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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Bombings in Turkey

Aired November 20, 2003 - 05:50   ET

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

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Is there any way to know how many people were in the British consulate? Or we just can't figure that out just yet?
DAVID CLINCH, CNN INTERNATIONAL EDITOR: We don't know, but the impression given -- we don't know precisely how many, but the impression given by the Turkish newscasts that we're watching is that there was a full staff, if you want to put it that way, that the embassy, the consulate, I should say, was staffed at that time. Exactly how many people, we don't know. And, of course, over and above that, how many people were English, British or Turks.

COSTELLO: Right.

CLINCH: And that, again, brings up the point that in the attacks on Jewish targets the other day, Muslims died. In these attacks today, we have been told already that some of the victims are Turks, Muslims, that, again...

COSTELLO: Let me interrupt you for just a second. The Turkish interior minister is talking right now.

Let's join in.

And they would be, we would be supporting the terrorists. At the moment, the state security court is state interpreting or at the moment the Department of Public Persecution is stating that all the necessary witnesses and all the media coverage should be done appropriately and we should help it with the public morale. And last week we had a sad incident and our public is very supportive with our -- and we shouldn't be afraid. We need to accept the facts and we have to get on with our lives. Otherwise, if we act differently, we would be helping their aims.

In our struggle against terrorism, Turkey has to make new efforts and last night in the district of Bingal (ph), we caught 12 terrorists. They were caught dead. I should state again...

COSTELLO: All right, we're going to break away.

President Bush is joining Tony Blair at 10 Downing Street. We want to listen in to see if the president says anything about these terrorist attacks in Istanbul, Turkey.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is Laura Bush at the entrance to Downing Street, flanked by two police officers. I can tell you there's an awful lot of uniformed officers here and an awful lot of big American men in ill fitting suits with big bulges under their left or right chest.

CLINCH: We just want to tell you that that's not one of the CNN reporters. They're picking up over the microphones a British reporter.

This looks right now like a photo-op, obviously. So hopefully they will have something to say. We know in just an hour or two, Jack Straw or another British official will speak about this and it doesn't look like they're going to say anything.

They're going into 10 Downing Street now, where President Bush and Tony Blair will hold a more private conversation.

Back to the breaking news out of Istanbul, Turkey now.

In case you're just joining us, we have confirmed there have been two explosions, one at an international bank, which is actually based in London but has a huge office there in Istanbul, and one at the British consulate. We have confirmed three people dead and 114 people injured. Now, those casualty figures could go up because it's very early on. The scene is rather chaotic right now in Istanbul, Turkey.

But the foreign secretary, the British foreign secretary, Jack Straw, spoke, oh, I would say about 45 minutes ago about the explosions there and he said that these attacks have all the earmarks of al Qaeda and that it seems that the targets were meant to be on British targets within Istanbul.

And, of course, if you'll recall, it wasn't long ago when two synagogues in Istanbul were targeted by terrorists.

Do we have Chris on the line, our English teacher?

CHRIS KITRINOS, ENGLISH TEACHER IN ISTANBUL: Yes, I'm still here.

COSTELLO: All right, Chris, let me talk more to you.

We have many more viewers joining us at this time here on CNN, on CNN DAYBREAK. So I want you to tell me again about the damage to the British consulate that you heard from your coworker at the school next door.

KITRINOS: There's a large wall that encircles the British consulate in that area, a very thick wall. From what I'm being told, the wall has suffered damage and collapsed in some places and there are, I'm being told, casualties under the collapsed wall.

As far as the building itself is concerned, I haven't been told. I don't know if, in fact, there is any damage to the consulate building structure itself. But the wall surrounding it has been damaged, as well as several shops and businesses and restaurants and clubs adjacent to the British consulate. COSTELLO: And, of course, you work next door to this consulate. Have you seen heavier security in recent days? Has there been any evidence that you could see?

KITRINOS: No. In fact, since I came to Turkey last year, there is -- there has been a police presence surrounding the British consulate as well as the former British consulate that before was just a few minutes away from the English embassy. I was surprised last year up until now, I was surprised at what I thought was the lack of security at those two complexes. As I mentioned before, the American embassy has now, the American consulate, rather, has moved to Estinyeh (ph), which is an area about a half an hour, 20 minutes from central Istanbul, downtown Istanbul, and it's a very, very safe, fortress, if you will. It's a very, very modern and secure building.

But like I said, I was shocked last year, up until now, at what I think is, was and is the lack of police and security presence around the consulate.

There were Turkish police, a couple of cars that I noticed, and some small metal barricades. But what, in fact, they were intended to be barricading, I don't know. But the wall itself surrounding the complex is, of course, a very, very strong barricade in itself. But there was not a heavy police presence in that area.

COSTELLO: All right, Chris, if you could hold on for just a second, because on the phone we've got our terrorism expert right now, M.J. Gohel.

We heard just a short time ago from the British foreign secretary that these attacks within Istanbul had all the earmarks of al Qaeda and that there were, indeed, terrorist attacks and that they were, indeed, targeting British citizens. Bush officials, and hopefully President Bush, will speak about, more about this in the next hour or so. We're monitoring that situation.

We did have word from Washington just a short time ago that officials there are also monitoring the situation. They do admit that these were terrorist attacks and they'll have more to say later.

M.J. are you on the phone with us right now?

M.J. GOHEL, TERRORISM EXPERT: Yes, I am.

Good morning to you.

COSTELLO: Good morning and thank you for joining us.

In just looking at the situation right now, give us your observations.

GOHEL: Well, I think the first thing one has to understand is that 11 September, the atrocities in the U.S. there on 11 September 2001 were a declaration of war on the USA, on secular democratic countries and on allies of the USA. And what we are seeing are follow on attacks. And since about 8-02 of 2002, when there was an attack in Tunisia on German tourists -- a truck bomb was used -- we have seen a very sinister development of almost identical truck or car bombings right across the world. You've seen attacks in Jakarta; Morocco; Saudi Arabia; Bombay, India; Iraq; and, of course, the new ones now in Turkey.

This is all very much part and parcel of what we call the global Jihad movement and these are groups operating within this movement they're independent groups, but they all share a common ideology.

COSTELLO: And they seem to be so organized.

GOHEL: Yes, indeed. They're highly organized. They're highly committed. We are not sure if any suicide bombers were involved in the latest atrocity, but they do seem to have an endless supply of suicide bombers. And this is the worrying aspect is that there seems to be no finite number of terrorists. For every single terrorist captured or killed, there's another one coming along on the assembly line.

COSTELLO: And authorities, even when they capture these people, can't seem to get much information out of them to help them prevent such attacks.

GOHEL: It is, indeed, very difficult to get information out of them, for two reasons. One is that they're very well trained to resist interrogation techniques. And the other is that they're actually also kept in a kind of isolation, a kind of cocoon, if you like, so they know very little. They may know perhaps one or two handlers but they may not know who else is involved.

So the cells are kept very separate from each other.

COSTELLO: Hold on for just a second, M.J.

David Clinch has rejoined me.

Do you have new information for us, David?

CLINCH: Well, just listening to the additional press conference information there coming from the justice minister, that was, in Turkey, confirming again, confirming two explosions and giving some added information. But one of the most interesting things that he was saying was appealing for the media coverage, and you saw this, he was primarily talking about the Turkish media coverage, to be "balanced and reserved," in his words. And I think that that's very interesting.

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