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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Explosion in Restaurant Area in Baghdad

Aired December 31, 2003 - 13:54   ET

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

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: We want to update you on the story out of Baghdad, an explosion there in a restaurant area. We do not have confirmation on casualties at this point. We have our correspondent Karl Penhaul at the scene, getting ready to bring us the very latest. Here, you see some pictures of the aftermath there.
In fact, we do have Karl Penhaul standing by right now with the very latest -- Karl.

KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Heidi.

Yes, we've been talking to police chiefs who are taking control of this situation. Still early days yet. There's a very great deal of confusion down at that scene. I understand that ambulances are racing to the scene, trying to ferry a large number, from what we understand, of injured from the scene. The police chief has said that he's encountered at least 10 people injured, but says there could be many more.

We're also hearing from wire reports there could are up to at least four people dead. The police haven't confirmed that to us yet. As I said, still a great deal of confusion around the scene, and the restaurant area is still on fire, it's still in flames. That explosion, just to recap, came about 25 or 30 minutes ago now, a very large explosion, which we heard from the hotel where we're located, shook rooms, shook the windows here.

And immediately after that, we also heard military helicopters launch. They were buzzing overhead in the downtown area of Baghdad, pulling security, checking out to see what exactly the threats were there, Heidi.

COLLINS: Karl, you may have mentioned this. But I quickly wanted to ask you, what type of neighborhood this is where this happened? You said the hotel is relatively nearby this restaurant, correct?

PENHAUL: Relatively near, exactly yes. That restaurant district is also close to a business district. In the last three, four days, there have been a number of roadside bombs close to that area, too. But, as I say, business and residential, kind of a mixed area there. But certainly one of the areas where, in the past, Iraqis would go to celebrate New Year's Eve. Though that said, talking to Iraqis on the street today, most of those that we talked to said they would avoid public venues and New Year's celebrations altogether, precisely because of the risk of this type of attack -- Heidi. COLLINS: Quickly, before we let you just go, Karl, we are seeing a lot of cars in this video we are looking at. Any word yet on whether or not this was a possible car bomb?

PENHAUL: We understand preliminary reports -- and this is a mixture of wire reports, but also what we've talked to from the Iraqi police -- that it could be a vehicle-borne bomb, it could be some kind of car bomb. It could also be some kind of suicide attack. Whether that means the bomber walking in to the restaurant area, packed with explosives, or driving the car toward that, not totally clear yet -- Heidi.

COLLINS: All right, understandable. We know you'll bring it to us as soon as you learn more on the ground. Thanks so much, Karl Penhaul in Baghdad.

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