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THE SITUATION ROOM
One of Taliban Five May Have Returned to Terror; Awaiting Word on ISIS Prisoner Swap; Three U.S. Contractors Shot Dead at Kabul Airport; Israeli Troops, Hezbollah on High Alert
Aired January 29, 2015 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, return to terror. New information that one of the five Gitmo detainees traded for captured Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl may have gone back to his old ways.
Hostage swap. The deal to trade a jailed terrorist for an allied pilot held by ISIS has stalled. We're awaiting word of the fate of the hostages.
North Korea nukes. There's new concern right now that the hard- line regime is restarting a reactor, even as Kim Jong-un may be planning his first foreign trip, to Moscow.
Plus, a devastating explosion at a maternity hospital. There are dozens of casualties and an urgent search for babies and adults who may be trapped in the rubble.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
Let's get to the breaking news. In a CNN exclusive, we're learning that one of the so-called Taliban five Guantanamo detainees swapped for U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl may have returned to terror activity.
This comes as we await word of an exchange between ISIS and a key U.S. ally, Jordan, had agreed to swap a jailed female bomber for one of its pilots, whose American-made fighter jet crashed in Syria.
But the Jordanians have demanded proof the pilot is alive, and there is no word yet on his fate or that of a Japanese hostage.
We have full coverage of both of these stories and a whole lot more. Our correspondents and analysts, they're standing by along with Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez of the Armed Services and Homeland Security committees.
Let's begin with some exclusive reporting. Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, has the very latest -- Barbara.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, good evening.
Several U.S. sources now tell me the U.S. intelligence community suspects that one of those Taliban Five, traded out of Gitmo to get Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl back, one of them may now be reengaging in militant activity from where they are in the Persian Gulf nation of Qatar. That's where they went after they were transferred out of Gitmo.
The U.S. conducts classified surveillance of their communications, intercepts, monitors them all the time in all of their communications. A couple of months ago, something popped up that caused concern.
Now the U.S. intelligence community trying to determine, is it a threat, how much of a threat it may be. They are monitoring all five of them much more closely now, making sure they are on top of all of their communications, although they were monitoring them before.
As this is going on, Wolf, the world is watching in another prisoner swap, another potential exchange in Jordan and Syria.
STARR (voice-over): Tense anticipation at this border crossing between Syria and Turkey, desperately waiting for any signal that Japanese journalist Kenji Goto and Jordanian fighter pilot Mu'ath al- Kaseasbeh are free.
But as the sunset deadline passed, there are no signs ISIS is meeting Jordan's key condition, proof the pilot is alive before it releases Sajida al-Rishawi, held since being convicted of a series of hotel bombings in Jordan in 2005.
Coalition war planes, drones and satellites continue flying over ISIS strongholds in northern Syria, looking for any signs of unusual activity, perhaps a convoy moving towards the border. But hope may be fading.
PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Given the fact that ISIS has executed every hostage that they have publicly produced on a videotape, except one British hostage, it does suggest that ISIS is not that interested in serious negotiations and is principally interested in the ability to get a lot of attention to its cause.
STARR: Leaving families in agony. In Tokyo, Kenji Goto's wife heard from his captors on Wednesday with their demand for a swap.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our baby girl was only seven weeks old when Kenji left. I hope our oldest daughter, who is just 2, will get to see her father again.
STARR: In Amman, Jordan, the pilot's family also waits for news.
SAFI AL-KASEASBEH, FATHER OF JORDANIAN PILOT (through translator): If you will give or release your brother, it will have a very positive reaction from all the Jordanian and Palestinian tribes.
STARR: For now, the Jordanians say al-Rishawi remains in Jordan. As for ISIS, silence so far. (END VIDEOTAPE)
STARR: And the Jordanians very aware of, in fact, the Bergdahl trade analogy. The Jordanians making the case that, if this does work, they are not negotiating with terrorists. Their view is this is a prisoner exchange, as happens very often on the battlefield -- Wolf.
BLITZER: A lot of sensitivities involved, obviously. Barbara, thank you.
Let's bring in our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto. Jim, there's now word we're getting that more Americans have been killed in Afghanistan.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right. I'm told by a U.S. official that three U.S. contractors were killed, along with an Afghan national. This attack took place at Kabul Airport, the north side, where there's a major coalition military base.
And I'm told, as well, by a U.S. official, quote, that "Initially, it looks like an insider attack," though it is still being investigated. So-called insider attacks, or green on blue attacks, when it involves blue for coalition forces, green for Afghan forces, have been a consistent problem, though they peaked in the year 2012, 48 such attacks then, down to just six last year.
If this does turn out to be an insider attack, it would be a worrisome sign, as we're in a period of transition in Afghanistan as coalition forces transition from securing the country to advising and assisting Afghan forces in doing that, but it's a major issue, Wolf. We talked about it a number of times. The highest profile such attack took place in August last year. You will remember it was a two-star American general, General Harold Green (ph), who was killed in such an attack.
It's enough of a concern that, when I have traveled to Afghanistan, you talk to forces there. They have what are called guardian angels to look after you in case someone turns their gun on you. Less of a concern than it was a couple years ago but still a real one.
BLITZER: Yes. Certainly, extremely dangerous to simply go there if you're an American. Let's talk a little bit about the swap, the so-called swap, these two hostages who are being held by ISIS. The female terrorist who has obviously been in jail in Jordan for ten years. A lot of analysts are suggesting already, irrespective of what happens, ISIS's status has been elevated already.
SCIUTTO: No question. This is a group that thrives on attention, whether it's an attack that they carry out successfully, whether on the ground in the region there or overseas, like we saw, for instance, at least the claim of the tie in the attack in the Sydney cafe, for instance.
But also, this kind of thing where they have these hostages, and it's not just their death that demonstrates their power, but it's also holding a major power to task here. Jordan, carrying on negotiations which are confusing and difficult negotiations for the Jordanians. And you've seen that, with these constantly changing deadlines and constantly changing demands.
And it's one reason why you have a lot of questions raised about why Jordan took part in these attacks, even with the life of that pilot in danger. What's to be gained? Can you really trust that the other side will deliver. It's eight hours past that sundown deadline, still no word. It's a worrisome sign.
BLITZER: It certainly is. All right. Jim Sciutto, thanks very much. Jordan has already made it clear it is certainly prepared to carry out a swap with ISIS, but it's sticking to its demand for proof that its captured F-16 fighter pilot is still alive. Let's go to Amman, Jordan, right now. CNN's Jomana Karadsheh, she's on the scene for us. What's the latest over there, Jomana?
JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we have not heard anything from the Jordanian governments in the last few hours, the last thing we heard is what they are saying publicly. They are saying that they're still willing to make this exchange. They are willing to release the female prisoner, but they still want that proof of life.
As you mentioned, this is critical for the Jordanians. So far, they say they have not received it, although they have been demanding this for some time now. They say it is critical, and there will only be a release if that happens. Until then, this Iraqi female prisoner remains in Jordan and remains in jail. It's a very tense night here in Jordan, Wolf. Not just for the government and the family, but many Jordanians are really concerned about this situation and what might happen next.
BLITZER: Yes. He's considered a hero in Jordan, this fighter pilot. And the Jordanians understandably want him back. Jomana, thanks very much.
Let's go in depth on all of this. Joining us now, a key member of the House Armed Services and Homeland Security committees, Democratic Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez of California.
Congresswoman, thanks very much for joining us.
Do you believe these negotiations between one of our key allies in the Middle East, Jordan, and ISIS about a possible prisoner swap, do you believe it sets, potentially, a dangerous precedent?
REP. LORETTA SANCHEZ (D), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: Well, we never want to see is get the type of attention that it's getting. It uses these types of protracted sort of situations for propaganda, to get more militants in to its Army, if you will, so it's never a good sign.
On the other hand, of course we have seen this throughout many wars where you have prisoner exchanges. So you know, this is an important pilot to the Jordanians. They want to see him back. I can sort of understand why they're doing this.
BLITZER: Some people are suggesting, Congresswoman, that the Obama administration set a bad example by agreeing to swap five Taliban prisoners who had been held at Guantanamo Bay for a long time for the release of U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl this past summer. They say this was, in effect, negotiating with terrorists at the same time, to which you say?
SANCHEZ: Well, first I would say we leave no man or woman behind. And that's really a core piece of our people who go into the military to work for us on behalf of us to keep America and Americans safe. So, you know, whichever way you want to cut it, it's a difficult situation to do. The fact of the matter is we did get him back, and that was important to not only the family here, but to many people across our United States to make sure that we bring our military back.
BLITZER: So you're OK -- I just want to be precise on this -- Congresswoman, negotiating with groups like the Taliban or with ISIS, both of which are seen as terrorist organizations by the U.S. government. You're OK with a swap with them?
SANCHEZ: What I'm saying is it's important to bring our military people home. That's the first thing.
The second thing is, for anybody to think for a minute that there are not negotiations that go on in almost any case would be to be a little bit naive about what's going on.
As I said, there have been plenty of wars, we negotiated. We did prisoner exchanges all the time, for example, in World War II, so -- and those we knew about. So there are many things that happened, some of which the American public doesn't even know, where we could try to get our men and women, in particular, who are in military uniform back to our country.
BLITZER: So if there were an American -- and fortunately there isn't -- if there were an American F-16 fighter pilot in the hands of ISIS right now, you'd be willing to negotiate with them in order to bring that American pilot home?
SANCHEZ: I think it's important to bring that American pilot home. I haven't been involved in any of those negotiations, certainly, but I do believe that they go on more than we -- than we can see when we have a man or woman down somewhere.
BLITZER: You heard Barbara Starr's report from the Pentagon that one of those five Taliban prisoners freed from Guantanamo Bay has now returned to what are being described as militant activities. What's your reaction to that?
SANCHEZ: Well, first of all, my reaction -- you're probably talking to one of the few Democrats who has always said we need to have an alternative to Gitmo, to Guantanamo, before we close it down, because we have people in there who tend to, if we release them, go back into doing what they were doing before. What do I mean by that? I believe that, even of those that we
have released to other countries, not in prisoner exchanges but just because we were trying to move them on. We really didn't have the type of evidence we needed to convict them, et cetera. We did some of this moving them from Gitmo into other places. And we've seen a very high recidivism rate.
We've seen, I believe, the last time I checked it was about 70 percent of these people tend to go back into their old business. Most of which is against the western countries, certainly sometimes against the United States.
So I'm not surprised that at least one of those five may be back into bad business. I would anticipate it's probably even higher.
BLITZER: All right. I want you to hold on, because we're going to continue this conversation, Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez of California. She's with us. We have a lot more to discuss. We're following the breaking news on multiple fronts. Much more right after this.
BLITZER: We're back with a key member of the House Armed Services and homeland security committees, Democratic Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez of California.
Quick question. You sit on the Armed Services Committee. You know what's going on. The president says he wants to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIS. How's that working out?
SANCHEZ: Well, again, you're talking to a Democrat who, even of the president's party, still has been one of the biggest people espousing the idea that, somehow if we give arms to people or we use the Iraqi Army or we train the Iraqi Army, somehow they're going to put down ISIS in Iraq or in Syria. I just believe that that's a big -- a big dream and a big fantasy.
I think it's very difficult to do this, to do it the way that, certainly, the president has outlined so far. I don't believe that it is working as we need it to work. ISIL and ISIS, whatever you want to call it, is a deep threat to the American people. And more importantly, it's a threat to the region that we find ourselves so deeply involved in. I certainly think that we need to sit down at the table and come up with a different strategy.
BLITZER: What would be -- what would you like to see the United States do to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIS?
SANCHEZ: Well, again, I don't have a lot of confidence at this point, and I've been working this issue of Iraq. Remember, you're seeing somebody who didn't vote for the Iraqi war, but having said that, supported trying to get our troops in the right place. We went to this whole issue of trying to increase the Iraqi Army, to train them. It was pretty significant that they turned away. The real hard issues of what is actually happening in Iraq goes
all the way back to our biggest and major problem, and that would be Iran. And until we figure out how we contain what Iran is doing, it's affecting that entire region. So I think it really needs for us to step back and to really take a look at our involvement in the region.
Iraq on its own or Syria and Iraq on its own is not going to solve the continuing problem that we have in that arena. Iran seems to destabilize everything and anything that it possibly can in order to keep us tied up there.
BLITZER: But on the other hand, Iran is deeply opposed to ISIS, as well. Iran, a Shiite country, they support Bashar al-Assad's Shiite-led regime in Damascus. ISIS is Sunni, and so let me just repeat the question. What do you want -- I assume you agree with the president, ISIS represents a threat, it must be degraded and destroyed. So what would you like to see the U.S. do?
SANCHEZ: I think that the U.S. either has to decide it's going to be all in and get this done or it has to decide that we are not the players to get that done.
And there are plenty of partners that we have in that region who, quite frankly, haven't been asked and haven't stepped up to take care of the things that are going on in their neighborhood. So I think I would get a lot of -- much tougher and have a real sit-down with our partners in that arena.
BLITZER: Which countries are you talking about?
SANCHEZ: Well, you know, we have Saudi. We have UAE. We have Turkey, who has, you know, completely -- it may be a NATO ally, but it hasn't been as helpful as I think that it should be. We've got some real problems there in that arena.
BLITZER: Sounds to me like you'd like to see the United States simply evacuate, get out of that part of the world and get home. Is that right?
SANCHEZ: Well, I think we either -- we can't be half in or half out. We either really -- I mean, we really have to take care of this situation one way or another. And if ISIS and ISIL or whatever you want to call it is a threat to us coming back here in the homeland, then we better get our heads together with our allies out there and take care of business. And either they've got to step up to the plate and take care of business or we've got to step up to the plate to take care of business.
BLITZER: Because as you know right now, there's -- there's at least some training. There's an operation in the works to try to regain Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq, from ISIS, working with Iraqi forces, working with Kurdish forces, and U.S. military commanders are getting involved as advisors to try to go in and take -- retake the city of nearly two million people. It could be bloody. It could be very, very -- it almost certainly will be a very dangerous situation. The Pentagon is clearly getting ready for that. The president seems to support it. Do you?
SANCHEZ: Well, if I believe that we, with ground -- with air cover and with training of troops on the ground, that we could have a fast and significant and real win in Mosul, I would be for it.
If -- if the Iraqi Army were as into going and getting this job done as, for example, the Kurdish fighters -- the Kurds have been with us the whole time. They'll go in, and they'll get the job done. The problem is that we haven't -- we haven't even armed them. We armed through the Shiite government that is in place in Iraq, and what happens is that, you know, they don't get the weapons into the hands of the true fighters and the true allies that we have up in northern Iraq. So you know, unless we're really going to put troops in, I don't believe that the Iraqi soldiers will really get the job done.
BLITZER: Loretta Sanchez is a member of the Armed Services and Homeland Security Committee -- committees. Thanks very much for joining us, Congresswoman.
SANCHEZ: My pleasure. Thanks for having me, Wolf.
BLITZER: Thank you.
Coming up, a growing war of words between Israel and one of its deadliest adversaries. Will it lead to more shootings, more deaths?
Also coming into THE SITUATION ROOM, we're getting some dramatic pictures of today's explosion that leveled parts of a hospital for mothers and new babies.
BLITZER: As Israel buries its dead from a surprise Hezbollah missile strike, and the radical Shiite group celebrates a victory, the rhetoric on both sides is at a fever pitch right now. That's rhetoric. Israel's prime minister is blaming Iran for the ambush and warns that his country will defend itself against threats in his words, near and far. Can both sides pull back from the brink?
Let's go to our global affairs correspondent, Elise Labott. She's joining us now from along the Israeli/Lebanese border. What's the latest in -- on this very tense situation?
ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Israel is saying it's getting messages from Hezbollah that it's not interested in escalating this situation further, and there's a tense calm along the border here.
One former military commander told us today, though, that it's almost too calm and that makes him nervous, because any wrong move on either side of the border could lead to war in this northern frontier.
LABOTT (voice-over): Tonight, Israeli forces are on high alert along the northern border with Lebanon after Hezbollah launched its deadliest attack against the Israeli military in nearly a decade. The IDF responding with air strikes and shelling inside Lebanon, Hezbollah's home base.
A somber burial for the two Israeli soldiers killed in Wednesday's missile attack. Tears and rage fueling calls for retaliation and fears of all-out war.
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu vows to make Hezbollah pay a heavy price, along with its patrons in Iran.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): Iran is responsible for yesterday's attack against us from Lebanon.
LABOTT: Israel said it's determined not to let Iran use Hezbollah to build what it calls a new, quote, "terror front on the Golan Heights," along Israel's northerner border with Syria, like it's done inside Lebanon, which is why the Israeli military targeted Iran and its proxies inside Syria last week in an attack that killed an Iranian general and six Hezbollah commanders, and prompting Hezbollah's revenge attack on Wednesday.
KOBI MAROM, FORMER IDF COMMANDER: They want to keep what we call the axis of evil, Tehran, Damascus and Lebanon, to keep the rearming process of the Hezbollah. What they are doing in the last 15 years.
LABOTT: Right now, Israel's greatest fear is that Iran will develop nuclear weapons, warning that will give terrorists it supports a, quote, "nuclear umbrella." Putting Israel, the Middle East and potentially the entire world in grave danger.
LABOTT: And, Wolf, today the nuclear umbrella that Prime Minister Netanyahu was talking about is certainly going to be front and center when he makes that address to Congress in just about a month from now, where he's expected to talk about his concerns for the international talks with Iran to strike a nuclear agreement -- Wolf.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And as far as you're hearing over there, he's still planning on coming to Washington March 3rd? Because there's a lot of buzz out there that he might look for a way to avoid coming, given all the controversy over how this trip was established, the elections in Israel two weeks later on March 17th.
As far as you know right now, Elise, is he still planning on coming to Washington or is he going to find a way to avoid this visit?
LABOTT: Well, there's a lot of rumors about should he come, should he go. Certainly his opponents have been saying that he's ruining the relationship with the United States as a result. And there's a lot of pressure on him to cancel, but, Wolf, this whole situation on the border almost kind of works to his narrative that Iran is the real problem here and it's even more important for him to come and make the case that Iran should not be able to have a nuclear program. BLITZER: All right, Elise, be careful up there at the border,
the northern border of Israel with Lebanon. We'll stay in touch with you.
Up next, there's other important news we're following here in THE SITUATION ROOM. There are new reports Kim Jong-Un may be restarting a reactor needed to make nuclear bombs.
We also have the latest on the search for survivors of today's deadly blast at a maternity hospital.
BLITZER: Troubling new information that the North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un is planning what is being described as aggressive new military and diplomatic moves.
Let's get some details. CNN's Brian Todd is here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Brian, what are you learning?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, not long ago we were talking about why Kim Jong-Un was seemingly in hiding. Now it looks like he's doing a 180. Tonight we have new details on how Kim may be trying again to manufacture nuclear bombs and that he may be striking up an alliance with one of America's chief rivals.
TODD (voice-over): With tensions already simmering, there are fresh concerns tonight that Kim Jong-Un is doubling down on his aggression toward his enemies. At North Korea's main nuclear complex, signs that the regime may be restarting the reactor used to make fuel for nuclear bombs. That's according to a new report from the U.S.- Korea Institute.
JOEL WIT, U.S.-KOREA INSTITUTE: Look, I'm not pressing the panic button here, but every facility in North Korea that produces material for nuclear weapons should be of concern to us. And if this one is going back online, and it's of concern to us.
TODD: The plutonium reactor at Yongbyon had been offline since August. The institute says it's too soon to conclude something's happening inside now, but new satellite photos show some telling signs. This picture in December shows some melting snow on the roof of the reactor building and the turbine building as well as some steam. A week later in January, there were even more areas of melted snow.
In December, the frozen river by the plant had patches near the waste water outlet that were not frozen. In January, there was even more open water.
What could all of this mean? WIT: The reactor may be restarting. If it's restarting, over
time it will be producing bomb-making material inside the rods that fuel the reactor. At some point they will shut the reactor down, move the thousands of rods to the other facility and take out the material and build more bombs.
TODD: Joel Wit says Kim's regime only has a few nuclear bombs now but could have as many as 100 within five years.
Kim Jong-Un could also be flexing his diplomatic muscle soon. He's been invited to a summit with Vladimir Putin in May. Russian officials are quoted as saying North Korea's leaders have accepted.
But will Kim go? Venturing outside North Korea for the first time as leader? One analyst says taking Kim out of his comfort zone is risky.
MICHAEL GREEN, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: He appears before the world media really only on his terms with his propaganda setting with his generals and his singing battalions and women. The risk of sending Kim Jong-Un who -- with his cult of personality is portrayed within the North Korean system as a kind of god-king, is that it's unscripted, there are other world leaders, it's an international and multi-lateral event. And he could look like a fool.
TODD: But there are benefits to Kim going to this event. U.S. officials tell us they think he may go, possibly an effort to build ties with -- with Vladimir Putin, excuse me, and others as his alliance with China cools down.
I asked a North Korean official at the U.N. if Kim is going to Russia, he said he had no information on that -- Wolf.
BLITZER: At least he gave you an answer.
TODD: He gave me an answer.
TODD: Not much of one.
BLITZER: It's a step forward.
BLITZER: What are you hearing from your experts and other sources you're talking to about how close North Korea might be to actually putting a nuclear warhead on a bomb?
TODD: The experts we spoke to who know the technical part of this say that North Korea very likely already has the capability to put a warhead on a missile that could reach South Korea and/or Japan. They do not have a missile yet that can reach the United States. They are some years away from that. But they are working on it. And of course, that's disturbing to everybody.
BLITZER: And they have intermediate range and even have long range missiles as well.
TODD: That's right.
BLITZER: If they were to put a nuclear warhead on it, that would be a disaster for a lot of people --
BLITZER: -- who will get understandably very, very nervous.
Thanks very much, Brian Todd, reporting.
We are getting new information about today's deadly explosion at a maternity hospital. An amateur cameraman was shooting video of a fire truck when the explosion occurred on the outskirts of Mexico City. At least two people are dead, dozens of adults and infants are hurt. Officials are blaming a malfunction involving a natural gas delivery truck.
"TIME" magazine reporter Ioan Grillo was on the scene of the blast. He's joining us on the phone.
So, Ioan, tell us what you know. What happened here?
IOAN GRILLO, TIME MAGAZINE REPORTER: Well, yes, a very tragic situation here. The gas truck exploded and the fire also spread through oxygen chutes inside the hospital, causing about 40 percent of the entire hospital building to collapse. Now among the buildings which collapsed was a room which held babies, a cluster holding newly born babies.
Now it's a very confusing situation. We've had all kinds of emergency -- forces here. We have medics, we have -- there are firemen, we have soldiers, Marines, federal police and everyone working to clear the area.
We have very confusing information about exactly how many people have died and how many people are injured because of the collapse of the hospital.
BLITZER: What are they saying, Ioan, about this malfunction involving a natural gas delivery truck? Because it looks like a huge explosion there. The remnants are devastating. What are they saying about this gas delivery truck?
GRILLO: Well, these liquid gas trucks are quite unstable. They supply a lot of gas around Mexico City and there's a history of problems with these trucks blowing up.
Now one problem seems to be that where this truck was putting gas into hospital was close to some kind of oxygen line, oxygen for patients. And that -- it caused the big explosion. The gas spill -- we now are nine hours after it exploded and the gas is still burning. People all around, there's about 100 people around it. Now some of those (INAUDIBLE) usually safe, could explode again, and some of them are saying they're not sure.
They're still, you know, uncertain. There could be a secondary explosion from gas still around the place or other gases, oxygen, different things from the hospital.
BLITZER: Ioan Grillo, thanks very much for joining us.
Devastating, devastating explosion at that maternity hospital outside Mexico City. Thanks very much. Looks devastating indeed.
We are getting new details about the last moments of that doomed AirAsia jet right now, including some surprising and puzzling indications that the more experienced pilot in the cockpit was not at the controls.
And at the top of the hour, we'll have the latest on the negotiations over a possible prisoner swap with ISIS.
BLITZER: We're learning important but puzzling new details about the final minutes aboard that AirAsia jet that crashed into the Java Sea, killing all 162 people on board.
Let's bring in our aviation correspondent, Rene Marsh. She's working the story.
Rene, what's going on?
RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we now know which of the two pilots was flying the plane when it crashed, and tonight new details are emerging about erratic movements the plane made midair before it went down.
MARSH (voice-over): Indonesian investigators say the co-pilot, 46-year-old Remi-Emmanuel Plesel, was controlling the doomed jet while the more experienced captain monitored the flight.
ALAN DIEHL, AUTHOR, "AIR SAFETY INVESTIGATORS": Two thousand hours in the Airbus should have been enough time to make him capable of handling most emergencies, but this looks like it may have been an extreme emergency.
MARSH: Plesel flew for AirAsia Indonesia for three years and had more than 2,000 hours in the A-320 but the captain had more than 6,000 hours, more than 13 years commercial experience, and 10 years flying for the military.
One Indonesian crash investigator used a model Airbus A-320 to demonstrate how they believe things unraveled in just three minutes and 20 seconds. According to Indonesian authorities, Flight 8501 was cruising at
32,000 feet when it veered left, tilted to its side, wobbled, then climbed to 37,400 feet in just 30 seconds. The stall warnings which sound like this --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stall. Stall.
MARSH: Were glaring. Then suddenly the aircraft began to fall. Once below 24,000 feet, the plane disappeared from radar.
Alan Diehl is a former NTSB crash investigator.
DIEHL: The fact that the aircraft was wobbling could be due to one of two things. One, the automation was shutting down and now they are having to take over and fly manually, or two, the actual turbulence was inducing G-force movements in the pilot's hand on the control stick causing the wobbling to get worse.
MARSH: Investigators say the crew was properly certified and the plane had no history of problems.
Despite the Indonesian military's withdrawal, the hunt for 90 still missing will continue.
MARSH: Well, investigators had submitted the preliminary report but they would not release it at today's briefing. It's unclear if it will be released. This could just be the investigators being very, very careful since the preliminary report oftentimes the facts may change because it's just that preliminary.
But back to the pilots. We now know who was in control. But I should point out it is not at all unusual for the co-pilot to be in control of the aircraft. They oftentimes take turns.
BLITZER: They switch around.
All right, thanks very much for that, Rene. For that report.
Let's get some more now. Joining us in THE SITUATION ROOM, a former commercial pilot, Alistair Rosenschein, who has flown the same route as that AirAsia jet.
Alistair, thanks for joining us. You heard Rene's report right now. The co-pilot had control of that plane at that very critical moment the disaster, what, took about three minutes to unfold. Could the captain, who had a lot more flying hours, a lot more experience, could he potentially have taken over the controls and maybe even corrected it?
ALISTAIR ROSENSCHEIN, FORMER COMMERCIAL PILOT: Well, indeed. I mean, when you do get a situation like this with aircraft entering unusual latitudes, it would be normal for the more experienced pilot to take control. You know, I'm not absolutely convinced that the first officer,
the co-pilot in the right-hand seat, was flying it at the moment that the aircraft started to enter these strange maneuvers. In any event, he would have been controlling it through the autopilot. It's not a hands-on flight in the cruise. The autopilot is controlling it and so whilst the first officer would have been in charge as the handling pilot.
He's effectively monitoring the auto flight system. So once the aircraft had entered the strange maneuvers, it's quite possible the captain did take control. I'm not too certain of what these reports said at the moment in that respect.
BLITZER: It seems pretty common, correct me if I'm wrong, Alistair, that in the commercial aviation industry, very often you have a very experienced pilot and a far less experienced co-pilot. I think that's true but is that a problem?
ROSENSCHEIN: Well, not really. I mean, every airline pilot has got to learn their craft, their trade at some -- somewhere or other. And they're not going to fly these aircrafts empty without passengers. So once you've got your license you will fly fully loaded airliners and you'll be flying with a captain, generally a fairly experienced.
Real problem might occur when you have an inexperienced captain, somebody who's recently made up to captain from co-pilot who is then flying with a very junior co-pilot. And that can occasionally happen. And that's less desirable. But in this case you have a very experienced captain. So I really don't see that as an issue.
However, I'm good at throwing caveat, but an experienced first officer is able to offer more advice than a junior first officer, and be less of a burden on the captain than otherwise would be the case.
BLITZER: We're getting some obviously more insight into what happened. But we're still not sure, obviously. We don't know why this plane crashed into the Java Sea. But do we -- do you have enough information yet for you to put forward some theory?
ROSENSCHEIN: Well, I mean, one can speculate about this. And it's difficult to say. And one usually ends up getting it wrong. However, having said that, it is possible this was a case -- there may have been a technical problem which led to jet upset or the aircraft entering a stall. It was definitely descending at 14,000 feet a minute from some of the figures I've seen. And that's either a stall or a vertical dive, if the aircraft was in level flight -- with the nose of the aircraft at the same level as the tail of the aircraft, then that would be a stall.
Very difficult to recover from that at night in thunderstorm activity. And they'd be up against it. So it is difficult to say. Loss of situational awareness is possible where the pilots become confused as to the attitude the aircraft is in. But that's extremely unusual. But then so again are accidents like this.
BLITZER: Yes. They certainly are. Alistair Rosenschein, we'll stay in close touch with you. Thanks
very much for joining us.
Coming up, we'll have much more on the breaking news we're following. There's new information that one of the Taliban Five, the Guantanamo Bay detainees traded for U.S. Sgt. Beau Bergdahl may have returned to his old ways.
And the deal to swap a jailed terrorist for an allied pilot held by ISIS has now stalled. We're awaiting word on the fate of the hostages.
BLITZER: Happening now, hostage swap stalled. We're standing by for new information about two ISIS captives threatened with death and the anxious wait at a border crossing where a convicted terrorist may be traded for their release.
The price of freedom. We have new evidence that the prisoner exchange involving U.S. Army Sgt. Beau Bergdahl is having dangerous consequences.
This is a CNN exclusive.