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America's New War: Terrorism in the Last Decade

Aired September 21, 2001 - 06:23   ET

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


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Much of the focus and our coverage and much of everyone's coverage of this America's New War has been focusing on Afghanistan; however, -- there you go, live TV. No that was not a strike.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No.

HARRIS: The strikes have not been gone. But as we move now to look at Osama bin Laden and his entire portfolio, we see that he is a global terroristic presence.

And Miles O'Brien is here to show us exactly, in a graphic way, exactly what that's all about.

O'BRIEN: Well, Leon, you know the president last night said that bin Laden and his organization, al Qaeda are to terror what the Mafia is to crime. And he also underscored the point that despite all the focus that we've been having on Afghanistan and its immediate surrounding environs, this is a group with links to at least 60 countries that the intelligence apparatus can identify.

And while that's a very difficult thing to pin down, obviously, and difficult for us to get a sense of where all those cells might be, you can tell a lot just by looking back at the past 10 years and the terrible -- really the trail of terror, if you will, that is linked to bin Laden and the al Qaeda organization.

Let's take a look at what we've got here. The trail of terror, if you will, begins in 1992 in Yemen -- Aden, Yemen. And this is when a car bomb exploded outside of a couple of hotels that housed U.S. servicemen. At the time, no U.S. servicemen were killed and a single tourist was killed but no Americans.

Now as we go toward the next year, 1993, the first World Trade Center bombing. Now as we all know there was an entirely different group that was tried and convicted in this particular event. But not we should...

HARRIS: As I remember was it Sheik Omar Abdel Rockmad?

O'BRIEN: Exactly. Ramsey Yousef being one of the key people...

HARRIS: That's right. O'BRIEN: ... actually involved. The fact of the matter is, we shouldn't forget that Osama bin Laden was an unindicted coconspirator to this...

HARRIS: That's right.

O'BRIEN: ... particular attack. So the World Trade Center was definitely on his radar screen or so investigators believe.

Now, let's go back to October or a little later that year, October of 1993, Mogadishu, Somalia, this is when the U.S. troops were in there helping with the famine relief. And on the surface, you might not think this is a terrorist activity, but according to Intelligence sources, al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden's people were on the ground helping the warlords there learn how to fire rocket- propelled grenades. Those rocket-propelled grenades were fired at Blackhawk helicopters. One of those was brought down.

HARRIS: That's right.

O'BRIEN: A two-day firefight ensued, 18 servicemen killed. It was the bloodiest day really since the Vietnam War as far as a firefight goes for U.S. servicemen.

HARRIS: And we'll never forget the images of those Mogadishu -- as the guys there dragging the body of that one pilot through the streets. Remember that?

O'BRIEN: It's just an awful event when you think about it.

HARRIS: Yes.

O'BRIEN: Let's move along now to November 13 of 1995, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Car bomb detonates there outside the U.S. military headquarters, and you remember this image, of course, five U.S. airmen were killed in that attack. The people that were involved in this are said to have been influenced by bin Laden's writing. Bin Laden is a rather prolific -- well, he espouses his philosophy all throughout the Islamic world and is looked upon with some reverence in some quarters.

Now let's move along to August 7 of 1998, Leon,...

HARRIS: Yes.

O'BRIEN: ... this is a moment that none of us will probably forget,...

HARRIS: Oh yes.

O'BRIEN: ... the twin bombings -- nine minutes apart at the two U.S. embassies, Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Two hundred and twenty-four people were killed in those two attacks, well coordinated, obviously well synchronized. Sort of presages what we saw, but you also get the sense, as you go along here, that there's sort of a crescendo of violence. HARRIS: I was about to mention that because it seems as though what we're looking at here, and I'm just thinking back from the 1995 to 1998 timeline you've just drawn here, we've seen an increase in sophistication.

O'BRIEN: Absolutely. It gets more complicated, more sophisticated, more synchronized. We're told that Osama bin Laden is fascinated with the whole concept of synchronized attacks.

Now finally, let's bring this up to October 12 of 2000, the last one prior to September 11, the USS Cole. This was a suicide bomb situation. The Cole was going back to Aden. Interesting that we end up back in Aden -- the Port of Aden in Yemen.

HARRIS: Any significance there?

O'BRIEN: Well, yes, Yemen is known to be a place that harbors terrorism. That is something that the U.S. has said many times and U.S. Intelligence officials have confirmed this. And this is where the problem comes in when you start trying to fight a war against terrorism, you have many of these countries that are sympathetic to the causes of Osama bin Laden and the al Qaeda and that makes it very difficult of course to get -- to identify targets, to get cooperation from local authorities there.

HARRIS: Yes.

O'BRIEN: They are harbored, in many cases, by some of these governments who are sympathetic. One point there is, of course the one attack, the one most notable attack that has been foiled, there may be others that we don't even know about, but the Y2K extravaganza, if you will,...

HARRIS: Yes.

O'BRIEN: ... that was planned, a bombing at Los Angeles airport and a hotel in Jordan at the attempt to sink a warship before the Cole. All that was foiled by investigators and some incompetents on the part of the people who were planning that attack. That also was linked to Osama bin Laden.

HARRIS: And many of the experts that we've been talking to in the last seven or eight days or so have been saying that those are cases where we have just been very, very lucky.

O'BRIEN: Exactly. Exactly, so you know it's when you look at this war is -- if you call it a war. I don't know if that's anything we understand to be a war. I think we sort of have to redefine the terms here somewhat.

HARRIS: Yes. All right, thanks. Miles O'Brien, appreciate the explainer...

O'BRIEN: Thank you.

HARRIS: ... and the geography lesson as well. O'BRIEN: All right.

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