through. We saw a terrorist attack get through just a few weeks ago on a bridge in Westminster.
And the reality is that there will be more attacks that will get through in the months and years ahead. Especially as ISIS loses ground in Syria and Iraq and more of these foreign fighters start gravitating back to Europe. The people who are trained killers coming back with an ax to grind against countries like Britain who've been launching air strikes in Syria and Iraq.
COOPER: And, Phil Mud, I mean in terms of an investigation like this, who would take the lead on? I mean this Manchester Police at this point, or is this --
MUDD: You should think of this in two parallel paths. The police and the Manchester Police are terrific. There's a lot of extremist activity in Manchester. They're going to have informant networks where as soon as they get a photo off CCTV, they can go into those networks. But the British Security Service has a broader responsibility. You got to look through masses of data to determine whether other people around UK are communicating or were involved in this. So you have to have the immediate investigation, what happened in Manchester, which will be supported by security services outside the Manchester Police and then the expanding investigation. Broader UK cell going back to was somebody overseas involved and supporting or even just radicalizing this individual.
COOPER: All right, and we are just minutes away from this press conference from Manchester Police. Paul, you know, you and I have talked a lot about -- in the way to the Bataclan attacks, the (inaudible) or around there in Paris, about the difficulties that French intelligence faces, certainly Belgian intelligence faces, the lack of coordination we have seen. Where do the British stand in relation to that?
CRUICKSHANK: There's excellent coordination between MI5, the domestic security service on the other hand, along the other hand the various British Police forces, especially the metropolitan police force here in London, which is really the lead force in the UK when it comes to the terrorism threat.
They work in each other's buildings every day. There's a lot of routine sharing of intelligence. There's a hurdle of, however, when it comes to sharing across Europe when it comes to sharing between the different intelligence services in the European union, information coming, say, from the French, the British or vice versa, for from the Germans to the French. I heard a lot of frustrations from a lot of officials right across Europe that that information is just not coming in sufficient quantity and sufficiently quickly given the gravity of the threat.