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White House Condemns Attacks in Israel, Kenya

Aired November 28, 2002 - 11:02   ET


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN ANCHOR: Let's turn now to J. Kelly McCann. He is a terrorism analyst, and he frequently helps us out with his insight. He joins us now by telephone from Fredericksburg, Virginia. Thanks for interrupting your Thanksgiving holiday to talk with us.
Let's start with the missile. What do we know about this missile reportedly used in these attacks?


Well, there is a couple of things. Number one, of course, SA-7 is know to be more effective against the civilian aircraft signature at lower altitudes, and there is a proliferation of those kinds of weapons, the MANPADs, man-packable air defense missiles, in you know, countries where borders are poorest, where war have been rife. So that is going to be a continuing problem, I fear, in the future, but certainly, you know, this time, we got away well.

SAVIDGE: It looks somewhat like a U.S. stinger missile. Is that about the end of the similarities, is just looks?

MCCANN: They are similar in function. They have some different characteristics, as far as how they track, what they recognize when they get up in the air, but the concept is the same.

SAVIDGE: And is this a heat-seeking warhead on the end of it?

MCCANN: It depends on the configuration. This are mutations of these kinds of missiles out there that have been altered. So the best we can do is try to figure out what signature looked like, by the -- what the pilots actually saw and the passengers saw, and then determine from there whether it was an SA-7 at all, or something else.

SAVIDGE: And you look at this, and you realize it is obviously easy to hide, easy to transport?

MCCANN: Absolutely. And low signature. In other words, before you actually arm the missile and press the trigger, there is no signature to pick up except for when it locks on, and then when you release the missile, that's it. The tube can actually fire and forget, so you don't have to track the aircraft, which means that the shooter then can be mobile.

SAVIDGE: They fired two, and then fortunately they missed. But that seems remarkable.

MCCANN: Well, it goes to redundancy. In fact, in a lot of cases, that would be a good tactic to make sure that one missile actually did succeed, so it is interesting.

SAVIDGE: What is the range on this? Could the aircraft have been much higher and still be as successful?

MCCANN: A civilian aircraft will always be within range on an SA-7 until the very, very high parameters that it can fly at.

SAVIDGE: What sort of training to operate one of these?

MCCANN: Minimal. Remember, it's a battlefield weapon that men of all descriptions are easily trained to fire. Now, we do know in fact that CNN had tapes that showed Al Qaeda, and we can't make that leap yet that it was in fact Al Qaeda, a terrorist group, maybe not Al Qaeda, that they were training in the use of that kind of missile. So it is battlefield type of thing that is kind of common.

SAVIDGE: Relatively inexpensive and prevalent out there?

MCCANN: It is. You get a big thing for the buck. And as the Russians started to make available their weapons in normal legal weapons trade, that filtered down to people who preferred who didn't center that kind of capability.

SAVIDGE: All right, we appreciate it. J. Kelly McCann, we appreciate it, To talk about the two missiles used in the attack fortunately missed of an Israeli jetliner in Kenya.

Suicide bombers though did detonate a powerful explosive at an Israeli-owned hotel in a Kenyan resort city.

CNN was told that 13 people were killed when three people crashed their way into the hotel reception area.

CNN's Catherine Bond is at that hotel near Mombasa and joins us on now live the videophone with the latest -- Catherine.

CATHERINE BOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: ... recovered at least 13 bodies from the site of attack, which happened when the occupants of the car came to the gate of their hotel shortly after tourist bus full of Israeli tourists arrived in the hotel to check in. The occupants were told to go back in. They were refused entry to the hotel initially. They revered their vehicle, crashed through the barrier, and moments later, their car exploded just outside the hotel lobby area.

So it looks as if it was a timed bomb, that's at least what Kenyan police are saying it is now. They think that they found the explosive device which set the bomb off inside the car. They were exhibiting a sort of wire earlier on and what appeared to be a detonator. It completely destroyed the vehicle. Parts of the vehicle were sent as many as 50 yards away from the site where the car exploded, leaving a small crater in the ground. It also burnt out the area around it, and caused the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to catch fire, which then burnt the hotel, and the hotel now looks like it is in ruins -- Martin. SAVIDGE: Catherine, there have been reports supposedly circulating on the Internet that there would be an attack of this sort in Kenya. Had there been any sort of government warning about it?

BOND: Reporter: a local government official we spoke to, yes, said the hotel was routinely guarded by Kenyan police at night, but they just left. It wasn't guarded during the day, and they just left their duty, overnight duty here.

No, I don't think that anybody here expecting an attack on an Israeli target in Kenya. This hotel is Israeli owned, and about 100 percent of its occupants are regularly Israeli tourists.

So local government officials saying that it must have been something who watched it for some time, who planed this attack. They knew that the air charter came in on a particular day each week, delivering Israeli tourists and taking others home again.

So they do think that some preparation went into it. They say they spoke to the security guards who saw the attackers. The security guards has described them as non-African, but haven't given a much clearer identity other than that there were three men inside of the vehicle that blew up -- Martin.

SAVIDGE: Catherine, are there other Israeli tourists still in Kenya now, and what is being done to either protect them, or what are they being told?

BOND: There were a number leaving here when we arrived here this morning. They were being taken away in coaches to other hotels. There is another Israeli hotel not far from here.

I don't know the numbers in total, but some are still clearly in the country. It's the second time that Israelis have been targeted in Kenya, although the last was a very long time ago. It was about 30 years. And an Israeli-owned hotel in Nairobi was targeted by Palestinians.

So we know that there are some Israeli business interests here. Israeli has an embassy in Nairobi. They said they have taken extra security precautions this morning. Many people from the embassy came down here to find out what is going on. They've had their own people here through the day. People from the American embassy are investigating here, working with Kenyan investigators -- Martin.

SAVIDGE: Thank you, Catherine. Catherine Bond is live on the videophone near Mombasa, outside the Paradise Hotel, where the terrorists attack took place.

Aides are keeping President Bush up to speed on the Kenyan attacks. He is at his ranch in Texas, spending the Thanksgiving holiday with family. And senior White House correspondent John King is also there, and he joins us live from Crawford -- John.

JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hello to you, Marty. We are told President Bush was informed by his traveling National Security Council aide earlier this morning about the attacks in Kenya and the shooting in Israel as well. Mr. Bush then called his National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice. She is back in Washington. Mr. Bush called her for an update and some additional information.

White House spokesman Gordon Johndrow (ph) telling us on the phone a few moments ago -- quote -- "The United States government deplores this violence, and we stand ready to assist the governments of Kenya and Israel as they investigate these attacks."

Mr. Johndrow (ph) also saying it is premature to speculate whether there is any Al Qaeda role in these strikes. Obviously the government in Kenya and government officials in Israel have suggested a possible Al Qaeda role in the Kenyan strikes because of the use of surface-to-air missiles. U.S. officials say it is premature. Mr. Johndrow (ph) saying the White House is not ruling anything in, anything out, and he says any assets of the United States government that might be helpful in the investigation will be made available to the governments of Kenya and Israel.

Again, President Bush here in Crawford, Texas. He had hoped for a very quiet Thanksgiving with family and friends, including his father, the former president, here at Crawford ranch. But the president is being kept informed about these developments.

And we should note, Marty, this comes at an already very sensitive time in U.S.-Israeli relations. An Israeli delegation was in Washington just this past week, urging the administration to support a multibillion additional aid package to Israel, because of its own security concerns and its additional security concerns, should there be a confrontation with Iraq continuing violence only to underscore the Israeli's request from the United States for more economic assistance and billions more in military assistance -- Marty.

SAVIDGE: John, how long will the president be away?

KING: He is due back in Washington on Sunday. And as always, when me comes to the Crawford ranch, the president trying to get some downtime, some private time, but he travels with a senior staff, including a representative from the National Security Council, so when there are developments like this around the world, obviously, there are U.S. troops deployed overseas obviously in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

The president has secure communications. He does keep track of all of these developments around the world when he's here in Texas.

SAVIDGE: John King live with the president in Crawford, Texas, thanks very much.


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