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American Morning

Israel Storms Lebanon; Rumsfeld in Iraq; Day After Mumbai Blasts

Aired July 12, 2006 - 08:58   ET


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Paula Hancocks in Jerusalem. Israeli soldiers march into Lebanon after two soldiers are kidnapped. I'll tell you what's going on this morning coming up.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Nic Robertson in Baghdad. Donald Rumsfeld makes a surprise visit amid another wave of violence. I'll tell you more coming up.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Commuters undeterred in India. They're back on the trains today, a day after nearly 200 people were killed in a coordinated bomb attack.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: The morning rush is on and Chicago trains back on track after a frightening derailment sends commuters scattering.

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Kyung Lah in Yucca Valley, California, where a wildfire has been raging through the night. What firefighters are doing to try to contain the blaze coming up on this AMERICAN MORNING.

O'BRIEN: Good morning to you. I'm Miles O'Brien.

KEILAR: And I'm Brianna Keilar, in today for Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Breaking news in the Middle East this morning to tell you about. A dramatic escalation of violence on a new front.

It's happening on Israel's northern border with Lebanon. Israeli forces have crossed the border, pounding Hezbollah fighters. The invasion comes after Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers. Apparently an attempt to prompt a prisoner exchange.

CNN's Paula Hancocks watching things unfold for us from our Jerusalem bureau -- Paula.

HANCOCKS: Hello, Miles.

Well, Israel is carrying out military operations on a second neighbor now. We know that security forces are on the ground in southern Lebanon, the first time that Israeli forces have been inside southern Lebanon that deep since they moved out in May 2000.

Now, what these forces are trying to do is to find two soldiers who have been kidnapped early this morning about 9:00 a.m. local time. Now, we know that several soldiers were also injured in this attack by Hezbollah guerillas. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is holding the Lebanese government responsible, saying it is also responsible for the safekeeping of these soldiers and the safe release of these soldiers.

Now, we've seen Israeli air forces strike bridges and roads. The military saying that they want to make sure that these militants cannot move this soldier around, a very similar situation to what we're seeing in Gaza. And trying to find Gilad Shalit, the 19-year- old corporal who was kidnapped by Palestinian militants just two and a half weeks ago.

So, a very similar situation. We're seeing groups -- ground troops on the ground in southern Lebanon, and we are seeing heavy artillery and some shelling -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: You know, while this unfolds, just bring us up to date. Have we heard anything that would prove to the world that Corporal Shalit is alive?

HANCOCKS: Well, we have been hearing from some Hamas leaders, and also from -- we had an e-mail from the militants who are holding him, himself. Now, they haven't given a proof of life, as we would call it. For example, a passport or an I.D. card or any sort of video, anything like that, but they have sent an e-mail saying that he is alive and it is against Islam to harm him, so they will not harm him.

But they are saying that they do want a prisoner swap. They want 1,000 Arab prisoners in Israeli jails to be released and all Palestinian women and children. And this is likely to be what Hezbollah is going to want, as well, in return for these two new Israeli soldiers that have been kidnapped. It is a real bargaining chip for these militants to have Israeli soldiers, and they are going to want to try and have some kind of prisoner swap so they can get something out of it -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: Paula, in the past, has this bargaining chip worked?

HANCOCKS: It has worked in the past. We know in 2004, Hezbollah actually released the bodies of three Israeli soldiers it had killed in the year 2000, and also one businessman who was still alive.

Now, at the time, the Israeli forces and the government said that they would not negotiate, there wouldn't be a prisoner swap. But, it turned out that they actually released more than 400 Arab prisoners from Israeli jails to get the remains back of those three Israeli soldiers and that one businessman.

So, it has worked in the past. This time around, though, Ehud Olmert has been saying -- the Israeli prime minister has been saying he doesn't want to set a very bad precedent. He thinks that this will put more Israeli soldiers and civilians in jeopardy if this time if he does carry out a prisoner swap -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: Paula Hancocks in Jerusalem.

Thank you -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in Iraq this morning to talk about the escalating violence there. A series of bloody suicide attacks just as the secretary was arriving in the country. As many as nine people were killed. And we're hearing from Iraqi police that they found the bodies of as many as 20 civilians who were kidnapped earlier in the day.

Let's go now to CNN Senior International Correspondent Nic Robertson. He is in Baghdad tracking this story.

Good morning, Nic.


Well, those 20 bodies that the police have found in the town of Muqdadiya, about 65 miles northeast of Baghdad, they were abducted from a bus station. Civilians and bus drivers abducted from the bus station in the town of Muqdadiya about 8:00 this morning. Twenty-four of them disappeared. Now 20 bodies have been discovered.

A suicide bomber went into a restaurant on the south side of Baghdad, killed seven people, wounded 20 others. And that was as Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was arriving at a big U.S. military base about 50 miles north of Baghdad, the town of Balad.

There, he had a sort of town hall session with troops, about 700 troops asking all sorts of questions, asking about new military equipment, asking about Iraqi security forces. Journalists asked Secretary Rumsfeld if or when, rather, U.S. forces could to begin withdraw, when Iraqi forces would be ready. He didn't have an answer, but he is meeting with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki right about now.

That is on the agenda for discussion, the current state of the Iraqi security forces, the state of security in Baghdad. And also, the militias, the militias who have been very much part of the sectarian bloodletting that's been going on for the last week or so quite intensely -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Nic, do we have any sense of what -- what Secretary Rumsfeld will be discussing with the prime minister?

ROBERTSON: Well, he's very likely to discuss the security situation in Baghdad, because how the security goes here in Baghdad, it very much affects the area immediately around. And while you can pacify and secure the provinces close to Baghdad, the insurgents will just feed out their violence from Baghdad. The violence is -- Baghdad is perhaps one of the most violent places.

The other big issue right now is the militias who were accused of being in the west of Baghdad over the weekend, summarily executing people on the basis of whether they were Sunni or Shia. Shia militias accused of going into a Sunni neighborhood, killing more than 40 Sunnis. That's very likely to be on the table for discussion as well, as well as the development of the Iraqi security forces, their ability to contain the violence.

You know, this is the year of the police, so they'll be looking at the police. The Iraqi army is progressing. Secretary Rumsfeld will want to know how that is going as well -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Nic Robertson live from Baghdad.

Thank you, Nic -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: In Mumbai, India, it is still a mystery who set off eight bombs in the transit system during yesterday evening's rush hour. The bombings killed at least 185, injured about 700. Authorities suspect it is the work of Islamic militants but don't know much more. At least they're not telling us yet.

CNN's Aneesh Raman joining us from Mumbai, formerly Bombay. He's on the line right now -- Aneesh.


As you say, no explicit speculation by authorities as to who was behind the attacks that a day ago now crippled Mumbai, India's financial heart, home to some 16 million people. A string of seven bombs hit trains that were commuting, an eighth bomb just outside of a station.

The death toll now stands at 185. Of that, we're told the majority of bodies have been claimed.

There are those still that are not identified, those bodies that did not have identification papers with them. And authorities are desperately trying to get details as to clothing and belongings as they try to reunite these casualties with their families.

Now, one of the reasons you can presume, as you enter into the city, that they haven't explicitly mentioned who might be behind these attacks is because one of the issues that authorities are dealing with, in addition to the investigation, is keeping sectarian tensions at bay. Mumbai is a city that is not unfamiliar to attacks like this. This large-scale of an attack they haven't seen in over a decade.

But there has been in recent weeks a brewing frustration between the Muslim minority and the Hindu majority within the city, in pockets of the city itself. And so authorities are being careful in terms of saying who is behind this attack and being too premature in labeling any one group -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: Aneesh Raman in Mumbai.

Thank you -- Brianna.

KEILAR: In Chicago, subway trains are back on track this morning, but commuters being asked to allow a little extra time for delays. Many of them probably still nervous following last night's terrifying derailment. Hundreds of subway passengers chased from tunnels by smoke and fire. We go now to CNN's Keith Oppenheim. He is live in Chicago -- Keith.

KEITH OPPENHEIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Brianna. The morning commute here is in full swing, albeit with some disruptions.

Check out this video from overnight, when the commuter train that caught fire in a subway tunnel was pulled out of the tunnel. And you can see that the last car, the eighth car, is somewhat charred from fire and smoke.

It was during rush hour yesterday that that train derailed in a subway tunnel and fire and smoke filled the tunnel. There were about 1,000 passengers on that train, and they had to walk about 300 yards to safety to an emergency exit. And passengers said it was dark, scary, tough to breathe, and some feared for their lives.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People didn't know what happened. Some people were screaming, some people were yelling, some people were telling other people to be calm. Some women were saying they were going to pass out, that they were feeling faint.


OPPENHEIM: Fortunately, no lives lost in this incident, Brianna, but 150 people were taken to hospitals. Mostly for minor injuries and respiratory problems, although we have heard that two people are still in critical condition.

And later this morning, we are hoping to hear from National Transportation Safety Board investigators, who might give us some preliminary information as to what caused this derailment -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Keith Oppenheim, live from Chicago.

Thanks for that report -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: Wildfires burning out of control in southern California. A state of emergency now in effect in San Bernardino County.

Firefighters working round the clock. They are trying to get an upper hand. As you can see, they've got their hands full. More than a thousand evacuated overnight.

CNN's Kyung Lah is in Yucca Valley. That's east of Los Angeles, right near the fire line -- Kyung.

LAH: Well, Miles, the sun is up now. Firefighters are getting a better view of this fire.

What we're seeing here from the southern edge of the fire, you can see that plume of smoke is being pushed up north. These winds out here are extremely unpredictable, though, which is why firefighters have evacuated the people, some of the people who live just south of here, because the winds can shift very suddenly in this area.

We've seen wind gusts of up to 40 miles per hour, extremely low humidity here. Daytime temperatures nearing 100 degrees.

Now the fire so far, 30,000 acres as far as its size. It is -- has a potential to grow to 100,000 acres. So far, the California Department of Forestry tells us that 30 homes -- 30 structures have burned to the ground. They do anticipate that that number could grow.

One of the big worries out here is that there is a town here called Pioneer Town. It is home to some historic homes, once home to the Hollywood cowboy, where some western movies were shot. At this point, no word on whether any of those historic homes have been lost. A thousand people have been told to get out, in part due to those unpredictable winds.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The winds came 60 miles, and suddenly the wind turned to fire. And you're inhaling smoke and fire. And it's -- you can't even describe it. And the air turned to flame, and I couldn't go any which direction without being in flame, and I thought I was going to die.


LAH: Firefighters say that this area has not burned for some time. There is a lot of fuel out there, a lot of dry brush. No containment as of yet -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: Kyung Lah on the fire lines.

Let's get a forecast in.

Chad Myers, how is it looking for those firefighters there?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: You k now, I'm looking at L.A. The winds are calm down around San Diego, just to the north of San Diego, northeast, two miles per our. Then a little closer to where the fire is, seven miles her hour. That's not bad.

They had wind gusts to 40 yesterday. Many of those winds, though, were almost fire-induced. When the air goes straight up, air has to rush in to fill that air that the fire just displaced.


MYERS: Back to you guys.

O'BRIEN: Well, that's a bit of good news.

Thank you, Chad.

MYERS: Sure.

KEILAR: Thank you. O'BRIEN: Coming up on the program, Boston's beleaguered Big Dig: leaks arrests, cost overruns, and now a death after a ceiling crashes down. Is it criminal? We'll check in with the Massachusetts attorney general.

KEILAR: Also, 22 years after being convicted of a crime he didn't commit, a New York man walks free. But it's in a world he barely recognizes. We'll share his story.

O'BRIEN: Plus, sharks at risk? Wait a minute, do we have that backwards? We're going to dispel some common shark myths with a man whose last name is synonymous with the sea, Cousteau.

Did I say that right? Cousteau.

KEILAR: That's right.

O'BRIEN: Stay with us for more AMERICAN MATIN -- matin, that's it.


O'BRIEN: It is the largest public works project in the country, and this morning it is, at best, an embarrassment, and possibly a stunning example of criminal negligence. We're talking about Boston's so-called Big Dig, the multibillion-dollar, multidecade effort to bury some elevated highways in the heart of the city. Yesterday's fatal ceiling collapse you see there is in one Big Dig tunnel, just the latest in a long, sad tale.

The Massachusetts governor would like the agency head responsible to resign.


GOV. MITT ROMNEY (R), MASSACHUSETTS: People should not have to drive through the turnpike tunnels with their fingers crossed. Neither I, nor anyone else could be or should be satisfied until we have new leadership at the Turnpike Authority.


O'BRIEN: Well, the tunnel tragedy has sparked a criminal investigation, as well. Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly joining us from Boston with more on that.

Mr. Reilly, good to have you with us.


O'BRIEN: What could the possible charges be in this case?

REILLY: It would be manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter. We know what happened. It's just a terrible tragedy and unnecessary loss of life. We are treating this as a crime scene. There is a full-scale investigation going on both at the federal level, FBI Agency, state police assigned to my office. We've taken and secured the physical evidence. We are seizing documents.

We're going to get to the bottom of this as to why it happened, who is responsible, and to make sure this never happens again.

O'BRIEN: Well, give us a sense of what we know so far about what failed there and who that might lead to.

REILLY: Well, what -- what we know thus far is, this is a ceiling that's -- that is below the roof of the tunnel. It's secured, and a drop ceiling that's held up by a steel -- essentially a steel rod that is secured to the roof of the tunnel.

This became dislodged, and the inevitable happened. It came crushing down. And unfortunately, ended up in the tragic loss of life.

So, we've got to figure out -- and right now, the focus of the investigation -- what caused this to collapse. And it collapsed cleanly. There's no question about it.

And this isn't just one panel that we're talking about right now. And we're talking about and we're focused on the eastbound, where -- where this happened. The westbound -- and there are other panels that have shown evidence of being compromised in terms of their strength.

O'BRIEN: Well, that's a frightening thought. I wouldn't want to drive through that tunnel.

REILLY: Well, no one...

O'BRIEN: So, basically, whoever put in that tie rod didn't do their job, or was it the concrete guy? Or who was it?

REILLY: Well, we are going -- we are looking at everyone...


REILLY: ... from who designed it, who put it in, who tested it, and who signed off on it. And we're just talking about the eastbound lane now. We still have to deal with the westbound, where there's other evidence that have to be looked at of panels that have been compromised, and the HOV, which is a high-speed lane, as well.

O'BRIEN: So, the implications, not to trivialize the loss of life here, but the implications for shutting down these tunnels is tremendous for the city of Boston as you try to figure out all this. And just to add this to the laundry list here, this was something that was supposed to cost $2.6 billion. It's now in the $14.6 billion range.

You've had leaks. You've had concrete contractors arrested.

You're elected as a statewide office holder there. Are you personally embarrassed by this?

REILLY: I'm distressed by the -- as we all are, of everything that has happened. This is the worst,. And Melina Devalia (ph) and her family -- and it's a wonder her husband wasn't killed.

We're focused on that right now, finding out why this happened and making sure this never happens again. So, yes, there's tremendous inconvenience that is being caused by people. But, first and foremost, in our hearts and our minds and our prayers and our thoughts, are that young woman and her family, her husband.

This is something that -- something like this should never happen, but it did happen. And it's our responsibility to get the bottom of it.

O'BRIEN: In the "Boston Globe" this morning there's a cartoon, and everybody is kind of doing this routine. Who is responsible for this? Ultimately, somebody's got to be held accountable.

REILLY: That's what we're going to find out, and what the focus of this investigation is right now. We will get to the bottom of this, I assure you of that.

We've made progress. We've been at this a little over 24 hours right now. We've made progress, and we will continue.

We are going to use every investigative tool at our disposal to get to the bottom of this, get some answers, find out why this happened, hold anyone that is responsible, hold them accountable. And then make sure -- restore public confidence that something like this never happens.

So, this is a comprehensive, very thorough investigation at this point. We will get to the bottom of this, I assure you of that.

O'BRIEN: Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly, thanks for your time.

REILLY: You're welcome.

O'BRIEN: Brianna.

KEILAR: Thanks, Miles.

Coming up, we're going to be swimming with the sharks along with Jean-Michel Cousteau, whose famous last name you might recognize. He's going to debunk some common myths and tell us why the world's sharks are at risk ahead on this AMERICAN MORNING.


KEILAR: These are some live pictures from the Ty Warner Sea Center in Santa Barbara, California. And those are actually sharks, if you'll believe.

When we hear the word "shark," most of us think about the movie "Jaws," about the bloodthirsty Great White that terror ayes a sleepy New England town. But a new PBS series is hoping to dispel the myths and help save the sharks.

We go now to Jean-Michel Cousteau, son of the legendary ocean explorer, Jacques Cousteau. He joins us, as I said before, from Santa Barbara, California.

Good morning, Jean-Michel.


KEILAR: And now you say there are two myths about sharks. Can you tell us what these are?

COUSTEAU: Well, first of all, the sharks are grouped into the bad man killers. There are 400 of species of sharks, or thereabout. The great majority, if not all of them, are completely harmless to humans.

There's maybe five or six species, under certain circumstances, where you have to be careful. And those species, if they are in turbid water, there's food, bait, people fishing, you may run into an accident. Because sharks are playing a very important in the environment.

They are the scavengers of the ocean. They keep it clean. They keep it healthy. Their job is to pick up the dead, the wounded, the deformed.

And there's a complete misunderstanding about these animals. There are over 100 million sharks that are being killed every year. Several species are decreased to the point where they're below 10 percent. So they cannot do their job, they cannot take care of that marine environment in keeping it healthy, like many other species do, and that is our life support system.

So ultimately, it will affect us.

It is absolutely unacceptable to think that there's more than a billion people who live on $1 a day, and in the meantime, there's 100 million sharks that are being dumped back overboard after you cut their fins for shark fin soup, and those fins are loaded -- some of them, anyway, are loaded with mercury, so it's going to affect the quality of life of those people consuming it, particularly mothers who are pregnant.

So, that -- that is something we need to put back into the minds of the public, is that sharks are not the nasty man-eaters that they have depicted.

KEILAR: So, Jean-Michel, you are the host of "Ocean Adventures." Tonight we're going to see your program about sharks. And you say it's an accident when sharks attack. Why is that?

COUSTEAU: It's very exceptional. Most of the time they mistake us for a potential prey. And unfortunately, for those who are injured, attacked, and maybe bleed to death, there are very, very few such attacks, much less than there are people dying from these things or dying from, who knows, in their bathtub.

So, it's very important...

KEILAR: Jean-Michel, we're seeing -- we're seeing some amazing video.


KEILAR: We just saw some amazing video of you actually holding onto the dorsal fin. Was that a Great White?

COUSTEAU: That was a Great White shark. And I will never recommend for anyone to do this. I just wanted to show that they are not the nasty man-eater creatures.

They're very timid. But I was surrounded by security. I was in a place where there was no food, no fishing. The water was clear enough. And as you can tell, they are very gentle in their swimming habits.

KEILAR: And you felt safe?

COUSTEAU: I felt extremely safe. I want to show you what -- you know, what misconception people have.

Here we have a few species of sharks, and the amazing thing is that, you know, people think that sharks are really nasty creatures. Well, would you think that this is a man-eater, that this unbelievable swell (ph) shark, which is one of the 400 species, is going to attack any human being?

So, let's be realistic and give nature the proper credit that nature needs to have. There are very, very few species of sharks that are potentially dangerous.

KEILAR: And, Jean-Michel...

COUSTEAU: And most guys are completely harmless.

KEILAR: And we can tune in tonight PBS, at 8:00, see more of those interesting creatures, "Sharks at Risk."

Thank you so much for joining us.

COUSTEAU: You're very kind. Thank you, Brianna.

KEILAR: And we'll be back in just a moment.