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U.K. Terror Threat Level Raised to Critical; Syrian Civil War; "Secret State: Inside North Korea"; Hurricane Irma's Aftermath. Aired 2-2:30a ET

Aired September 16, 2017 - 02:00   ET

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


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NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): In the U.K., a manhunt underway for whoever detonated a bomb on the tube during rush hour.

In the wake of North Korea's latest missile launch, the U.S. says there are military options to deal with threats from Pyongyang.

Plus, recovering from Hurricane Irma. Residents of the British island of Anguilla work hard to make sure their paradise returns.

It's all ahead here on CNN NEWSROOM thanks for joining us. I'm Natalie Allen. And we're live in Atlanta. And we start right now.

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ALLEN: The U.K. has raised its terror threat level to critical as authorities search for the suspect or suspects behind the explosion on the London tube. That burning bag detonated on board a train carriage early Friday morning; 29 people were wounded but no one is in serious condition.

Prime minister Theresa May said the public must stay vigilant.

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THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: The Joint Terrorism Analysis Center -- that's the independent organization which is responsible for setting the threat level on the basis of available intelligence -- has now decided to raise the national threat level from severe to critical. This means that their assessment is that a further attack may be imminent.

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ALLEN: With the prime minister's words there, let's go to Nina dos Santos. She's live in London at the station where this happened.

Nina, the words from the prime minister say it all, that they believe another attack could be imminent.

What is the scene there today? NINA DOS SANTOS, CNNMONEY EUROPE EDITOR: The scene is one of tranquility but high security presence, as you can see behind me over my left shoulder, Parsons Green tube station has actually reopened. Trains are stopping as usual there.

That stricken train has been cleared from the tracks. But as you can see, there is a significant security presence all around the perimeter here. Still at least three or four (INAUDIBLE) actually it looks like five police officers outside.

And members of the public are coming up to them and asking if they can make their way through to the train station. And often surprised to find out that it is now back up and running.

This is the kind of scene you're going to be seeing across a number of tube stations, across the 400-kilometers worth of track that encompasses the London Underground network.

We know as of yesterday evening, when the security threat level was raised to its highest possible level, critical, which, by the way, means the next attack could be imminent at any stage, Natalie. But we are seeing increased police presence, sometimes armed, in some of the bigger stations as well.

As part of raising the threat level to critical, this also means the government has for the second time since the Manchester bombings, earlier this year, decided to enroll the army as well. This is all part of a pre-planned operation called Operation Temperer, that allows the army to take over some duties to protect the public, including at stations and sporting events like these so that can free up police resources so that the investigation really can continue apace.

Let's get into what that investigation is going to be entailing. Obviously there will be significant forensic evidence on this device, because it seems as though it didn't detonate fully.

We heard from the Metropolitan Police in a statement overnight, made by Mark Rowley, the acting deputy commissioner, saying that they're going to be using forensic science to pore through the chemicals used inside this bomb, one that sources tell CNN likely used TATP, which is an explosive that was also used by the Manchester bomber as well.

So it's that type of forensic evidence they'll be looking through and also CCTV, at this station and other stations right across London. There are about four stops that someone could have gotten before arriving in Parsons Green to deposit that particular package.

So they've got a lot of officers poring through a lot of this footage. They're also still appealing to members of the public to come forward if they saw anything suspicious, to hand in cellphone footage as well. All of this will be crucial to this fast-paced investigation.

And people here across the U.K. and London desperate to know who the perpetrator may have been so they can be stopped in their tracks before any more damage is done -- Natalie. ALLEN: Absolutely. But it's good to remember that no one was killed

and no one was hurt severely. So thank goodness for that. Nina dos Santos for us there, thank you.

The U.S. President, President Trump, called British prime minister Theresa May after the London attack. Downing Street said he offered condolences. But he's also drawing rebukes from British officials for his response on Twitter earlier. For more on that, here's CNN's Athena Jones.

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DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to say that our hearts and prayers go out to the people of London --

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TRUMP: -- who suffered a vicious terrorist attack.

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump responding to Friday's terror attack on London's subway system.

TRUMP: Radical Islamic terrorism, it will be eradicated, believe me.

JONES (voice-over): Those comments coming after a flurry of early morning tweets about the incident.

"Another attack in London by a loser terrorist," Trump wrote, adding, "These are sick and demented people who were in the sights of Scotland Yard. Must be proactive."

The president's national security adviser, H.R McMaster, later trying to explain what Trump meant by "in the sights of Scotland Yard." The London police department headquarters.

LT. GEN. H.R. MCMASTER, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: I think what the president was communicating is that obviously all of our law enforcement efforts are focused on this terrorist threat from, you know -- for years. He didn't mean anything beyond that.

JONES (voice-over): The president's tweets prompted strong pushback from London police, who said they didn't yet know who was involved. And similar criticism from British prime minister Theresa May.

MAY: I never think it's helpful for anybody to speculate on what is an ongoing investigation.

JONES (voice-over): The president seizing on the incident to push his proposed travel ban, targeting nearly all refugees as well as people from six Muslim majority countries, a ban that is facing several legal challenges.

Trump tweeting, "The travel ban into the United States should be far larger, tougher and more specific. But stupidly, that would not be politically correct."

Asked to explain his tweet, he would only say --

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TRUMP: We have to be tough and we have to be smarter.

JONES (voice-over): The latest terror attack on an ally coming in the wake of yet another missile launch by North Korea, the second one to fly over another key ally, Japan, in less than a month, a problem international diplomatic pressure has, so far, been unable to solve.

Amid the escalating threat from North Korea, the president visited Joint Base Andrews outside Washington Friday, where he talked up the country's military might.

TRUMP: When our enemies hear the F-35 engines, when they're roaring overhead, their souls will tremble and they will know the day of reckoning has arrived.

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ALLEN: Joining me now is Josh Rogin, he's a CNN political analyst and columnist with "The Washington Post."

Josh, thank you for being with us. Yet again President Trump begins the day with tweets and jumping to conclusions on the London terror.

Why does he keep doing that?

And why does that rattle some people in London?

JOSH ROGIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: There are two theories about why President Trump decided to speculate about the London terrorist attack, as the police investigation was just getting underway. One theory going around is that he was watching "FOX & Friends" and "FOX & Friends" was speculating that the London police must have known the identity or been tracking the identity of the terrorists beforehand. And Trump simply regurgitated that without checking his facts.

Another theory is that the president was simply looking to feed some positive messages to his base, to give them something to bolster their spirits after going against them on the issue of immigration earlier this week.

Either way, the result was the same. He put out information, which the London police immediately said was pure speculation and extremely unhelpful. He was then forced to talk with prime minister Theresa May about it.

He didn't apologize but they did talk about it. And the end result is another in a long line of incidents, where the president has jumped ahead of the facts, created an international diplomatic incident for no reason and used it to advance part of his domestic political agenda. ALLEN: Right. Theresa May's former chief said on Twitter, "True or not -- and I'm sure he doesn't know -- this is so unhelpful from leader of our ally and intelligence partner."

Where's General Kelly in this?

He was supposed to bring some order to the White House. He's apparently done that somewhat but we have a president who still does this, speaks his mind without checking his facts.

ROGIN: Right. What we've learned is that General Kelly generally has the ability to manage down. He's put in processes to control the staff. He cannot manage up. He cannot manage the president. He cannot take away the president's phone. He cannot stop him from tweeting nonsense. He cannot stop him from starting diplomatic incidents before anyone figures it out.

And that's the best that anyone has been able to do with President Trump. So there is more order. There is more semblance of a process for the way that the president gets information. But the president can always turn on the TV and hear something wrong and repeat it. And it doesn't seem like General Kelly or anyone else can stop that.

ALLEN: And it doesn't seem to bother him, because he chose not to apologize to Theresa May.

ROGIN: Unfortunately.

ALLEN: As far as North Korea goes, he said today, on Friday, that military options would be robust as a --

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ALLEN: -- result of their latest missile strike; whereas other analysts and former Trump allies say there is no good option with North Korea.

ROGIN: Right. I mean generally, you know, we call a Kinsley gaffe in Washington, is when you say something publicly that everybody knows is true but you're not supposed to say it. And that's what happened when Steve Bannon, shortly before he was fired, said that there is no military option for North Korea because tens of millions of South Koreans would die in that scenario.

Now the president still maintains and his senior staff still maintains that military options are on the table. And technically, that's a true statement. Those options do exist. They are a last resort.

At the same time, the credibility of those options is waning day by day as North Korea's military nuclear and missile programs advance. There's no real enthusiasm for starting a war with a nuclear-armed North Korea.

But for the purposes of the negotiation and for the purposes of posturing, this is what the president's going to continue to say. And I think you're going to see a lot of that next week at the United Nations general assembly in New York.

ALLEN: We'll be waiting for that. Josh Rogin, thank you so much for joining us.

ROGIN: Anytime.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: Also, on North Korea, leader Kim Jong-un is sounding as defiant as ever after sending a missile flying over Japan for the second time in less than one month.

Photos now released appear to show Kim personally overseeing Friday's launch. Afterward, he reportedly praised it as flawlessly perfect and indicated there would be more.

Our Ian Lee joins us now from Seoul with the latest.

I guess we're all getting used to see a cheering Kim Jong-un when he watches another successful, they say, a successful launch.

IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And this is just the continuation of their missile and nuclear program, something they say that they're going to do, despite these new sanctions on the regime.

You know, this is significant, because this is the first test to take place, since they were able to conduct that hydrogen bomb test, which is predicted to be about 160 kilotons, far larger than the nuclear bomb that went off at Hiroshima.

Also, this after the North Koreans said they were able to put a hydrogen bomb on top of an intercontinental ballistic missile. So this just shows that they're increasing their capabilities to their missiles to strike targets.

ALLEN: Reaction there in Seoul, Ian?

LEE: Well, you know, the interesting thing was, when this missile was still in the air, South Korea responded with its own missile test. It launched two missiles that could hit the Pyongyang region of North Korea.

And these missiles, they say, were a response to show that South Korea can go after their targets, go after their infrastructure, go after their nuclear infrastructure, more critically, at any moment. And so South Korea still showing this strong military posture. but still saying that they do want to have negotiations with the North.

But right now, it looks like it's going to be one missile test after the other when it comes to the North.

ALLEN: It certainly does. Thank you, Ian Lee for us in Seoul.

Coming up here, a city in Syria trapped under ISIS rule for years is slowly getting back to what was once normal. And we'll tell you who many of the residents of Deir ez-Zor are thanking for their homecoming.

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ALLEN: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM.

We're getting an inside look at one of the bloodiest battlefields in the fight against ISIS. The terror group's militants held Deir ez-Zor in Syria for three years. But now people are returning home and even reopening businesses. And many of them thank Russia for that. Frederick Pleitgen explains why.

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FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Takeoff towards one of the most brutal battlefields in Syria, protected by heavily armed gunships. The Russian army is taking us to the former ISIS stronghold, Deir ez-Zor.

PLEITGEN: Even though the Syrian and Russian armies managed to push ISIS back, there are still a lot of ISIS fighters here in this area. That's why taking a helicopter is the safest way to get to Deir ez- Zor.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): After landing in this dusty desert town close to the Iraqi border, the Russian army takes us to the city center. ISIS ruled most of Deir ez-Zor for more than three years and besieged government-held parts of the town.

Now commerce is returning here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Russia is a friend, a very, very good friend. We like Russia. We respect and appreciate them. What Russia did for us is so great. Their efforts are too great to describe.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): The Syrian army and its Russian backers are continuing their offensive against ISIS in Southeast Syria, trying to win back the remaining parts of this key town, which remains scarred by the fighting.

PLEITGEN: This area here used to be right on the front line between Syrian government force and ISIS. And the entire area that you see behind me here, all of these sand berms, just a few days ago, those were ISIS fighting positions.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): The Russian military says it believes a victory in Deir ez-Zor would put them close to ousting ISIS from all of southeastern Syria.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Our forces have already pushed ISIS about five to six kilometers away from the city on the left side of the Euphrates. But the most important thing is the blockade on the city has been lifted and the people are receiving humanitarian aid.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): But gains are quickly reversed in the Eastern Syrian desert and Russia warns, while the forces they support have been moving forward fast, tough battles still lie ahead -- Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Deir ez-Zor, Syria.

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ALLEN: CNN's Will Ripley has often been the only Western TV correspondent inside the country of North Korea. He's been there reporting for CNN more than a dozen times. His new special report, "SECRET STATE: INSIDE NORTH KOREA," shows what North Koreans are taught about Americans. Here's a sample.

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WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I've reported from North Korea more than a dozen times over the last few years. Each time we open the door a little more and see this country and its people in unexpected ways. Just like this. Yes, even in North Korea kids love video games.

These 14 and 15-year-olds, these are not just games. This is practice for real life. Most of these boys and a lot of the girls will spend their first years of adulthood serving in the Korean people's army just like their parents and grandparents before them.

What do you like about this game in?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Killing the enemy.

RIPLEY: Killing the enemy. Who is the enemy?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Americans. RIPLEY: This hatred of is Americans stems from the Korean War. North

Korea contradicts western historians saying that America started the war that killed millions of civilians and divided the Korean Peninsula.

Who do you want to fight?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): To fight the sworn enemy, Americans.

RIPLEY: What do they teach you about Americans in school?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): They forcibly invaded us, slaughtered our people, buried them, buried them alive and killed them.

RIPLEY: So they teach you that the Americans are the enemy and you need to shoot them to fight them? UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Yes.

RIPLEY: Here is where things get awkward.

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RIPLEY: What if I told you I'm an American? Do you want to shoot me too.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Yes.

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ALLEN: Well, you can get an exclusive look at the country from our Will Ripley. His special report, "SECRET STATE: INSIDE NORTH KOREA," Saturday at 8:00 pm in London, 9:00 pm in Berlin, only here on CNN.

Coming up, the Caribbean island of Anguilla was devastated by Hurricane Irma. But we'll tell you why residents there say their paradise is not lost, just on hold.

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ALLEN: The Caribbean islands are struggling to recover from Hurricane Irma's wrath. So many were hit. CNN has correspondents reporting from all across these islands. Michael Holmes is in Anguilla.

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MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's almost eerie, approaching Anguilla from the sea. A landscape stripped bare of the usual lush green backdrop. On shore, locals pull pieces of homes and businesses from an ocean where tourists usually swim.

Nearby, Johno's, a landmark jazz joint frequented by locals and celebrities like Denzel Washington and Janet Jackson.

HOLMES: After the hurricane had gone through, did you expect this place to be here?

JOHN "JOHNO" EDWARDS, BUSINESS OWNER: I didn't. I didn't because in 1995, when Hurricane Louis came, it knocked it down flat. And this was more intense than Louis.

HOLMES (voice-over): Johno has run this place for 34 years. As soon as jazz musicians can get here, he says, the music will be back.

EDWARDS: Hurricanes depress you when you come out and see all the devastation. SO doing something to give a little upkeep is a good thing.

HOLMES (voice-over): Johno's is in Sandy Ground, Anguilla's nightlife hub. Rapper Jay Z has been to this island; Justin Bieber a couple of years ago and this was The Pump House, one of the more popular night spots.

HOLMES: This church is one of the oldest buildings on the island. And here's the thing: it was meant to be a hurricane shelter. Fortunately, nobody came.

HOLMES (voice-over): Infrastructure the main issue here, electricity out island wide.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are totally devastated. As you look around, you can see almost 90 percent of the electrical network distribution system has been taken out. A lot of the poles didn't just fall down, they were broken in two or three parts.

HOLMES (voice-over): It could be months before power is restored. Tourism is the lifeblood of this whole region. Restaurants, beach bars and resorts hit hard.

HOLMES: And here's an example. This was the Palm Grove Restaurant, yes, right here, one of the most popular places on the island. That's all that's left of it.

HOLMES (voice-over): Other businesses are open. Still more back every day, needing only minor repairs. The phone service being worked on, aid starting to arrive.

But what locals want is a cash injection from the British government, a stimulus to bolster a fragile economy and rebuild infrastructure to withstand the next Irma.

HOLMES: Anguilla isn't paradise lost. Don't let people hear you say that around here. Perhaps it's paradise on hold. And they say they're not going to sit around and wait for British government help. They say waiting for outsiders isn't an option when it comes to making this paradise once more.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We believe in ourselves. And we will continue to believe in ourselves, you know. And anybody who is --

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- sitting around waiting, you're not going to see that here. You're not going to see that here.

HOLMES: What's the future like?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bright as usual. As usual, we go from zero to hero, you know. We just get it done.

HOLMES (voice-over): Michael Holmes, CNN, Anguilla.

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ALLEN: All right. We're pulling for Anguilla and all the islands there in the Caribbean. And there is another hurricane to keep an eye on. Jose is still making up its mind about where it's going.

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ALLEN: And thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'll be right back with our top stories.