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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Suicide Bomber Strikes in Downtown Jerusalem

Aired March 21, 2002 - 11:26   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.
CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks for joining us again. We have been following breaking news in central Jerusalem, where a suicide bomber has struck in downtown Jerusalem, killing at least two people and injuring perhaps more than 50 others.

In the meantime, in organization related to Yasser Arafat called the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade is claiming responsibility.

And CNN's State Department correspondent Andrea Koppel joins us right now, live more on this organization and what the Bush administration may do about it, while we look at pictures out of central Jerusalem -- Andrea.

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN STATE DEPT. CORRESPONDENT: Carol, there's been something that's been going on behind the scenes here for many, many weeks. The Bush administration has been laying the groundwork to designate this new group, the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, a foreign terrorist organization.

Now our viewers are probably not familiar with this group, or certainly weren't before September of 2000, and there's a good reason for that. It didn't exist. The Al Aqsa Martyr Brigade came about after the Al Aqsa Intifada began in December of 2000.

Now the significance of the designation of the brigade as a foreign terrorist organization is the following. There are legal consequences. Among them, it would be against the law to give this group money or any other material support. Representatives and members of Al Aqsa Brigade denied visas, excluded from travel to the United States. And any bank or financial institution would not be allowed to give this group any kind of funds.

But even more so, Carol, the significance is really symbolic. It's the U.S. coming out and publicly saying, as the will do in coming days, that this group is -- they are not freedom fighters; they are terrorists. And it will give the U.S. additional leverage to say to Yasser Arafat, at the next -- the next time there is some kind of an attack like the one that happened today, once this designation is in place. They can go to Arafat and say, you have to arrest these guys.

I should also say, Carol, that I just spoke with an aid to Secretary of State Powell, who said that the secretary has placed calls to both the Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat this morning from the plane. He's on the plane right now traveling with President Bush, and he's trying to get in touch with them. The message, according to this aid of Secretary Powell's is that this has got to stop. Yasser Arafat has got to be more assertive and weigh in.

But the question, as we heard John King raise a short time ago, the question in the minds of the Bush administration is whether or not Yasser Arafat has the ability, the wherewithal and the will, to prevent future such attacks -- Carol.

LIN: Andrea, then it seems to me that as the Palestinians meet with Yasser Arafat right now, that coming out of this meeting, Yasser Arafat would need to make a very specific declaration against his own organization here, the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, and actually take action then, making these arrest that the Bush administration wants him to make, in order for the peace process to go forward. Is it that explicit, do you think?

KOPPEL: Well, that is certainly, what the Bush administration and the Israelis would like to hear from Yasser Arafat, a public denouncement of both the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade and any and all terrorist attacks by groups like Hamas, Islamic Jihad and such.

I rather doubt that they are going to get that. Yasser Arafat has spoken out publicly, as Mike Hanna noted in a speech in December, condemning terrorism, but he has never been so specific as to explaining who he is referring to.

LIN: All right, thank you very much. Andrea Koppel reporting live from the State Department, as we look at these horrifying pictures out of central Jerusalem today, some of the 50 victims there who were hurt by this suicide bomber who struck late in the afternoon, in central Jerusalem, in Israel.

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