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AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA

Intense Manhunt Continues in Brussels; Firsthand Look at Airport Devastation; ISIS Linked to Brussels Attack More Sophisticated than Thought; "Mother of Satan" Bombs Used in Brussels Turkey Deported Terrorist to Netherlands with Warning. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired March 24, 2016 - 11:00   ET

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


[11:00:15] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan.

We continue to follow news out of Belgium. The manhunt in Belgium is intensifying and expanding this morning. Authorities are now looking for two unidentified terrorist suspects linked to the horrific tragedy. Airport surveillance video shows the man in the light colored coat, the man with the black hat on, is believed to have dropped off a massive bomb before leaving the scene. Investigators are also now searching for another man, spotted at the metro subway holding a large bag. This, before the explosion went off there.

And another shocking detail is threatening to shake up the Belgian government this morning. It was revealed that one of the airport suicide bomber brothers, Ibrahim, was caught in Turkey, deported and flagged to Belgian authorities, but clearly slipped under the radar. Belgium's interior and justice ministers have offered to resign, but they are staying on. We'll discuss that shortly.

Let's go to CNN's Chris Burns, live with the very latest in Brussels.

Chris, where do things stand with the fast moving investigation as the manhunt is underway?

CHRIS BURNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, it is very much a race against time. I'm standing outside the metro station where I took it the stay before. I go up to the parliament from this station all the time. The broken glass, the spatters of blood on the pavement, and I'm speaking to different people here laying flowers and crying. Moving scenes here as the race against time continues to try to track done those suspects who were involved, who are still believed alive and left the airport, left this train station after those bomb attacks just a couple of days ago. At the moment they're looking, as you said, for a man who was seen on a surveillance camera here at the station carrying a heavy bag. That's all we know at this point. There was also a raid yesterday at the House of the two brothers, Khalid el Bakraoui, and Ibrahim el Bakraoui. The prosecutor saying that Khalid el Bakraoui had set up a house, a safe house for the Paris attackers. There's the Paris connection there, and he set it up with a fake I.D. that the authorities were not able to find him. They said, the prosecutors say that they -- that he had been -- that there was a warrant for his arrest in December, and that he has not -- had not been caught before this attack. Again, this idea of authorities trying to catch these people but they're slipping through the net.

Back to you -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Absolutely right. A fuller picture of who these people are, their backgrounds, and their threat, but obviously not on time.

And the manhunt is still underway for the two unidentified people directly linked to the attack.

Chris, thank you so much. We continue to watch there. Chris is on the ground for us.

Also new, U.S. officials are helping with the investigation. Sources say they believe the Brussels attacks may be linked to ISIS leadership in Syria. They also think the bombings show ISIS is even more sophisticated than security services really in the United States and especially in European countries had thought to this point.

Let's get more on the details from CNN justice reporter, Evan Perez.

Evan, you've been working your sources on this. This emerging thought coming from U.S. officials about this link to Syria, how direct is this link, do they think?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, right now, it's not very direct. They're seeing emerging signs that ISIS leaders in Syria had a hand in facilitating or directing the team that pulled off the attacks in Brussels. There's a lot of investigation to be done. There's no hard evidence of a direct line to ISIS external operations in Syria, but we're talking about more of a dotted line connection. I'm told the broader network behind this attack and the one in Paris shows a much more sophisticated planning operation than many western intelligence agencies thought ISIS was capable of. A year ago, I talked to U.S. intelligence agencies around the country, and in Europe, and they said that there was broad disagreement about whether or not ISIS had external operations capabilities, and that the group was perhaps more focused on taking territory and building the caliphate in Syria and Iraq.

What they didn't know at the time, but know now, is ISIS was already sending trained bombers to Europe, and the Paris attacks certainly have put to rest the questions about what they were able to do. ISIS appears to have loose control over the attackers. The bombers have some autonomy over when and where they choose to attack. Now the job for investigators is to try to figure out the money and the support system in Europe for the attacks and where ISIS is looking to strike next -- Kate?

[11:05:27] BOLDUAN: Evan Perez working his sources for us. Evan, thank you so very much.

Let's discuss what even is picking up. Let's bring in CNN terrorism analyst, Paul Cruickshank, also the editor-in-chief of the "CCT Sentinel"; and also CNN counterterrorism analyst and former CIA official, Phil Mudd.

Paul, first to you.

The emerging signs we're hearing, this is something you've been looking at as well. The links, how direct they are between the Paris attackers, now the Belgian attack, back to Raqqa, Syria. What are you picking up?

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: From everything I'm being told, I've been speaking to multiple western security officials, I've also obtained a trove of documents in the investigation into the Paris attacks. This is the same cell that was behind the Paris attacks, exactly the same cell. It was led by the ring leader of both the Paris and the Brussels attacks, they believe. He was killed in a shootout in Brussels last week. And ISIS before they carried out the Paris attacks, they recorded an elaborate video, propaganda video in Syria when nine of the Paris attackers were shown in that video. That clearly shows the Paris attacks had the blessing of the senior leadership of ISIS. This was an ISIS-directed plot by the external operations division of ISIS. And the cell that attacked Brussels is exactly the same cell that carried out the Paris attacks. All these men were working very closely together. For me the lines back to ISIS are strong, and they are direct.

BOLDUAN: Fascinating, and troubling, because we have Paris. What happened after Paris was the folks trying to learn lessons from Paris to make sure it didn't happen again. But obviously, it did.

Phil, weigh in on that aspect. This seems like intelligence officials are acknowledging that ISIS is showing their capability is far greater or at least their capability was underestimated by western intelligence. Does underestimated equal failure?

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: No. I think you have to look at two aspects. The first is capability. I don't think that's particularly significant. Any terror group can train a bomb maker and recruit people from Western Europe and the United States. What it shows me to more significant. Take capability off the table. It shows me intent. ISIS is under a lot of stress in Iraq. Less stress in Syria. What they've shown over the last year or so is that they don't want to use some of the foreigners coming into Syria simply as cannon fodder in the fight on the ground there. It shows they have the intent not only to train some of the people to come back, but to give operational training to ensure that they c communicate to give them training in bomb making to conduct attacks in places like an airport. Determining that intent for a terror group is difficult. And is has told us we're going to do it. Forget about capabilities, we're sending them back and they can do what we're telling them to do.

BOLDUAN: Let's talk about some of the capabilities. One of them is the ability to make the bombs. The bombmaker, at this time yesterday, Paul, the bombmaker, it was possible he was still at large. It's now believed he's dead. Is that significant to you?

CRUICKSHANK: It's significant that he appears to be dead. They're trying to confirm that, but they think he was one of the decide bombers at the airport. These are key players. Bomb makers who can make explosives like TATP, it's quite tricky to make. You can get the raw materials from the street, but it's unstable. Tricky to make. You tend to have to have someone to show it to you, and we've seen ISIS training European recruits in Syria how to make TATP. We saw a case in 2014 when a French ISIS recruit came back in the south of France. He built TATP bombs there. Significant that he's no longer with us, it would appear, but there may be others who have the same expertise.

BOLDUAN: Right. He's not the only one who can make the bombs.

That's one of the things they're teaching them how to do in Syria before they come back over.

Let's talk about the one person they have in custody who could be or couldn't be and isn't now offering any answers. The last Paris attacker, Salah Abdeslam, he's in custody. His attorneys say he's no longer cooperating with interrogators and he wants to be extradited back to France.

Take me inside the interrogation room. What is going on in there, and how has that changed since the attack? Take me inside.

[11:10:16] MUDD: I don't trust the lawyers. I don't believe they understand how this works necessarily, and I don't believe that their client ever cooperated. It's not about whether he revealed the plot. They're saying he didn't know about the plat. That may be true. I want to know, did you know locations where bombs were being mixed or identities of people you were training with. Immediately after the events yesterday, you say who are these people. The fact that we didn't know some of the people in the tack after the photos came out showed us before the Belgians said anything that he wasn't cooperating. I suspect what happened from day one is he was throwing chaff on the floor. In other words, he was putting out stuff that was interesting but not really compelling in hopes that his counterparts could get away or conduct an attack. I think cooperation from day one was questionable.

BOLDUAN: Fascinating.

Give me a final button.

CRUICKSHANK: One final thought. Belgian officials believe he knew about the plot and was going to be part of a bigger attack. They had to accelerate the plan at the safe house he was hiding in after the Paris attacks, who was he with? The overall commander of the entire conspiracy to attack Paris and Brussels, the idea that he wouldn't have known, beggar's belief.

BOLDUAN: He obviously wasn't offering up helpful information if the attack took place.

Paul Cruickshank and Phil Mudd, thank you so much.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Thank you. Coming up next, a taxi driver trying to find his own son in the Brussels airport films the horrifying moments after the attacks. I want to see what he discovered. It's a new video.

Plus, it's called the Mother of Satan. Experts say this type of bomb is being used in these coordinated attacks. We're seeing it more and more. We're going to explore way.

And also, American families are still waiting for any word about their loved ones. Investigators, they still seem AT THIS HOUR struggling to I.D. victims.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's been the worst days of my life. I just -- I guess I didn't know how much one person can love another.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:16:18] BOLDUAN: This morning, new video is emerging of the devastating aftermath of the blast inside the Brussels airport. It's the clearest view of what happened in the moments after the attack.

It's raw and quite difficult to watch. I'm going to warn you that some of this video is graphic.

John Berman takes us inside.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(SHOUTING)

JOHN BERMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The first thing you hear are the screams --

(SHOUTING)

BERMAN: -- presumably the wounded crying for help.

(SHOUTING)

BERMAN: Debris is everywhere, making it hard for rescue workers to get around.

(SHOUTING)

BERMAN: Fires still burning from the blast. Bodies buried under the rubble. And this.

(CRYING)

[02:35:10] BERMAN: A baby in the middle of the wreckage, on the floor, next to his mother, who appeared to be dead.

(SHOUTING)

BERMAN: The horror doesn't end here.

(SHOUTING)

BERMAN: Frightened bystanders try to make it out of the building.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.

(CROSSTALK)

(SHOUTING)

BERMAN: The taxi driver, who shot this video, reaches the food stand where his son worked, only to find it deserted.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

BERMAN: Outside the terminal, survivors wait for help. Those that are able lend comfort to the wounded, though many inside did not survive.

Amid the wreckage and debris, a single flower, perhaps a welcome home for an arriving passenger, now buried among the shattered remains of this terror attack.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BOLDUAN: Not one bright spot, if you can even call it that after what we showed you. The taxi driver did eventually find his son alive and well.

Looking at the manhunt and the desperate search underway for more people involved in the attack. Belgian authorities, investigators are also trying at this point to get a handled on exactly what type of bomb the terrorists used to create this level of destruction that we just showed you. In a recent raid, investigators say they found about 33 pounds of TATP, an explosive material known as the Mother of Satan. It can inflect mass casually as we clearly saw Tuesday.

Let me bring in right now for more on this, CNN contributor, Tim Lister. He's been covering war zones throughout the Middle East and beyond for decades.

Tim, by all accounts, when you look at the TATP, it's relatively easy to get the components to create it. If that is the case, and we see the destruction that it can create, how does security services plan to stop Mother of Satan from getting into the wrong hands?

[11:20:33] TIM LISTER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: They can't. It's quite simple. Unless you're going to take hair bleach out of the doors, train cleaner, anything with acetone in it as an ingredient. It's easy obtained ingredients. The challenge is putting them together in a form that is stable and powerful. I have interviewed a former jihadist, who was in one of the bomb making camps in Afghanistan. He said they mix TATP in ever more potent combinations. It's the mixing that's critical. If you can get it to a very potent stage, then you can create tremendous damage with these bombs, particularly if you pack shrapnel, bolts, and nails around the explosive charge. It is a very easily substance to produced but difficult to deploy effectively.

BOLDUAN: At the top of the hour, these bomb makers, they're all being, many of them are being at least taught how to do this in Syria. Going to the war zone, coming back to create and carry out the terror attacks. The fight against ISIS as we know, it is centering in Syria. It's centering in Iraq. Why, then, is the focus for ISIS in their attacks right now, the terror attacks, why are they focusing so much in Europe, Paris, and now we see in Brussels? Is it because it's easy?

LISTER: Well, it is easy. They have an opportunity, and the opportunity is helped by the massive influx of migrants that are coming from that part of the world by the ease with which they can produce fake documents or manufacture Syrian passports. Is seized passport officers. They filled them out and gave them to their operatives. At least half a dozen found in Europe with manufactured Syrian passports. There's that, but it's also important to ISIS because they're under pressure in the caliphate. Because their fighters can see when a European attack happens and is successful that the fight is not lost, that here is a victory in the war. Is also wants very much to create a sense of foreboding among Europeans toward European Muslims. One of the senior leaders a year and a half ago said we want to create a situation where Europeans walk down the street and look left and right and fear Muslims. It's very much a deliberate strategy on the part of ISIS to bring the war to Europe. That is Europe's biggest problem, because this was not the case just a couple years ago.

BOLDUAN: Exactly. Exactly the point of creating this terror.

But we see that the Belgian people are standing out in that memorial square in the face of this threat saying we won't let that fear be struck in us.

Tim, it's great to see you. Thank you so much.

Coming up next for us, the Belgian government making a shocking admission. Why they, quote, "missed their chance," to catch one of the bombers.

Plus, a disturbing warning. The head of European security says 5,000 Europeans have gone to Syria for training and many of them have now returned. We're going to explore that, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:28:30] BOLDUAN: "We missed a chance," that's a confession coming from top Belgian government officials just moments ago as investigators try to piece together clues about these bombers. The office of Turkey's president says his government flagged one of the airport bombers to Belgian authorities. This is before Turkey deported him last summer. They're referring to Ibrahim el Bakraoui, the terrorist who detonated his suicide bomb inside the crowded Brussels airport.

CNN's senior international correspondent, Arwa Damon, has much more on what officials in Turkey knew about this man, what information they shared.

And also, Arwa, I'm interested in why Turkey's president wanted to go public with this information now.

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, to answer the second part first, I think Turkey at this stage is trying to make a point, and that point was best made by the president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to the effect that Europe really, one, needs to start taking Turkey seriously, and secondly, needs to take Turkish intelligence seriously and also on the broader spectrum needs to recognize if it wants to defeat terrorism, Turkey is its main and key ally. This is not the first time Turkey has warned a European nation about the possibility of an individual having ties to terrorism and then seeing that individual carry out an attack to violence.

When it comes to Ibrahim el Bakraoui, in particular, this was not someone on any sort of list. He came into Turkey and spent some time in a holiday resort area, and then he moved to where we are, very close to the border with Syria. This is one of the main areas that is a launching point for those who are wanting to go into the battlefield and join up with ISIS.