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Special Report

Wave of recent terror attacks raises new concerns

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report with Bret Baier," December 19, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

THOMAS NEUENDORF, BERLIN POLICE SPOKESMAN (via translator): The investigation of the truck continues. We know that the co-driver in the truck died. The rescue workers couldn't help the co-driver anymore. The suspect was arrested nearby a few hundred meters away from the scene of the attack.

MIKE FOX, EYEWITNESS: We were in the market. As we were leaving the large truck came through. It went just past me, past my girlfriend. I think it missed me by three meters. I saw one guy being dragged away with blood on his face. I helped several other people lift the side of one the stalls up so they could pull two other people from under.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: One eyewitness there in Berlin as that truck plowed through a Christmas market. Getting world that at least nine are dead according to authorities, some 50 people injured. The interior minister is now saying that the suspect was arrested and in fact is believed to be the driver of the truck. They are not officially calling it terrorism but saying that a lot points to an attack.

Meantime you have the attack in Ankara, Turkey, the assassination of the Russian ambassador to Turkey also happening today. Donald Trump just moments ago tweeting, the president-elect saying "Today there were terror attacks in Turkey, Switzerland, and Germany and it's only getting worse. The civilized world must change thinking." Switzerland is a shooting in a mosque in Zurich.

Let's bring in our panel: syndicated columnist George Will, Mercedes Schlapp, columnist for The Washington Times, and Charles Lane, opinion writer for The Washington Post. OK, George, thoughts on this day and what we're seeing about the threats evolving?

GEORGE WILL, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: If the president-elect is right and all three of these were terror attacks, it's not clear that -- how they link together. Let's assume and stipulate it was a terror attack in Germany. In Zurich, it was an attack on a mosque. And in Turkey it seems to have been an attack on the Russians who are paying the price, at least their ambassador is, for Russia intervening in the civil war in Syria.

They all have one thing in common, and that is they are approximate to the Middle East. That is, Europe is not separated by a broad ocean as we are. So I would say that in the ranking of national security threats, terrorism still ranks a distant fifth for the president-elect to deal with, below Iran, below North Korea, below China and the South China Sea, and below the dismemberment of a European nation, a nuclear armed Putin. So these telegenic and awful attacks, as they are, are a long way from us and a long way from being the most serious threat that the president-elect faces.

BAIER: We haven't seen something as brazen as that attack in Ankara in quite some time. It was a Turkish policeman who fatally shot the Russian ambassador to Turkey. And he was shouting at the time, "Don't forget Aleppo, don't forget Syria." A 22-year-old member of Ankara's riot police squad, he was later killed in a shootout, three people wounded. It's pretty stark to see this, and we're not airing the actual footage, which is airing other places.

MERCEDES SCHLAPP, THE WASHINGTON TIMES: This targeted assassination clearly is showing the pressure that exists between the Russia -- Russia obviously having its impact in Aleppo where they are marginalizing ISIS in that area. With that being said, I just saw photos of Palmyra that ISIS was able to take control of the Russian military base. So you are seeing this tension between Russia, between ISIS. And then, of course, that puts pressure on the Russian-Turkish relations, which as we know back in November of 2015, the Turkish shot down the Russian plane, which created a lot more tension in that area. The key will be how will Putin try to ensure that there is security amongst the diplomatic offices which he says he's going to do. But that of course is not going to stop ISIS from going after Russia.

BAIER: Chuck?

CHARLES LANE, THE WASHINGTON POST: You know, it's a wonder this didn't happen sooner given how brazen, how extensive, how one-sided Russia's intervention has been in Syria. Honestly, I don't know if it's ISIS or some other Sunni extremist group that's tired of standing by and letting Russia get off scot-free, but this kind of thing was bound to happen in retaliation.

I'd have a similar point about what's going on in Germany, assuming -- again, we don't know 100 percent sure, but it looks like the truck attack on Nice. It looks a little bit like the car attack on Ohio State University that occurred in this country. There have been a number of people who have come in to Germany and either become radicalized or were already radicalized when they came in with the wave of refugees and have committed other crimes prior to this one. And I would say that for Chancellor Merkel, this is just another indication of how important it's going to be for her political future and the stability of Germany to somehow get control of this security situation internally. These Christmas markets are all over Germany, many of them just in Berlin, and every little town has one. And I have to imagine everybody in the country is feeling a little bit nervous that theirs might be in some way targeted as well.

BAIER: They are soft targets, George. And France has already issued a warning for Christmas markets to be wary. On November 23, a security official was quoted in "The Daily Mirror" saying this, "The entire continent is vulnerable to attack as we have seen in France, Germany, and Belgium, but particularly in the run-up to Christmas. It is a Christian period of festivities bringing together large crowds of soft target civilians and will attract attention from those who wish to inflict harm." This is our issue. We are a free people that are soft targets, frankly. And fighting that is often very difficult.

WILL: It is difficult. The one thing we don't have that Europe has -- the European what they call dish cities, the ghettoes where Muslim immigrants live together with the satellite dishes keeping them in touch with, constantly imbibing the culture, including some of the extremist culture. We in this country simply don't have that.

BAIER: Quickly, Mercedes.

SCHLAPP: And also, let's look at the European intelligence services. The failure of surveillance, the failure to track many of the terrorist suspects, the limited resources, that's one of the reasons why you see in the case of the Paris attacks that there wasn't enough French officials to basically be able to monitor many of these jihadists in the area. I think you are seeing similarity happening in Germany, in the U.K. So I think that what's happening is they are not sharing that information effectively among the European countries.

BAIER: I asked Sebastian Gorka this, but is it going to be tough to -- for the incoming president to differentiate how his administration deals with these terror threats from overseas differently than the way the Obama administration did?

LANE: President-elect Trump seems to be placing a lot of emphasis on let's do different rhetoric. Let's call it Islamic terrorism and that will make a difference. OK, if you had called whatever happened today Islamic terrorism right when it happened, how much difference would that have made operationally in terms of what did you? Similarly, I would say if you want to bring overwhelming force to bear on ISIS, which is his prescription, you will have to look at the experience of Putin in Syria because that will inevitably bring on some kind of backlash from the other side.

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