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Suicide Bombing Near Palestine Hotel

Aired April 10, 2003 - 11:55   ET


LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Our Walter Rodgers now, who was unembedded with the troops there. Getting some word of a suicide bombing there, is that what I'm hearing, Walt?
WALTER RODGERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's correct Leon. Just a few minutes ago. I can see the smoke rising in the distance, perhaps 400 yards away. Several Marines were standing post, that is, at least four of them. An Iraqi civilian walked up. He was a suicide bomber. They had no way of knowing that. We understand the four Marines are now seriously injured, several severely injured. Again, four Marines injured in a suicide bomb attack by an Iraqi civilian. They have free access to these checkpoints. The Marines are all around the city, as well as the U.S. Army, and the Iraqis are making good on their threats to carry out suicide bomb attacks.

Just a short while ago, in the distance, I can see the smoke rising. About 400 meter from I am, about a quarter of a mile away, an Iraqi civilian walked up to a Marine post, just guards on the street, and then detonated, obviously killing himself in a huge blast. It was very loud, black smoke still pouring up, oh, maybe five, 10 minutes later. A suicide bomber injury very badly, four Marines -- Leon.

HARRIS: Walter, you're saying the Marines are injured, no telling exactly how badly they're injured at this point? You just know it is a serious injury, is that all?

RODGERS: I think it's very seriously, from what we're hearing. There were four injured, and several of them at least were injured very, very seriously.

Nighttime, here, Leon, gets very, very dangerous. This is when the pockets of opposition, the Fedayeen, come out and begin shooting down the streets and at the U.S. sentries, both the Army and the Marine sentries in downtown Baghdad. Again, just as we were about to go on air to bring you the breaking news about the four Marines and the suicide bomber, in the distance there, we heard several mortars falling, reasonably close to where we are -- Leon.

HARRIS: Walter, now we know that the Marines have been warned this kind of thing was happening. Is there any way to tell if they were conducting any kind of process or screening method to keep people away from them, to keep this sort of thing from actually causing even more damage? Was there any sort of procedure in place there?

RODGERS: I've seen these procedures. I can't talk about that one, but there's another Marine checkpoint just 100 yards from where I'm standing. And the civilians walk up to these Marines, and the Iraqi citizens of Baghdad try to walk through the Marine checkpoints. They generally get turned back. But of course the Marines can't keep them at gunpoint 50 meters away. They walk up to the Marines, they present their case, and tragically, just a few moments ago, an Iraqi civilian, a normal, Baghdad citizen, so it appeared, apparently had high explosives strapped to himself, walked up to another Marine checkpoint. There's a Marine checkpoint over there behind me.

Virtually every street corner in this particular section of Baghdad has Marines or Army sentries out at this time of the night. At this point, particularly when it gets dark, and very dangerous, they just won't let anyone near them. But in the day time, it's impossible to keep the Iraqi citizens away from the U.S. soldiers and Marines -- Leon.

HARRIS: Well, Walt, while we're trying to get more information about that particular incident, I want to ask you if you've heard anything like what we heard moments ago. We talked with Scott Nelson of "The Boston Globe" who said that he heard -- I'm now being told there was a different incident -- this incident Scott Nelson -- I'm sorry, same incident -- Jeff, you saying the same incident? Same incident we're talking about with Walter. Thank you. I'm getting clarification here in my ear.

There was incident reported earlier by Scott Nelson of "The Boston Globe" who said there were 23 Marines involved in another -- fighting or skirmish that was happening some place else in town. The word we're getting on that is there was one Marine killed and there some 22 others injured. I just want to check and see if you heard anything at all about that incident.

RODGERS: Yes, Leon. North of the city, and north of Baghdad, there's been heavy fighting throughout the day. We've had Iraqis telling us about this heavy fighting, and the Marines were involved in that. These are -- that terrible euphemism pockets of resistance, because if you're in a pocket of resistance, it's World War III, everybody's shooting at you. There are holdout pockets of Fedayeen, and remnants of Republican Guard and Iraqi irregulars working the city very, very hard. And as I say, north of the city, we could hear the shooting off and on all day. We know there was very stiff fighting up there -- Leon.

HARRIS: All right. Thank you, Walt. We want to clarify that because earlier we had been talking to Scott Nelson (ph) and he had said there were 23 Marines killed. We want to make sure that that was the case or not. We want to confirm that.

We're now hearing one Marine dead, 22 injured. And we're getting that same confirmation from you here. What do you know, Walt, there about -- is there going to be any change now in what the Marines right now are going to be doing to protect themselves?

RODGERS: Well, at night nobody is coming near them. Again, we're on a Marine outpost here, some 1st Division Marines. I was chatting with them. None of the Iraqi civilians can come anywhere near them at night. And of course the Marines are going to be extraordinarily nervous, because, as I say, some of their colleagues were just -- four of their colleagues were very severely injured just a half a mile, a quarter mile away from where I'm standing.

I can still see the smoke rising from where that suicide bomber detonated himself and injured those Marines. Again, I was speaking with the Marines at this checkpoint just 20 meters away. They're standing firm; nobody gets near them. But in the day, that's impossible to prevent -- Leon.

HARRIS: Understood. Walter Rodgers reporting to us now live from Baghdad with breaking news there. The word coming out just moments ago, a civilian there walked up to a Marine checkpoint there in Baghdad, detonated an explosive, killing himself obviously, in a suicide bombing. And now we understand from Walt's report here that four Marines have been injured in this incident.

Walt, we still have you up right now on the screen. We just wanted to give you a chance now to recap and add any other information that I have not been able to relay just now to our audience that may be just joining us right now.

RODGERS: Well, tragedy for U.S. Marines just within the last 10 to 15 minutes. About a quarter of a mile from where I'm standing there was a loud explosion, the smoke is still pouring up into the night sky. I can see it here against the sunset.

And according to the Marines with whom I've been speaking at the checkpoint just over my left shoulder, an Iraqi civilian walked up, approached a Marine checkpoint, as Iraqis have been doing all day, except this was no ordinary Iraqi. It was a suicide bomber; he had explosives strapped around himself. When he got close to four Marines at the checkpoint we're told that he detonated himself. There are now four very seriously injured Marines here in downtown Baghdad -- Leon.

HARRIS: All right. Thank you, Walter. Clear evidence once again that the warning we've received or we had all heard days ago from the Iraqi information minister about an asymmetrical or an unconventional tactics being played out there by Iraqi troops, more evidence of that happening this evening.

Thank you Walt. And Walt, you be careful. We'll check back with you in just a bit.


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