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Russian Media: At Least 9 Dead in School Shooting in Kazan, Russia; FDA Authorizes Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine for Children 12 to 15; FBI Investigating Cyberattack on Critical U.S. Fuel Line; Israeli- Palestinian Clashes Escalate Dramatically. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired May 11, 2021 - 04:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us here in the United States and all around the world, I'm Rosemary Church.

We're starting with this breaking news. At least nine people are dead after a school shooting in Kazan, Russia. According to state media a teenager who is believed to be the shooter has been detained. So let's bring in Fred Pleitgen he joins us now live from Moscow. Fred, what are you learning about this?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Rosemary. Well it's still a very early time, and obviously some of these details that we're getting are very fresh and still just coming in. But there's two things that seem to stand out.

First of all, it seems to have been a horrific incident that has taken place there in Kazan, which is about 850 kilometers east of Moscow, very, very wealthy town, actually, the capital of the Tatarstan Republic. And it seems to be an incident that might very well still be ongoing. What we have so far -- as you mentioned -- that nine people have been killed. The breakdown of that unfortunately is that it is eight children apparently that have now been confirmed to have been killed as well as one teacher at that school.

And as you mentioned, it appears as though one of the shooters has been apprehended, that shooter apparently was a teenager. However, the authorities are saying that there could be a second person -- in fact, they are saying there was a second person involved and that that second person might very well still be holed up inside that school and also may have taken hostages.

As you can imagine some devastating scenes that we're seeing on Russian state media, on Russian TV of obviously children, very distraught. There's reports that we're getting of children fleeing that school as that situation was going on there. Also what we have from the local authorities is that obviously they are now pulling forces together in that area. On Russian state TV we saw some Russian special forces, the police there surrounding that building, possibly also going inside the building. The latest that we also have is that at least 21 ambulances are now at the scene at that school, obviously taking care of any of the people who have been wounded or in any other way injured which apparently also is a considerable amount of people as well.

But again, we're getting all of this information in and bringing it to you and certainly still seems as though it is very much an evolving situation -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: And Fred, sadly, school shootings are very much -- it's become a normal thing in the United States. We don't hear of school shootings in Moscow. What more can you tell us about that?

PLEITGEN: You're absolutely right. I mean, it certainly isn't something that is unfortunately as regularly an occurrence generally mass shootings in Russia as it is, for instance, in the United States. There was a big shooting that took place in the town of Kerch a couple of years ago involving a teenager, but otherwise you really don't hear that very much.

Obviously also one of the things that many people here certainly believe very much contributes to that as well is the fact that there simply isn't the amount of gun ownership here in Russia as there would be in the United States. So it certainly is something that is rare and it's certainly something, Rosemary, that shakes a community when it does happen. And you know, we're talking about a school shooting here in the town of Kazan, that certainly hasn't seen anything on that scale in a very long time. And certainly, therefore, will be very much shaken by all of this.

Obviously, the authorities here are already saying that the head of the Tatarstan Republic is already either on the way to the scene or is already on the scene and that this is certainly something that has the people there very much worried. In fact, the Russian authorities are saying that they have actually increased security at all other schools in the Kazan area as well -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: Yes, very disturbing. And, Fred, as you point out, nine people dead at this point we understand eight of them children, one a teacher and one of those shooters detained. That in Kazan, east of Moscow. We will continue to follow that out of Russia. Fred Pleitgen bringing us that update on breaking news.

Nearly 17 million more people in the U.S. could soon be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccination. The Food and Drug Administration just authorized Pfizer's vaccine for adolescents and teens ages 12 to 15. It's the first one in the U.S. authorized for use by the FDA for this age group.


The CDC still has to weigh in, but health officials say it's expected to get cleared.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DR. PETER MARKS, DIRECTOR, FDA CENTER FOR BIOLOGICS EVALUATION AND RESEARCH: So all together a relatively straightforward decision, but still one that was very carefully reviewed to make sure that all of the data supported this regulatory action. I would just encourage parents to ask their health care providers about the vaccine. The vaccine had an excellent profile in children. And though one can say that often children don't get terribly sick from COVID-19, there are kids who do get very sick from it. In addition, they can bring it asymptomatically around to their grandparents and others.


CHURCH: Meantime, we are following more signs of hope and progress in the battle against COVID-19. Here in the United States the number of new deaths keeps dropping and you can see the seven-day average has fallen dramatically from the peak earlier this year. The number of COVID infections is down, too, from January, but experts are warning against complacency. They say it's critical to get more people vaccinated. Here is CNN medical analyst Dr. Leana Wen on how Pfizer's vaccine is key to recovering from this pandemic.


DR. LEANNA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: So this appears to be 100 percent efficacious in this 12- to 15-year-old group. Great safety profile as well and I just know of so many kids in this category, this 12- to 15- year-old group who are so eager to get back to normal and have sleepovers and birthday parties and other aspects of pre-pandemic normal once they're fully vaccinated.


CHURCH: The company running one of America's largest fuel pipelines says it hopes to restore service by the end of the week. On Monday, the FBI confirmed that the ransomware from a criminal group in Russia known as DarkSide is behind the attack that has largely paralyzed Colonial Pipeline for says now. CNN's Jim Sciutto has more.


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The FBI is investigating the cybersecurity breach which has shut down the main fuel supply line to the East Coast. The ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline temporarily halted fuel lines from Texas all the way to New Jersey, spanning more than 5,500 miles. The pipeline transports more than 100 million gallons of gasoline and other fuel per day, nearly half the East Coast fuel supply.

ROBERT LEE, CEO, DRAGOS: So it is the largest cyberattack in terms of an energy infrastructure attack here in the United States. And so that is very disruptive, and it's something that's going to get a lot of questions in Congress and elsewhere.

SCIUTTO (voice-over): Officials say the attack has not yet compromised the overall supply line, and the company is aiming to restore services by the end of the week, minimizing impact on gas and fuel prices. The FBI is blaming the attack on a hacking group known as DarkSide, a Russian criminal enterprise, which claims to be apolitical. The FBI and other U.S. agencies are investigating whether this was a state- sponsored attack. So far, there is no indication the Kremlin is behind it.

ANNE NEUBERGER, U.S. DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER FOR CYBER AND EMERGING TECHNOLOGY: We assess that DarkSide is a criminal actor, but that's certainly something that our intelligence community is looking into.

SCIUTTO (voice-over): Culpability, however, is not as simple as who carried out the cyber-intrusion.

ROB LEE, CEO, DRAGOS CYBERSECURITY FIRM: If countries are not enforcing the rules, whether it's Russia, China, Iran, Brazil, wherever, if they're not enforcing the rules and making sure that they take care of their criminal sector, there's some culpability to that state government, regardless of if they're involved or not.

SCIUTTO (voice-over): Ransomware is a cyberattack in which hackers threaten to shut down networks or publish private information unless paid a ransom. The Department of Homeland Security estimates a 300 percent increase in such attacks in the past year alone, with a cost of more than $350 million in ransoms. National security officials issued a clear warning to the nation's private sector.

NEUBERGER: Secure your systems.

ELIZABETH SHERWOOD-RANDALL, WHITE HOUSE HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISER: Our nation's critical infrastructure is largely owned and operated by private sector companies. When those companies are attacked, they serve as the first line of defense. And we depend on the effectiveness of their defenses.

SCIUTTO (voice-over): U.S. agencies are still reeling from the SolarWinds data breach, a massive cyber-intrusion in 2020 by a network of hackers working for Russian intelligence. The attack infiltrated government and private sector computers and networks, remaining undetected for months.

SCIUTTO: Steps forward this shows another problem for the Biden administration, similar one faced by the Trump administration and Obama administrations before it and that is how do you deter, what kinds of penalties deter these attacks going forward? That question has not yet been answered.

Jim Sciutto, CNN, Washington.


CHURCH: Joining me now to discuss all of this is CNN contributor Garrett Graff.


He is the director of Cyber Initiatives at the Aspen Institute and a contributing editor at "Wired." Great to have you with us.


CHURCH: So this ransomware attack on the Colonial Pipeline reveals how vulnerable U.S. infrastructure targets are and raises many questions. The most critical being if the U.S. can't defend its key infrastructure from criminal actors how can the U.S. protect targets like this from a state actor?

GRAFF: It can't is the short version, and this attack is hardly a surprise to anyone who has been paying attention to the years and decades' worth of alarms that have been ringing inside government in the private sector about cybersecurity and the challenges of securing critical infrastructure.

One of the things though that does make this unique, is that over the last 18 months during the pandemic we have seen an explosion in epidemic really in parallel of ransomware across the country and particularly across corporate networks. and that those ransomware groups are operating at a level of sophistication and ability that really only is equaled by nation state adversaries like Russia and China.

U.S. officials used to talk about the big four, Russia, China, Iran and North Korea and now when they talk about cyber threats they talk about the big four plus one, Russia, China, Iran, North Korea and transnational cybercrime groups.

CHURCH: Right, so how do you get one step ahead of it? What does the U.S. need to be doing right now to protect fuel pipelines, hospitals, water plants and other targets from any future ransomware attacks like this, because they will keep happening? Is it even possible to protect potential targets? Certainly not 100 percent or close to it.

GRAFF: It's really a challenge that is unique in the cyber realm because so much of this critical infrastructure is in the hands of the private sector. You know, this Colonial Pipeline is a private company. It's responsible for its own cybersecurity. It has to meet certain government standards in theory, but the government has very limited ability to go out and dictate cyber standards to private sector companies even in what it identifies as the 17 critical infrastructure areas like gas pipelines.

What companies instead are moving towards is a resilience-focused approach where you assume that attacks like this will happen and that instead you need to build systems that are able to withstand them or recover from them quickly.

CHURCH: Garrett Graff, thank you so much for talking with us, appreciate it.

GRAFF: Happy to.

CHURCH: Well there's no letup in the escalating violence in Jerusalem. Coming up, the growing concerns about where this could lead.



CHURCH: Well tensions are high in Jerusalem after Israel and Gaza exchanged rocket fire and air strikes overnight. This was the scene in Gaza. The Israel defense forces said at least 200 rockets were fired from Gaza and Israel responded with air strikes.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the rocket attacks crossed a line and warned the attackers would pay a heavy price. Hamas issued a statement saying the group will respond, quote, as long as the Israeli occupation continues to perpetuate crimes and violations against the Palestinian people.

Elliott Gotkine is in an Israeli city of Ashkelon with the very latest. He joins us now. So Elliott, talk to us about this escalating violence and where it's all going.

ELLIOTT GOTKINE, JOURNALIST: Rosemary, you talked about the number of rocket attacks on Israel since this latest round of hostilities began, at the same time the IDF says that it carried out 130 air strikes using drones and fighter jets on the Gaza strip in response to those barrages of rockets. And says that it estimates that it killed 15 militants from Hamas or Islamic jihad.

In the Gaza strip the Palestinian health ministry says that 23 people were killed, among them nine children including a ten-year-old girl. But for more on the situation -- at least from the Israeli perspective -- I'm joined by Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus who is the chief spokesman for the IDF, for the international media. Great to have you with us. What's the current situation right now?

LT. COL. JONATHAN CONRICUS, IDF SPOKESMAN: The current situation is that the last alarm that sounded was less than five minutes ago, in less than five miles away. We are under a constant barrage of rockets from Gaza, fired from densely populated civilian areas in Gaza at our civilians. Our iron dome system has been intercepting very well more than 90 percent and that's why we so far have a relative low amount of Israeli casualties. We hope that that will continue, and I can assure you that we will make Hamas pay the price for their aggression against Israel.

GOTKINE: You mentioned Gaza being densely populated, and of course carrying out air strikes in that area, civilian casualties are inevitable. I know the IDF says that it does its best to ensure -- or minimize civilian casualties but Israel bears a responsibility as well for these civilian casualties, 24 right now according to the Palestinian health ministry in Gaza. How much of that responsibility does the IDF and Israel take for that?

CONRICUS: We take responsibility for our actions and we are committed to international law and we fight and plan accordingly. But I think the ultimate responsibility lies with Hamas who by design are embedded within the civilian population, have no regard for human life, not Palestinian, and specifically not Israeli.


And I can assure you that even though that is the case and Hamas disregards human life, we continue to use the most precise munitions available, and we use the most deliberate attacks against only military targets in order to make sure that we strike militants and those that are hitting Israeli civilians and we try to do our best not to strike anybody else.

GOTKINE: But when it comes, for example, one of the targets was I think a Hamas battalion commander, if you are attacking someone in a high-rise building you know there's going to be civilian casualties, right? I mean, it's inevitable.

CONRICUS: Actually, in that case there weren't specifically civilian casualties because it was a very deliberate pinpoint strike, and we have experience of doing that in the past. A year and a half ago we eliminated a senior Palestinian Islamic jihad leader in his bed with minimal collateral damage. So we have those capabilities, and I can assure you that we are doing the absolute most to minimize that collateral damage.

GOTKINE: Where do we go from here? More air strikes on the part of Israel, more rockets barrages from militants in the Gaza strip. How do we get the situation to cool down, to deescalate rather than to escalate further?

CONRICUS: Well Hamas has chosen to aggress and to plan a large attack against Israel, firing rockets at our capital, and putting more than a million and half Israelis, forcing people into shelters. We cannot let that go unanswered. We are prepared for various scenarios. The idea if we have reinforced the ground, the division with additional troops and capabilities and we have additional systems flying above, hunting terrorists and from our perspective we are prepared for any scenario needed.

GOTKINE: OK. Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus, thank you so much for taking the time to tell us the Israeli situation from the Israeli perspective.

And as you know, sirens are sounding here including one hitting this building earlier this morning and we will obviously bring you the latest as developments continue to unfold. For now back to you.

CHURCH: And we appreciate that. Elliott Gotkine live from Ashkelon, many thanks.

And we spoke earlier with a Palestinian writer whose family lives in Sheikh Jarrah and is among those facing eviction. Here is some of what he told my colleague, Robyn Curnow.


MOHAMMED EL-KURD, PALESTINIAN WRITER: It's not an eviction. According to the U.N. and countless politicians and human rights organizations it could amount to war crimes actually. The situations is very tense. I can tell you we are very scared of losing our homes to Israeli settler organizations.

ROBYN CURNOW, CNN ANCHOR: These settlers and courts would argue that their claims to the land predates you and your family. Have you been allowed to prove otherwise?

EL-KURD: No. Courts, the Israeli courts -- Israeli occupation courts take their documents without verification, without authentication or challenge, whereas our documents will not be looked at. They will not be taken into consideration. Besides, just besides -- just because something is technically legal does not mean it's ethical or moral or historically just or accurate or correct. We have seen many, many systems exploit the law and exploit the judiciary to uphold supremacist and racist lies.

CURNOW: You've written very powerfully about being 11 and remembering this incident that I spoke about. About these settlers coming to your home and taking half of it. How does it feel to have grown up with what you have called the anxiety of dispossession?

EL-KURD: It feels familiar because this is what every Palestinian feels like under the crushing fangs of Israeli colonialism and Palestine. My grandmother was thrown out of her home in 1948 in Haifa, and she was thrown out again in 1967, and again in 2009 when an Israeli settler organizations colluding with Israeli state took over half of our home. And this is my second time being dispossessed from my family should they go ahead and do it to me. It's scary but it also has a name, it's settler colonialism and it's apartheid. And the fact that these settler organizations are working together with the state to exploit the law to dispossess Palestinians.

CURNOW: What would you like from the international community? There has been a response by many to the situation your family is in right now. What would you like to hear, especially from the new Biden administration?

EL-KURD: Well, you know, I think the mix of self-defense on both sides are growing more penetrable, people are able to see through these nets and call an occupation for what it is and call aggressor for what it is. And this is what we're going under, what we're facing in Sheikh Jarrah and Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip is colonial violence.


CHURCH: And we will have more news in just a moment.



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

CHURCH: Updating this breaking news, at least nine people are dead, eight of them children, after a school shooting in Kazan, Russia. According to state media, there were two shooters, one is dead and the other is in custody. So let's bring in CNN's Fred Pleitgen. He joins us live from Moscow

and has been following this breaking news. Fred, what more are you learning about this school shooting in Kazan?

PLEITGEN: Hi Rosemary, we are indeed getting new details. First of all, we heard as you just mentioned that there were apparently two shooters, also one of the other new details that we've gotten is that there was a shooting and that eyewitnesses apparently also said that there was some sort of explosion at some point. Now, of course, it's unclear what exactly what bang would have been, whether or not that was the security forces using some sort of stun grenade or something or whether or not that was the shooters themselves trying to force their way into the school. That we don't know at this point in time.

But if you will recall we had said that one of the shooters was in custody and that there might be a second shooter still holed up inside that school. Well, the authorities are now saying that the second shooter as they've put it has been eliminated. The shooter who was arrested the authorities is believed to be a teenager. It's unclear whether or not this is some sort of former student at the school or some sort of other unaffiliated person. But nevertheless, obviously still a devastating scene at that school in Kazan which again is about 850 kilometers to the east of Moscow.

Obviously, a lot of people still standing around that school. Apparently when that school shooting started it was the time that lessons were going on at that school. There's reports of obviously children fleeing that school, some of them possibly even jumping from windows.