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Conflict in the Middle East: Suicide Bomber Kills Three, Injures Dozens

Aired May 27, 2002 - 13:48   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: The latest breaking news out of the Middle East. Almost two hours ago, a suicide bomber struck about seven miles outside of Tel Aviv at a cafe, where several women and children were enjoying a cup of coffee or just hanging out there. Now, more than 33 people, we understand, have been injured. At least three people killed.

CNN's Martin Savidge is at the scene of this explosion. Marty, can you give us an idea of what happened and if anybody yet has claimed responsibility?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: (OFF-MIKE) yet, Carol. We are in the town of Petah Tikva, which is located about maybe 10 miles to the east of Tel Aviv. This is outside of a shopping mall, as it would be commonly known back in the states. And it took place just underneath the white awning there, the latest explosion attack here in this particular community and in the state of Israel.

I'm joined by Gil Kleinman, who is the national spokesman for the police force. Tell us what we know about this latest attack.

GIL KLEINMAN, ISRAELI NATIONAL POLICE SPOKESMAN: All we know is the suicide bomber about 6:45 entered the cafe. As a result of that, he blew himself up and we have two dead, about 28 wounded, some of them in serious condition, some of them in moderate condition. That's what we know right now.

SAVIDGE: It's been reported that among the dead is at least one child.

KLEINMAN: I can't comment on that. The police officers are on the way to the families to notify them. I can't do that on public television. I can say though that terror doesn't differentiate between infants and old people.

SAVIDGE: Were there warnings for this specific town?

KLEINMAN: This specific town, no. But since the early morning hours, the area police have been under a warning, a general warning, not for this specific cafe, but a general warning and have been mobilized at full force in this area. We had no specific warnings on this specific cafe.

SAVIDGE: What would this place have been like at the time in which it happened?

KLEINMAN: Well, it is the evening hours, people sitting in a cafe. We know that there is a mall right next door. We're checking now whether the fact that the mall had a security guard at the entrance, caused the suicide bomber to divert himself to the left and enter into the cafe. That's being checked.

SAVIDGE: You mean, instead of going in the mall, he might have chosen an easier target?

KLEINMAN: Yes, we have seen that before, that they see a security guard or a police officer on the scene, and then they change their direction and go to a less protected target. But that's being checked. We are not sure about that yet.

SAVIDGE: This follows the discovery of an explosive device in Jerusalem this morning.

KLEINMAN: We had morning -- it has been a busy day -- in the morning, we had a five-liter canister, metal canister containing explosive found in a residential area, on a pathway leading to a residential area. That was dismantled. That was one of the 300 that we've dismantled in the last year and a half. Here, unfortunately, he succeeded in blowing himself up.

SAVIDGE: Gil Kleinman, thank you very much for joining us.

KLEINMAN: Thank you very much.

SAVIDGE: Carol, this is just the latest example of a suicide bomber striking in the background here at the coffee shop. There have been other examples of this. This is believed to be the fifth suicide bombing attack in Israel in the month of May -- Carol.

LIN: Marty, some earlier reports indicated that the security guard, maybe the one at the mall, actually fired some shots at the suicide bomber. Did you hear anything like that at the scene?

SAVIDGE: No. There has been conflicting reports about that. Initially, there were indications. Someone said shots fired, it may have been the security guard. Now, other people on the scene say that they don't remember hearing any shots fired. So that remains unclear at this particular point.

It should pointed out that there are security guards. They are quite common outside of many facilities here in Israel, whether it be dining, coffee shops or, in this case, a shopping mall. We already know of one suicide attempt last week that was averted because of the gunfire that came from a security guard -- Carol.

LIN: That's right. On the frontlines there. Thank you very much, Martin Savidge, reporting live just outside of Tel Aviv, the scene of the latest suicide bombing attack.

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