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Recent Bombings Lead to High Alert For Fourth of July

Aired June 19, 2002 - 14:34   ET

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


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: More now on that suicide bombing at a Jerusalem bus stop that we've been talking about for the last 2 1/2 hours. Seven Israelis now reported killed by the blast, which left another 37 people wounded. Authorities say border police were approaching the suspect at a stop when he set off the bomb.

Sources say the al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade has claimed responsibility. It's the second suicide bombing in Jerusalem in two days. And just not long ago, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat had this to say.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

SAEB ERAKAT, CHIEF PALESTINIAN NEGOTIATOR: The Palestinian Authority and Chairman Arafat condemn this attack and reiterate our position on not condoning any attacks civilian Israelis or Palestinians.

But I cannot accept all of the finger-pointing and accusation from the Israeli government. For months Mr. Sharon's government has done nothing but to destroy Palestinian Authority's capabilities, to make us irrelevant, to make us impotent, and they keep us and they remember us whenever such things happen, so they can finger-point at us. There is another way out of this.

And I really think that the trust level between Palestinians and Israelis now is below zero. And what's needed now is a real, real leadership -- from the American president, from the European Union, from Russia, from the United Nations -- in order to move in an expeditious fashion in order to bring a resumption of a meaningful peace process, for the sake of Palestinians and Israelis.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

PHILLIPS: Now back in this country, we're talking about security concerns -- security concerns surrounding the Fourth of July. We're going to go to our justice correspondent, Kelli Arena. She's in Washington to talk more about these plans -- Kelli.

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Kyra, law enforcement sources say that there is a high level of concern about a possible terrorist attack on July Fourth, but no hard information to back it up. Now, it's very important: there is no specific information from any source regarding July Fourth, but the holiday has been mentioned in general in interviews with al Qaeda detainees. So FBI field officers are submitting their security and response plans to headquarters by this Thursday. FBI Director Robert Mueller will present those plans to the president as part of his daily briefing.

Now, sources say that special areas of concern are celebrations in the vicinity of subways that could be the target of a biological or a chemical attack. FBI field officers and local law enforcement have been planning for the holiday for weeks. They've been gathering information about celebrations and high-profile events.

And agents are putting together so-called control files, so that if there is any pattern in information gathered around the country, agents will be able to connect the dots. Now, that is something, as we know, the FBI has been criticized for not doing in the past -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Kelli, this intelligence, is it being gathered through the detainees, or is it coming elsewhere?

ARENA: The idea of July Fourth as a holiday of interest on the part of al Qaeda is information that's been gathered from the detainees. But it's unspecific, it's uncorroborated. There is an intelligence-gathering effort going on by the field officers right now to see if any of their informants, if anything coming in, relates to the July Fourth holiday, relates to any of the gatherings, the special events planned. That is all going into these control files.

Let's say, for example, there's information gathered in New York City about a possible target being a mall. And let's say, for example, you have some information that's similar to that coming in from Los Angeles. There you have a pattern, and then perhaps some connecting of the dots that can be done.

I'm not suggesting that there's any information like that. Again, nothing specific gathered regarding July Fourth. But a major intelligence-gathering effort going on. Major planning effort going on -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: All right, Kelli Arena, justice correspondent, thank you so much.

ARENA: You're welcome.

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