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AMERICAN MORNING

Benazir Bhutto Laid to Rest; Markets Fall: Trading Down on Pakistan News: Republicans and Democrats Reaction to Bhutto's Assassination

Aired December 28, 2007 - 07:00   ET

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


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: A lot of fury over her assassination and rioting that had taken place throughout the country. President Pervez Musharraf even declaring three days of mourning. Today, the prime minister says there are no plans to postpone the parliamentary elections either. Those set for January 8th, but a lot of questions as to how those will go off, practically speaking.
The leader of one of the parties running against Musharraf, Nawaz Sharif, has called for Musharraf to step down. He's also said his party will boycott those elections. And the question remains still today, who killed Benazir Bhutto? The U.S. is investigating an alleged claim of responsibility by Al Qaeda.

We're watching live reports coming in from all across Pakistan. Forces in the southern city of Karachi have been ordered to "shoot on sight" to prevent any more rioting. The assassination is inflamed (ph), a volatile region that's vital to winning the war on terror.

Well, John Vause has been following all of the developments for us live in Karachi, and he joins us now -- John.

JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Kiran. Well, hundreds of thousands of mourners gathered at the Bhutto family mausoleum for final prayers for Benazir Bhutto. This is the same place where Benazir Bhutto's father and two brothers are also buried, all of them victims of violent deaths.

Now many of the mourners who gathered today were Pakistan's poorest who are drawn to Benazir Bhutto and her message of a better life, a promise of jobs, of education for their kids, of security. This is a difficult journey for these people tonight, and they're praying across Pakistan. This country has been virtually locked down, after that night of violence, which left at least 10 people dead overnight, many others dead in the wake of Benazir Bhutto's assassination.

Now, here in Karachi a short time ago just after Friday prayers, we're hearing reports that hundreds of Benazir Bhutto's supporters took to the streets. They tried to burn some cars. They began burning tires. Shots were fired as well. All of this despite a very heavy military presence, not just here in Karachi but across Pakistan, Kiran.

CHETRY: And we just talked about that "shoot on sight" order that was given to the military to try to control that rioting. John, you had a chance to interview Bhutto shortly after the attack on her convoy back in October. She just returned from exile, just returned in Pakistan. What did she tell you at that time?

VAUSE: Yes, I spoke with Benazir Bhutto and she basically told me that she knew that her enemies would try to kill her again.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE (on camera): A number of threats have already been made, some involving woman commandos. What else could you tell us?

BENAZIR BHUTTO, FORMER PRIME MINISTER OF PAKISTAN: Well, I've had several threats. One of the threats is the one pertaining to the attack in Larkana. The second, I was told by some friends that there would be a sniper attack when I went to Islamabad and in and about the Islamabad Airport. The third is that we're going to butcher you the way animals are butchered.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: At the time, she told me that she felt incredibly vulnerable because, she said, the government just simply did not agree to provide the kind of security that she wanted, Kiran.

CHETRY: And that does bring us to the question, there's some U.S. officials, in fact, who talked about her being "fool-hearty" to show up at those large rally and to be so vulnerable in the crowds and throngs of people, knowing that perhaps she wasn't getting the type of protection that she needed as an opposition leader. Did she talk about her willingness to put herself at risk?

VAUSE: Well, she said that her country was in a very dangerous time and she had no other choice but to put herself in danger as well. And really for Benazir Bhutto who was a populist leader, she needed those crowds. She needed to be around people. She needed that gathering to get her message out there. That is the way election campaigns are conducted here in Pakistan, and she felt the need to continue on with those mass rallies, despite the very obvious dangers, Kiran.

CHETRY: John Vause reporting from Pakistan, thank you.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Coming up four minutes after the hour now. The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security are investigating an alleged claim of responsibility by Al Qaeda. The Feds issuing a bulletin citing an Italian news agency that says an Al Qaeda commander in Afghanistan phoned the station to say that terror organization's number two man and most visible leader, Ayman al- Zawahiri reportedly set the wheels in motion for the assassination. Al-Zawahiri had called for attacks upon Bhutto's return to Pakistan after years in self-imposed exile. Bhutto repeatedly called for the need to step up the fight against Al Qaeda.

Here in the United States, security is being stepped up in New York City, home to the nation's largest Pakistani community. Mayor Michael Bloomberg says there will be police officers surrounding the Pakistani Consulate, Pakistani Airlines and Pakistani banks.

The assassination shatters the White House's plan for keeping Pakistan stable. The Bush administration was working behind the scenes for months to get a power sharing deal between Benazir Bhutto and Pervez Musharraf.

CNN White House correspondent Ed Henry is live in Crawford, Texas, where the president is spending the holidays. Ed, the big question this morning for the White House, what now?

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're very concerned about what's next in Pakistan. As you say, there are enormous ramifications for the White House. First of all, this instability really shatters the president's attempt to bring stable democracy to Pakistan, other nations in the region. It makes it a lot more difficult but also from a security standpoint, this really makes it more difficult for Pakistan to focus in on the war on terror, the hunt for Osama bin Laden.

And that's why in the short term, the White House is very concerned about this assassination, sparking more violence on the ground, because of anger and that's why they're urging calm among the Pakistani people. And more long-term, of course, there's a bigger concern about the potential for extremists to take over in Pakistan and get their hands on that nation's nuclear weapons, John.

ROBERTS: Yes, they were putting so much stock in Benazir Bhutto. Now that she's gone and there is no obvious leader in the Pakistan People's Party, might they extend an olive branch to Nawaz Sharif? The problem being, though, that he's not exactly a big fan of the United States.

HENRY: You're absolutely right, and the White House had been hands off with Sharif. They were not excited about him heading back to Pakistan. They were, as you say, a lot more interested and were at least privately promoting the idea of Bhutto going back.

So now because of her tragic death, they're going to have to take another look at former Prime Minister Sharif but if Bhutto was plan b, there's really no clear plan c. There's really just, at this point, a hope among U.S. officials that somehow, if these elections move forward on January 8th or some other date in the near future, a hope that there could be someone who emerges and brings some stability. But, obviously, at this point, it's just a hope, John.

ROBERTS: So much uncertainty raised by this assassination yesterday. Ed Henry at the western White House this morning. Ed, thanks -- Kiran.

CHETRY: And financial markets taking a hit overseas this morning on the news of Bhutto's assassination and the turmoil in Pakistan. Europe is trading lower, Hong Kong's key stock index, the Hang Seng, closing nearly 2 percent down in end of the year trading. Tokyo also finishing down 257 points, 11 percent lower for the year. And this is the first time in five years the Nikkei closing lower than it did the year before. CNN has obtained an e-mail sent by Benazir Bhutto just a couple of months ago. She wrote that she feared for her life and if anything happened to her, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf should share the blame. Now, she sent this shortly after that attack that happened during her homecoming motorcade back in October. One hundred thirty- six people were killed in that attack, and she sent it to her U.S. spokesman and long-time friend Mark Siegel who shared that e-mail with CNN's Wolf Blitzer. Siegel says Bhutto was extremely concerned about the lack of security.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK SIEGEL, FRIEND OF BENAZIR BHUTTO: She had asked for special tinted cars. She had asked for four police vehicles to surround her at all times. She basically asked for all that was required for someone of the standing of a former prime minister. All of that was denied to her.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: Here's part of the e-mail. "Nothing God-willing will happen. Just wanted you to know if it does in addition to the names in my letter to Musharraf of October 16th, I would hold Musharraf responsible. I have been made to feel insecure by his minions and there is no way what is happening in terms of stopping me from taking private cars or using tinted windows or giving jammers or four police mobiles to cover all sides could happen without him."

Now, we're going to be talking with Wolf Blitzer coming up in our next half hour about that e-mail, what he first thought when he saw it, and what it will mean now that Bhutto is gone.

ROBERTS: Wolf, of course, has spoken to Benazir Bhutto many times. Also, spoken to Pervez Musharraf and there's a lot about the situation there, so we'll hear some more from him.

We want to take you back now live again to Garhi Khuda Baksh, the "ancestral home of the Bhutto family." This is the inside of the mausoleum where Benazir Bhutto was laid to rest there earlier this hour alongside her father, the former president of Pakistan, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who lost his life in 1977. He was hanged by the military dictatorship at the time.

As you can see by these pictures, just the throngs of people who made their way to Garhi Khuda Baksh, which is sort of in the middle of nowhere in Pakistan. The closest large town is called Larkana. It's about 200 miles northeast of Karachi, but Pakistani roads being what they are, it often takes a long time to travel. But all of this people made their way up there, obviously, traveling all night so that they could be there as the body of Benazir Bhutto was laid to rest.

CNN is going to have full coverage of this breaking news throughout the day from Pakistan and as well we'll have the special edition tonight of "ANDERSON COOPER 360." Anderson is making his way over to Pakistan right now. He should be landing soon, and he'll have a live report tonight beginning at 10:00 p.m. Eastern -- Kiran. CHETRY: There are a lot of other stories making headlines overnight. Alina Cho following the very latest developments for us this morning. Hi Alina, good to see you.

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good to see you both, Kiran, John. Good morning, everybody.

There is word that as early as today Osama bin Laden may release a new Internet message. According to a terrorism monitoring group, bin Laden will talk about Iraq and the insurgent group, the Islamist state of Iraq, which is a front organization for Al Qaeda. Bin laden was last heard from at the end of November. This latest message is said to be about 56 minutes long. No word on exactly when it will come out or if it will be a video or audio message.

New details on that horrific shooting that took the lives of six family members on Christmas eve. It happened near Seattle, Washington, in Carnation. Prosecutors are expected to file first degree murder charges today against 29-year-old Michele Anderson and her boyfriend, Joseph McEnroe.

Police say the couple confessed to killing Anderson's parents and then dragging their bodies to a backyard shed. Then, according to court papers, four other family members, including two young children, just 3 and 6 years old, were killed an hour later because the couple feared they'd be witnesses. Friends and relatives believe the shootings may have been the result of a fight over money.

New questions this morning in the wake of a deadly tiger attack at the San Francisco Zoo on Christmas day. It's looking more and more like that 350-pound Siberian tiger jumped the fence around its pen. There's been a lot of questions about exactly how the tiger got out. The zoo's director admits the wall around the pen is just 12-1/2 feet tall. That's below the recommended height of 16-1/2 feet. A 17-year- old boy died. Two others were mauled. The tiger was shot and killed by police. We're going to have a live report from San Francisco coming up in our next half hour.

And one of the most famously flawed stamps in U.S. history has fetched a pretty penny at auction. Listen to this. The mint condition "Inverted Jenny," as it's called, sold for $825,000 for that little stamp right there. It's a 1918 24-cent stamp famous for the fact that, as you can see there, the biplane known as the Jenny was printed upside down. The buyer is said to be a Wall Street executive, of course.

One expert called it the Rolls-Royce of stamps and said it's the most expensive airmail stamp in the world. Apparently, there are about 700 printed but inspectors caught all but 100 of them. One person bought the 100 sheet of stamps, the whole sheet of it, and they divided it up and they sold them off individually.

(CROSSTALK)

CHETRY: That's smart.

ROBERTS: There you go. Break up the company.

CHO: Right.

CHETRY: And also, how did it get printed upside down in the first place? That's what happens when you have to work the early shift, right? Somebody has to so that the plane is going like this. What time is it?

CHO: Apparently, those bonuses aren't going to be as bad as we all thought, right? $825,000 for a stamp from a Wall Street executive.

ROBERTS: I guess not.

ROB MARCIANO, METEOROLOGIST: How much is a 37 cents stamp worth? I've got plenty of those.

CHO: They're 37 cents.

MARCIANO: OK.

CHETRY: I mean, two one-cent stamps and send it along.

MARCIANO: Inverted stamp. How about that. Good morning again, guys.

CHETRY: Nice to see you.

MARCIANO: Nice to see you guys. We do again have some severe weather rolling across the country. It's been pretty active weather pattern shaping up, and it doesn't look like it's going to end any time soon. We first zoom in to the Nashville area where they have been seeing there a version of a little bright red spot moving right across downtown Nashville about a half an hour ago, and they saw some gusty winds, some heavy rain, even some hail and lightning. You better believe it.

We are getting some severe thunderstorm warnings posted in Curt County, Georgia. These are just popping out at a heavy system that's creating snow, so we're getting all sorts of weather from the storm that's developing. In Atlanta, about to get hammered with well, some much-needed rain but certainly that airport will feel the brunt of it and possibly some delays.

Severe weather overnight in Mississippi now pushing in through Alabama including Birmingham, and you see all those cells picking up moisture from the gulf of Mexico and developing rapidly. The north side of the system has some cold air, so two to four inches of snow expected with a snow advisory in effect for Kansas City, Missouri, north and east, just south of Davenport or Des Moines in through Davenport and Rockford, Illinois.

Chicago could see as much as six inches of snow in spots, and heavy snow warning expected for parts of Michigan. And here's the wide scope of this storm, it's a rapid mover. I mean, it's going to be long gone here in the next 24 hours, but it will bring some heavy snows to the north, some heavy rains to the south and actually New York City we'll see some heavy rain with this as well. And there's another system plowing into the pacific northwest.

ROBERTS: How's the draft doing in the south?

MARCIANO: Well, a little bit of help there, but it's still pretty bad. We need several of these types of systems to come in and dump a whole bunch of rain in a relatively long amount of time.

ROBERTS: I'm sure. Rob, thanks. We'll see you again soon.

MARCIANO: You got it.

ROBERTS: Fourteen and a half minutes after the hour. One week before the Iowa caucuses now. The assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto is pushing terrorism to the forefront of the campaign trail, leadership as well. Republican candidates shifting their focus from the domestic front to foreign policy, and the Democratic candidates also condemning Bhutto's assassination calling for Pakistan to move firmly toward democracy. We're live on the campaign trail when AMERICAN MORNING returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: Coming in right now with more video. This is the coffin of Benazir Bhutto. These are pictures that came in to us a few minutes back of the funeral procession taking place in her hometown in the Sindh province in Pakistan. She's been laid to rest today, just 24 hours after the news of her assassination came to the world.

Benazir Bhutto was buried actually just a few moments ago in her family mausoleum. There were final prayers offered and hundreds of thousands who had gathered to take part in that funeral procession. The country facing uncertainty, of course, in the wake of this assassination.

The Parliamentary elections set for about a week or two away, January 8th. That throwing into question right now as well as some violence rocking the country in the wake of her assassination. Some 30 people, it's been reported so far today, killed in violence and rioting and anger among her supporters, clashing with the military and the police over her assassination.

Pakistan has received billions of dollars in American financial assistance. It is an ally, a key ally in the war on terrorism. And it brings us to this morning's "Quick Vote" question. Does the U.S. need to take a greater role in fighting extremism in Pakistan?

We ask to you cast your vote CNN.com/AM. Right now, 26 percent saying yes, there does need to be a greater role. Seventy-four percent saying no. we're going to track your votes throughout the morning.

ROBERTS: It's now 19 minutes after the hour. The Bhutto assassination is changing the message on the campaign trail today. Now the presidential candidates are talking up their foreign policy experience. Just six days to go now until the Iowa caucuses. CNN's Dana Bash is following the Republicans for us. Suzanne Malveaux is following the Democrats. Let's begin with Dana in Des Moines. And Dana, the candidates all over this, trying to tout their leadership, their knowledge of foreign policy. But Mike Huckabee had a little bit of a misstep yesterday.

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He did. He actually came out and he was speaking just like everyone, giving his condolences and he appeared to suggest that he believed that martial law was continuing in Pakistan. And, you know, martial law was actually stopped about two weeks ago.

Now, CNN asked him last night to clarify or what he really meant by that, and he insisted that he understood. He knew that martial law was no longer in place, but he said that he was worried that it would be reinstated. But, John, he also said something else that was interesting and quite surprising. He tried to relate what's going on in Pakistan to the red hot issue here in Iowa of immigration, and here's what he said.

He said domestically, we need to protect our borders with Pakistanis coming into the country. Again, kind of a surprising comment from Mike Huckabee last night.

ROBERTS: What about John McCain, Dana, because he's surging in New Hampshire? He's trying to convert that into some momentum there in Iowa, and he professes to be the one with the most foreign policy experience, knows all the players. What's he saying? How is he using this assassination there?

BASH: You know, all of the candidates responded yesterday on the Republican side but he, John, definitely was the most aggressive and trying to capitalize on the events in Pakistan. He came here to Iowa. He went right on the stump and talked about his foreign policy experience, his experience and knowledge of Pakistan, of the region, of the leaders. And I asked him whether or not he actually thinks his campaign can benefit from what happened in Pakistan. He essentially said yes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My theme has been throughout this campaign that I'm the one with the experience, the knowledge and the judgment. So perhaps it may serve to enhance those credentials or make people understand that I've been to Waziristan. I know Musharraf. I can pick up the phone and call him. I knew Benazir Bhutto.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Now, Rudy Giuliani is another Republican candidate whose campaign has been faltering a bit lately. As you know, John, he yesterday over and over tried to play to his strengths, 9/11, saying that he thinks that the events in Pakistan are proof that the United States needs to step up its efforts against terrorism -- John. ROBERTS: Right. The terrorist war against us, as he likes to put it. Dana Bash for us this morning in Des Moines. Dana, thanks very much.

And, by the way, stay with us for our next hour, because we're going to be joined live by Republican candidate Fred Thompson. That will be at 8:30 Eastern. Kiran, looking forward to having him on. It will be the first time.

CHETRY: Yes. We are looking forward to it so we're watching about an hour from now.

The Democratic candidates also speaking out about the assassination. CNN's White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux is following that side of the story, and she's also with the candidates in Des Moines this morning. A lot of the candidates knew Benazir Bhutto personally. What's the reaction today from the campaign trail, Suzanne?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Kiran, there are some candidates who actually, they knew her well. One of them being Senator Clinton, of course. It was interesting, because the day started off all of them offering their condolences but then it quickly turned into somewhat of a showdown to see which candidate really have the political, the foreign policy chops to deal with that volatile region. The big question is whether or not this really makes the difference with the voters.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Barack Obama!

MALVEAUX (voice-over): With the Iowa caucuses just days away, anything can change the political landscape, including the assassination of a key U.S. ally, Pakistan's former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. The condolences came quickly.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Our thoughts and prayers are with her family.

MALVEAUX: But Senator Hillary Clinton was able to add this.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have known Benazir Bhutto for a dozen years, and I knew her as a leader.

MALVEAUX: In fact, in 1995, when Clinton was first lady, she visited then Prime Minister Bhutto as part of a two-week South Asia tour to promote women and children. She brought daughter Chelsea along who was studying high school Islamic history.

Recently, candidate Clinton has been trying to distinguish herself, most notably from Senator Barack Obama over her experience in foreign policy. But her other chief rival, Senator John Edwards, not only asserted his close ties to Bhutto, he said he called Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf to assess the crisis. Not to be outdone, former Governor Bill Richardson, previously a U.N. ambassador, called for Musharraf's resignation while Senator Joe Biden, the chairman of the foreign relations committee and arguably the Democratic candidate with the most foreign policy experience, lamented his direct warnings to Musharraf to protect Bhutto were rebuffed.

SEN. JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The failure to protect Mrs. Bhutto raises a lot of hard questions for the government and the security services that have to be answered.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: And, Kiran, Senator Dodd released a statement talking about his 26 years of experience on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. But what is interesting here is really whether or not the debate, of course, has changed, but whether or not this really resonates when it comes to issues that the voters care about. The latest polls showing that it's still Iraq. It's health care. It's the economy.

And covering Clinton yesterday, she really got the biggest applause when she was talking about getting rid of President Bush's educational program, the no child left behind program -- Kiran.

CHETRY: The bread and butter issue still resonating with the voters. All right. Thanks so much, Suzanne. And, by the way, on AMERICAN MORNING we're going to be speaking live with another presidential hopeful on the Democratic side, Governor Bill Richardson, on several issues. But he also spoke out with some strong words yesterday, in fact, calling for Pervez Musharraf to step aside. We're going to talk to him about relations with Pakistan and what he would do if he was president. That's coming up in the next hour of AMERICAN MORNING as well.

ROBERTS: And what about security here at home in New York City, which is home to the largest concentration of Pakistani immigrants in the United States? More police are being placed at Pakistani airline offices and banks. The U.S. is investigating claims of responsibility in Pakistan and new threats coming from Osama bin Laden. We're checking in with CNN's Homeland Security correspondent Jeanne Meserve coming up at our next half hour.

Plus, words that you were only meant to hear after Benazir Bhutto died. Hear from the e-mail that CNN has obtained in which she anticipated her own death and who she blames for it.

Also, a new tuberculosis scare. The Centers for Disease Control wants to know how the patient was allowed on a plane. It happened again. Ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Welcome back to CNN.

CHETRY: Golly, it's Friday, December 28th. It feels like a Friday, doesn't it? I'm Kiran Chetry. Thanks for being with us.

ROBERTS: And I'm John Roberts. Good morning to you.

Thousands of people crowding in to say goodbye to Benazir Bhutto. She has now been laid to rest next to her father. Final blessings were performed over her coffin just about an hour ago. You're looking at pictures. This is the car that was carrying her coffin, very simple wooden box, from her village of Garhi Khuda Baksh to the mausoleum, which is quite an impressive structure. It looks almost like a smaller, not too much smaller version of the Taj Mahal. She was laid to rest beside her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the former president of Pakistan.

There's a shot looking over the small lake that surrounds the compound, the mausoleum there. Her husband and three children traveled from Dubai for the services. At least 10 people died in overnight protests marking her murder across Pakistan. Bhutto grew up in the shadow of power and is being laid to rest in a palace. The pictures of the Bhutto family mausoleum again that we saw in that village.

Just two months ago, she was there and offered prayers after spending eight years away from her home country. After standing at her father's grave there, she once wrote, "At that moment, I pledged to myself that I would not rest until democracy had returned to Pakistan."

CHETRY: And CNN, by the way, is getting a look this morning at a startling e-mail in which Benazir Bhutto may have anticipated her own death and actually pointed some fingers along the way. CNN's Wolf Blitzer received this e-mail, and he joins us now to talk about that.

Wolf, good to see you this morning.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR, "THE SITUATION ROOM": Thanks, Kiran.

CHETRY: You also had your last interview which we all saw with Bhutto.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN, ANCHOR: Following the latest developments right now, out of a breaking news story out of Pakistan today. We're hearing about an explosion that hit a campaign rally today for Pakistan's opposition leader Benazir Bhutto. There are multiple reports coming in. Our own CNN producer was there at the time and confirms that this explosion did take place. There are some other reports coming in from AFP saying it was a suicide attack. According to the interior ministry and the Associated Press also reporting having a reporter on the scene and seeing bodies on the ground at this time.

We are also hearing that Benazir Bhutto's vehicle was not in the exact location. There was about 50 meters away from the blast and that at least according to early reporting, Benazir Bhutto is unhurt but again an explosion, rocking an area that was near a rally for supporters of Benazir Bhutto. This was in Rawalpindi, and we are going to be getting more information and more details. But we do have some video from the scene which was shown on Pakistan television showing ambulances arriving there. And again she was scheduled to appear at the rally. The early reporting that we're getting right now was that she was not in the immediate vicinity at the time of the explosion but again we're going to continue to follow the latest developments of this explosion at a rally for supporters of Pakistan's former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in Rawalpindi today.

Meanwhile, there are some other stories making headlines overnight. The latest developments now, Alina Cho is following those for us. Good morning.

ALINA CHO, CNN, CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Kiran. Good morning to you. Good morning, everybody. We're getting more details this morning about how a 13-year-old girl from southern California may have survived a plane crash in Panama. We've been talking about this story all morning long. Francesca Lewis's mother says she believes her daughter either fell out or was thrown from the plane as it was crashing. There you see her on the gurney. Francesca's best friend, her friend's father and the pilot were all killed in the crash. Francesca's mom says rescuers found her under a wing, apparently delirious and thinking she was waking up at home.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VOICE OF VALERIE LEWIS, SURVIVOR'S MOTHER: The fact that she so far doesn't seem to have any major damage is, seems incredible. She thought she had been sleeping and that she would wake up and see. She thought she was in her home and that there was, why was there an airplane wing in her home.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHO: You can look at her eyes and see just how scared she was. Her mother says Francesca has a fractured arm and some cuts, but she is actually up and walking around. So that is some good news. We wish her the best in her recovery.

Of course, other news this morning, Iran says it's getting a state of the art air defense system from Russia. Now Russia denies it. But Iran's Defense Minister says the air defense system is capable of shooting down aircraft, cruise missiles and ballistic missiles, at ranges of more than 90 miles and altitudes of about 90,000 feet. Russia has said it's better than the U.S. patriot missile system but has never admitted it's selling it to Iran.

Well, it looks like North Korea is going to miss its nuclear disarmament deadline. Word from South Korea today is that the north will not have its reactor fully deactivated by the end of the year, as promised. North Korea claims it's slowing down the process because of the delay in international aid. The U.S. State Department, however, says it's not aware of any slowdowns.

And three hostages held for years by a Colombian rebel group could be freed today, thanks to a deal apparently brokered by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. The hostages have been prisoners of the rebel group known as Fark for years. Colombia says it has signed on to the deal to give rebels free passage during the exchange. The hostages include a former Colombian senator's campaign manager, her son, who was actually born in captivity and a former Colombian congressman.

And questions about whether a woman in a wheelchair was left on a tarmac for hours, an incredible story. If it is true, Jean Gredham her way from California to Orlando this past weekend. She says when she landed to connect in Las Vegas, a worker actually wheeled her to her next flight and then left her on the tarmac for four hours. Gredham says nobody stopped to help her until another worker wheeled her back inside, hysterical, she then called her daughter.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TAMMY NELSON, DAUGHTER: She called me at 3:00 in the morning, crying hysterical, because she didn't know what to do and nobody would help her.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHO: However, Las Vegas affiliate KLAS says the U.S. Airways disputes Gredham's claim and says Gredham's was issued her next boarding pass just 22 minutes after arriving Las Vegas and at no time was she left unattended. So a he said, she said situation. Incredible, if it is true. We're going to be watching the news for you. Back in 30 minutes, Kiran.

CHETRY: Alina, thanks so much. Meanwhile, our top story today is this tragic situation out of the San Francisco Zoo. Their son was mauled to death by a tiger on Christmas. He was 17-year-old Carlos Sousa, Jr., adding to their pain, many unanswered questions this morning, like how did this big cat get out of that enclosure, and why wasn't it stopped in time? The victim's parents, Mariosa and Carlos Sousa, Sr. joins us now. Good morning to both of you.

I'm sure it's not a good morning, actually, first of all let us say we're very, very sorry for the loss of your son, just a tragic story and is one that a lot of people are talking about this morning. First of all, how did you find out, Carlos, what happened?

CARLOS SOUSA, SR., VICTIM'S FATHER: I didn't find out, until yesterday morning. I was at work. I got a call from my mom, from my sister-in-law, told me "come home, your son's been in a terrible accident."

CHETRY: Did he tell you that he was going to the zoo? Did you know that he was going to be going there on Christmas?

CARLOS SOUSA: No. He was supposed to be going to his mom's house for Christmas. He told me that he was going to go over his friend's house and then over his mom's house after he went to his friend's.

CHETRY: And do you know anything about the two other people who were with your son, Carlos, who were also injured by that tiger?

CARLOS SOUSA: No. No, I don't know who they are. It might be friends because my son's got all kinds of friends. He's an easy- going kid. He likes to make friends. So I don't know if they're new friends, old friends. I'm curious about knowing who they are, too, myself.

CHETRY: Have you been in contact with zoo officials or police at all? Are you getting any information about some of these unanswered questions as to how this may have happened?

CARLOS SOUSA: The only contact I got was last night with the investigator. She's, I have a schedule meeting with her today around noon to talk over this investigation, because it's still ongoing. And I don't have all the information yet how this happened. I just know that my son is dead, and I've seen him at the morgue. It's very painful. He's the only son I have. And I lost everything.

CHETRY: Carlos, it's obviously some unimaginable pain you are going through right now, as well as you, Mariosa. You said you're not going to celebrate Christmas anymore now that Carlos is gone.

MARIOSA SOUSA, VICTIM'S MOTHER: Not anymore, no, no.

CARLOS SOUSA: Oh, this is bad. This is it. This is supposed to be the day for giving, not to take. And he was taken away from me.

CHETRY: Mariosa, what do you want people to know about Carlos?

MARIOSA SOUSA: He's a wonderful kid. Happy. You know, friendly, like dancing, and you hear every single day "I love you mom." It doesn't matter if he's going close to the house or in front of his friends. He always hug and kiss me "I love you mom" all the time. You know, it's not easy to go far. He's close to the house. He is there, every single day I hear that. And see him in the house. I was going to get home in the morning and when he's here, he's happy. I cannot really explain it. It really hurts a lot.

CARLOS SOUSA: Good at sports.

CHETRY: We're getting a little bit of information, Carlos, from the zoo, that this tiger actually attacked a zookeeper last year. Do you think that this was handled properly from what you're learning of the situation? Do you think the zoo did everything it could to make sure that people were kept a safe distance from the animal?

CARLOS SOUSA: I think that the zoo needs to do more improvements, on these type of animals. I think that when that lady, from what I heard, the lady got her arm torn off or something, taken off, I think that even though they did improvements, they didn't do enough for the public. Because I think the zoo should be protected on both sides, protected for the people and protected for the animals.

CHETRY: Right. You know, it's hard to find the words to let us know how sorry we are for your loss. I can't imagine how difficult it must be this year for you, especially around the holidays for this to happen but we want to thank you for telling your story, and please, hang in there and thanks for being with us this morning, Carlos and Mariosa Sousa.

MARIOSA SOUSA: Thank you.

CARLOS SOUSA: Thank you.

CHETRY: Also, following a breaking story this morning out of Pakistan, we're getting word now that a suicide bomber attacked a rally for Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto just moments ago. We're going to be getting a live report from Pakistan. We actually have a CNN reporter who was there at the scene. There is video coming in and now reports of people killed in this situation, an explosion at a rally, a political rally that was supposed to be for organizers of Benazir Bhutto. The latest developments out of Rawalpindi when AMERICAN MORNING comes right back.

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CHETRY: More now on the breaking news that we're following out of Pakistan, where an explosion has rocked a political rally. Some of the first pictures now coming in to AMERICAN MORNING to show you. Pakistan's G.O. television is reporting at least 15 people are dead. Other media outlets are reporting the number as high as 20 killed. There you see ambulances rushing to the scene. This blast happened amid supporters of former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, now opposition leader Benazir Bhutto. Her spokesman saying she is safe and that the blast happened as she was leaving the rally. We will continue to follow the story and bring you the latest as we get it. We do have with us right now CNN's Moshin Naqvi. He is live in Rawalpindi, joins us on the phone right now. Moshin, were you at that rally and can you tell us what was going on?

VOICE OF MOSHIN NAQVI, CNN PRODUCER: No, we were right near the rally, right opposite is a building where we were witnessing this rally and when we heard this loud explosion, and then we rushed to the scene and now police are confirming that at least 14 people were killed in this suicide attack. Again, police sources are telling us that this was a suicide attack and the suicide bomber was trying to enter inside that compound where thousands of people were gathered and were listening to Benazir Bhutto's speech when this loud explosion happened.

CHETRY: So this is the situation there right now, that they're calling it a suicide attack. We have just heard actually from our own Pentagon reporters as well that there has been talk about Al Qaeda turning its face toward Pakistan from our own defense chief, Robert Gates, saying there would be more attacks inside of the country. We've also heard that confirmed from ex-CIA analysts, et cetera. Do you know at this point as to who may be responsible or behind this or who they even suspect at this point?

NAQVI: No, not right now but you know, there was some reports earlier also that there will be more attacks on Benazir Bhutto as she is considered pro-U.S.A.. She considers that there should be operation in Pakistani tribal area. She met earlier today with Hamid Karzai, who was also in Islamabad on a two-day visit, and she again said after that meeting that she supports war against terrorism and she supports U.S. policies. So according to police and some other analysts, they are saying that, yes, there's quite possible that Al Qaeda and local Taliban might be behind these attacks.

CHETRY: Actually, this entire election process right now has been no stranger to violence in that country. In fact, we also heard the news that four supporters of another former Pakistani Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, were shot, this taking place as well in the last day. In this situation, they believe it might have been members from another political party opening fire, this also in a rally but in Islamabad earlier today. What is the mood there? What seems to be going on as we head closer to these elections?

NAQVI: We are witnessing for the last two days, the momentum was picking up. The political parties are getting involved more. And more and more people were coming to the rally than they were attending these political rallies organized by either pro-Musharaf party or by opposition parties. And that's what people are also saying that in these last two weeks these political parties will have momentum which we saw also in the last two, three days. But on the other side, like you mentioned, that there was fighting on Nawaz Sharif supporters in which four people were killed. So today is the first day that we have witnessed the clashes on the political activities.

CHETRY: All right. And for people who are just joining us right now, we have one of our CNN producers Mohsin Naqvi with us on the phone right now. He is in Rawalpindi, the scene where just moments ago at a Benazir Bhutto rally, an apparent suicide bomb attack. Reports out of Pakistan saying 14 people killed. Now, Mohsin, tell us gain about whether or not Benazir Bhutto herself was present at the time. What do you know about where she was?

NAQVI: We have talked to her spokesperson. We have talked to her political secretary. Both have confirmed that she's safe and she is on her way to some safe place but according to her party, she is safe.

CHETRY: All right. Of course, there was another assassination attempt or some sort of attempt that had taken place, I think we were covering it just two weeks ago, Benazir Bhutto saying that she understands that she assumes some risk every time she goes out and that she will not be afraid. What is the recommendation for her as well as others who are attending these rallies and saying things that, among parts of the population, are not popular in Pakistan?

NAQVI: According to the interior ministry officers, they have warned her a few times, they were in the briefing also, they said that there's a serious threat to Benazir Bhutto and there are, according to them - there are some reports that Al Qaeda and local Taliban will attack on her and this we have witnessed, earlier. The two months back, there was an attack in which more than 76 people were killed. So this is the second attack on a rally in the last two months.

CHETRY: Well, thank you for bringing able to bring us more information from the scene, Mohsin Naqvi, CNN producer there in Rawalpindi. Again, ahead of this news. They were trying to make sure that there were as many checkpoints as possible at this rally. This was Benazir Bhutto's first big campaign rally since returning from exile just two months ago. They had spoken about having hundreds of riot police, as well as manned security checkpoints but apparently that did not thwart this attack. We're getting the news from the various wires as well as CNN that there was a suicide bomb attack. At least that's what the interior minister is saying at this point at this rally where at least 14 to 15 people were killed. That number could possibly climb as we get new details. So, again we're going to continue to follow the developments out of Pakistan this morning.

But we have other news here as well, extreme weather here out west, record snowfall. We're going to take a look at the forecast from Rob, find out where it's heading next, coming up on AMERICAN MORNING.

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CHETRY: Well, Denver looking to get hit with more snow after getting a record snowfall over Christmas. Another winter storm warning is in place there. And the storm could be bad news for lots of people traveling east, in the Rockies in the days ahead.

You know what's good news for there, Rob? I was noticing that all of the celebrities like to go to Aspen and things like that for the holidays, they finally have an excuse to wear their huge moon boots and their hats and scarves. Wandering around L.A., it doesn't seem to work.

ROB MARCIANO, CNN, CORRESPONDENT: If there's more out there, it would be a good excuse to you know scrap the snorkel on. You're going to be cut through all that (inaudible) hammered with big time snow. Of course, it creates some problems if you try to get to the Hill or if you're just trying to get home from Grandma's house for the holidays.

Let's get through it, there's another storm on the way for the Denver area. You know, Denver doesn't always get snow, even though it's high up there and you think it's near the mountains. It's not in the mountains so be aware of that. 4 to 8 inches expected today. We're getting a little bit of snow headed across the Great Lakes right now. A lot of this is kind of wet, headed through Cleveland and Eerie. But we are also seeing a fair amount of airport delays already stacking up.

Ground stop in Atlanta, ground stop for Philly and D.C. departure delays, 45 minutes and on the increase. So if you have plans to travel today, be aware La Guardia, JFK, shouldn't be much more than an hour so could certainly be worse, when YOU think about what happened last week but Chicago, O'Hare, I think you're going to see some delays today and then increasing during the day tomorrow. Atlanta the usual stuff there but Houston to Dallas should be all right and if you're traveling, say United through Denver, there might be some delays there because of the snow that's going to fall today, and Salt Lake City also some snow especially south of town. If you're traveling by car, along the i-95 corridor, i-91, through New England, we have freezing rain advisories that have been extended for about the next half hour or so as temperatures hover around the freezing mark and precipitation continues to fall in this area. But that will be tapering off as we go through time and another couple of weak system heading across the northeast, we'll highlight those too. But only Denver and Chicago tomorrow will see four to eight inches of snow.

So get a white Christmas a couple of days ago, you may be able to have a little white New Year's.

CHETRY: A white New Year's for you. All right. Rob, thanks so much.

We have some news from the music world now. How about this, the top acts of the year were all oldies but goodies. The Police reunion tour, actually the top grossing act of 2007. Barry Manilow, Van Halen and Genesis were all in the top ten, competing with the likes of Kenny Chesney, as well as Justin Timberlake.

MARCIANO: How about the "Oh Mandy." Go Barry.

CHETRY: That's right. I love the shirt, by the way. Your favorite, however, Hannah Montana, I guess not in the top ten, sorry.

MARCIANO: I'm still going. I'm standing outside all night long to see those kids.

CHETRY: Well, a sudden urgency on the campaign trail. Get a look at the calendar and it tells us why the candidates have only a month to get their message out. We have analysis coming to us from John King. He's live in the field this morning. And some new details about the 12-year-old girl who survived a deadly plane crash in Panama. How she's doing now and how she escaped with her life? Ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

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CHETRY: Breaking news, a suicide bombing at a rally for Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan.

Hunted down.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have deemed the site a crime scene.

CHETRY: New evidence. Why a tiger trapped and maul a group of friends at the zoo. The victim's parents speak out.

CARLOS SOUSA: He's the only son I have and I lost everything.

CHETRY: Plus, ski slopes scandal. We're live with the 8-year- old being sued over a skiing accident on this AMERICAN MORNING.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: And welcome, it is Thursday, December 27th. We got a lot going on today, we're following here on AMERICAN MORNING. I'm Kiran Chetry. John Roberts has a well deserved day off.

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