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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Investigations of Bombing Begin

Aired August 20, 2003 - 19:01   ET

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

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: First the day after in Baghdad.
The cleanup and investigation after the deadly bombing is in full swing. The death toll, at least 17 people killed after a truck packed full of explosives blew up outside U.N. headquarters.

Our coverage continues as well with several reports. We have from the blast site in Baghdad details on the investigation from the Pentagon and the next step for the U.S. in Iraq, as seen from the president's ranch in Crawford, Texas.

We're going to start with our Ben Wedeman, who is in Iraq -- Ben.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Daryn.

Well, American and Iraqi rescue workers struggled under the brutal Baghdad sun today, but were unable to find any survivors.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WEDEMAN (voice-over): The rubble of Baghdad's United Nations headquarters yields another body. American troops pause in their desperate search for survivors to pay respects.

The U.N. bombing jolted the residents of the Iraqi capital. Many Baghdadis we talked to seem to agree with their American occupiers that a foreign hand was behind the attack.

"They want to show that the Americans can't provide security and stability in Iraq," says journalist Satadam Husseini (ph).

"The country is now wide open to foreign groups," shopkeeper Adan (ph) tells us. "I don't think they're coming here with good intentions."

It wasn't just the U.N. that was hit. The contents of Baghdad's only hospital for paraplegics are hauled away. The massive blast next door rendered the hospital inoperable.

Investigators have recovered what they believe are parts of the vehicle used to deliver the bomb, which they say may have contained as much as half a ton of explosives.

Already, Washington's experiment in regime change in Iraq is becoming part of another broader campaign against a far more elusive foe. PAUL BREMER, U.S. CIVILIAN ADMINISTRATOR IN IRAQ: It's a war we're going to have to fight where the terrorists are and unfortunately the terrorists are now here in Iraq.

WEDEMAN: Saddam's regime may be dead and gone, but it seems America's attempt at creating a new order in Iraq doesn't lack for enemies.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WEDEMAN: And Daryn, it appears that the almost daily death toll of U.S. forces in Iraq continues to mount.

In Tikrit there was an incident in which a U.S. civilian interpreter working with the U.S. Army was killed in an ambush. And south of Baghdad in the town of Diwania one U.S. soldier was killed in another ambush there.

Back to you.

KAGAN: Ben Wedeman in Baghdad, thank you for that.

Now on to the investigation. Early information gathered in Baghdad is helping investigators focus on possible suspects. Investigators also know more about the type of explosive that was used in the blast.

Our national security correspondent, David Ensor, brings us up to date now on the investigation.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID ENSOR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Was it Saddam supporters who bombed the U.N. in Baghdad or Islamic extremists or both? An FBI team leading the investigation is only just beginning their search for forensic clues.

TOM FUENTES, FBI, BAGHDAD: We have a large quantity, in excess of a thousand pounds of explosives that was military grade munition. This was not a homemade bomb.

ENSOR: So was it Saddam loyalists who could have had access to such munitions? Too soon to know, say FBI officials. In chaotic Iraq al Qaeda supporters such as Ansar al Islam who once had a haven in northern Iraq could also have gotten their hands on Iraqi military munitions.

Some people on the scene say the driver of the truck was a suicide bomber. Special Agent Tom Fuentes told reporters FBI investigators have yet to find a reliable eyewitness on that.

FUENTES: We're not certain yet whether the human remains belong to the driver of the truck or not.

ENSOR: If FBI lab tests show it was a suicide attack, many experts say that will point to Islamic terrorists, not Saddam supporters, who have no history of suicide attacks for mass casualties.

PETER BERGEN, TERRORISM ANALYST: You have to look at al Qaeda as a lead subject.

ENSOR: And Iraq has become a magnet for Islamic extremists, says a Saudi dissident in London, particularly those fleeing the crackdown on them in Saudi Arabia.

SAAD AL-FAGIH, SAUDI DISSIDENT: According to senior Saudi security source, among many young people reported by their families, 3,000 have a clear Jihad history or Jihadi profile in their files, in the intelligence. And their regime concluded that those people most probably have fled to Iraq.

ENSOR: Saudi officials believe al-Fagih's numbers are wildly exaggerated. But al Qaeda's animosity towards the United Nations has been clear for years.

"The United Nations," Osama bin Laden said back in November of 2001, "is nothing but a tool of crime."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ENSOR: Whoever did it, this was an attack on a different scale. Some defense officials suspect master bomb makers from al Qaeda, Hamas or Hezbollah may now be inside Iraq. U.S. investigators will be examining what's left of the bomb's detonator to try to figure out who might have made it -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Many more questions to answer. David Ensor in Washington. David, thank you for that.

One of Iraq's former leaders faced questions from his captors today. Pictures of one time Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan being interrogated were shown on Arab television.

Ramadan was captured by Iraqi Kurds in Mosul yesterday. The captors were hold scolding the former leader about the excesses of Saddam's regime. The questioning came before he was turned over to U.S. forces.

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