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U.N. Envoy, 16 Others Killed in Bombing

Aired August 19, 2003 - 19:00   ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: And good evening. I'm Daryn Kagan. Anderson Cooper is off tonight. We have a lot to tell you about. It has been a deadly day.
At least 35 people killed in separate terrorist bombings in Baghdad and Jerusalem. In Iraq, a high-ranking U.N. envoy is among the casualties after the blast there. And in Jerusalem, a bus full of men, women and many children was blown apart this evening.

We're going to go ahead and start with the death of at least 17 people at the United Nations office in Baghdad. They were killed when a truck bomb went off.

Among the dead, Sergio Vieira de Mello, the U.N. special representative to Iraq.

Reaction to the blast has been swift. We have reports from around the world for you. From Crawford, Texas, and the United Nations, and from Baghdad. And that's where we begin. Jane Arraf is in Baghdad with details on the bombing -- Jane.

JANE ARRAF, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's dark in the building behind me. They're trying to clear the rubble away from what was a huge explosion. You can see from the crater that this was a truck packed with a large amount of explosives. And it was placed on this access road right beneath the office of the U.N. Special envoy, Sergio Vieira de Mello.

Now, he died after being trapped for hours in the rubble. He was the U.N. special envoy sent by Kofi Annan. And he had only been here a few months but was due to leave in September.

Now, he lost his life along with other senior U.N. people. We understand that the head of UNICEF here was also killed in that blast, as well as a senior political adviser and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Now, this killed 17 people. Many of them Iraqi, local staff. And it was a blast that seemed very carefully executed and time and placed maximum impact -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Is anybody claiming responsibility at this hour?

ARRAF: Nobody is. And no one has claimed responsibility for the explosion at the Jordanian embassy. It's not entirely clear that anyone will claim responsibility. But it has had what presumably was the intended effect, which is to create a climate in and the perception that the U.S. cannot control the city, cannot control this country. That there will be these acts against targets like the U.N.

There had been threats against the U.N., just as there had been threats against all international organizations here and all foreign presence here. This one was simply carried out. But certainly, it has had the effect it was probably intended to do, frightening not just U.N. people, not just international staff here, but Iraqis as general -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Jane Arraf in Baghdad. Jane, thank you for that.

As Jane was telling us, Sergio Vieira de Mello, the U.N. Representative to Iraq, was in the office when the truck bomb went off. He died after being trapped in the rubble. The death of Vieira de Mello, along with the other injuries and the deaths have shocked the United Nations.

U.S. officials, including the one charged with rebuilding Iraq, called it an attack on innocents.


AMBASSADOR PAUL BREMER, U.S. IRAQ RECONSTRUCTION ADMINISTRATION: The people who did this attacked not the Americans, not even the coalition, and not even just the Iraqi people, but people who were here doing nothing but serving the world. Innocent men and women who were simply trying to make life better every day for the Iraqis.


KAGAN: And that takes us to U.N. headquarters, where we find Michael Okwu this evening.

Michael, reaction must have just been awful at the U.N. today.

MICHAEL OWKU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Daryn. A great deal of sadness here at U.N. headquarters.

All kinds of U.N. staffers watched anxiously on baited brief quite anxiously as they awaited more news about more of the dead. And that kept trickling in all afternoon.

Everyone here seemed to know at least someone of the 300 U.N. staffers who worked in the office in Baghdad. This afternoon, a very rare occasion, all 191 flags representing the member nations of the United Nations were lowered, and the lone visible flag, flying at half-staff was the U.N.'s.

The secretary-general, Kofi Annan, issued a statement through his spokesperson about de Mello.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) FRED ECKHARD, U.N. SPOKESPERSON: The loss of Sergio Vieira de Mello is a bitter blow for the United Nations and for me personally. The death of any colleague is hard to bear. But I can think of no one we could less afford to spare, or who would be more acutely missed throughout the U.N. system than Sergio.


OKWU: It is very difficult to state his significance here. Simply put, he was a star -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Meanwhile, tell us a little bit more about how this might change the U.N. mission in Iraq, Michael.

OKWU: Well, at this point the U.N. officials, and in fact Security Council diplomats, Daryn, are saying that they will remain focused, that they are resolved, that they have business to do on the ground, that they still have a mandate.

And in fact, the Security Council, we are told, in all likelihood will meet at some point tomorrow to discuss the issue. We understand that they will come forward with a more strong condemnation about the action that took place today. And that they may have some sort of a plan about how they should continue doing their work there.

But Fred Eckhard, the secretary-general's spokesperson, also saying while they are resolved politically, they also have a reality on the ground, which is there are international staffers who, while they understand they have to work in places that are risky, that they shouldn't be places that are lethal -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Absolutely. Michael Okwu at the U.N., thank you for that.


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