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Bombing In Turkey Leaves 16 Dead

Aired November 15, 2003 - 07:04   ET


THOMAS ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Up first for you this morning on CNN, blasted buildings and twisted wreckage mark the scene of a pair of bombings in Turkey. At least 16 people are dead in what Turkish officials say looks like coordinated terror attacks near two synagogues on the Jewish Sabbath.
For the latest on these twin blasts taking place in Istanbul, we want to check in now with Andrew Finkel. We've been talking to him throughout the morning. He's standing by live in the city with more for us. Andrew?

ANDREW FINKEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on phone): I'm standing in front of Neve Shalom Synagogue. This is the main synagogue in the city in Istanbul, and then also which has borne the brunt of one of the attacks this morning.

It's still quite a crowded scene. The blast was some time ago, but there are still ambulances waiting here, there are still police here who've sealed off the street, there's firemen, and there's people clearing up the wreckage.

What appears to have happened is -- we're not exactly sure of the details, but it seems that some -- a small van, a small little truck, drove down the street and detonated the device on the way. There's a large crater near the site of the synagogue.

Now, there's quite a good deal of security at all times in front of synagogues in Turkey, so it appears that most of the damage, most of those who died, were basically people in the street here and in the site of another blast here, another synagogue, in another busy commercial part of town.

Over to you.

ROBERTS: Andrew, the search continues in nearby buildings, does it not, for people possibly injured? Because as we're seeing from the video there, nearby buildings, windows are shattered, the damage that has taken place there is extensive.

FINKEL: The damage is extensive. I think we're not expecting any more major tragedies, though. There have been -- none of the buildings appear to have been destroyed entirely by the blast. There's been -- a lot of the facades have been damaged. This is a neighborhood where they sell a lot of lamp fixtures and things like that, so it -- after the blast, it's hard to imagine the amount of broken glass that was everywhere. But there are ambulances, of course, I guess in case something is discovered. But now it's not so much (UNINTELLIGIBLE) rescue operation but of the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -- well, the forensic scientists here, the forensic police are here to see what they can make of the blasts to see who -- what exactly happened.

But really, I think, that the people who now have to clean up are the politicians, are Turkey's leaders. The minister of the interior was here not that long ago to see for himself. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the mayor of Istanbul was here, the local mayor was here. He was very shocked. He told reporters outside the scene that this has nothing to do with Turkey, this has nothing to do with this century, he said.

It's the holy month of Ramadan. Turkey's a secular country, but the Islamic fasting holidays observed by quite a lot of people.

And I think the people are just very shocked that this should have happened at any time, let alone (UNINTELLIGIBLE) during Ramadan.

ROBERTS: Andrew Finkel reporting in Istanbul. Andrew, thank you very much.

And the search for answers continues. Israel's ambassador, though, to Turkey, is on his way to the scene. And back in Israel, officials have already denounced the attack and asked the international community to take action.

We want to check in now with our Chris Burns. He's live in Jerusalem and brings us Israeli reaction. Chris, good morning.

CHRIS BURNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thomas, "criminal terror acts" is what the Israeli government is calling these attacks. And the fact that Turks were really what -- the ones who bore the brunt of the casualties is bringing reaction from the Israelis, saying, Well, look, it doesn't matter if the victims are Jews or non-Jews, terror is terror.

And that is what the Israeli government has focused itself on fighting.

Yes, its ambassador is on the way to Istanbul to tour those areas, the two bombing sites. The (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the relations between Turkey and Israel have been quite close, really, over the last few decades. In fact, Turkey is the first Muslim country to have recognized the state of Israel when Israel was established back in 1948. And since then, those ties have continued to develop, even including military ties.

So that obviously does not go down well among a number, quite a few, probably, Muslims in the Muslim world. And however, we do have to caution to be very careful about what the motive is in all of this, and exactly which group did this. But the fact that those car bombings occurred near these synagogues could be an indication that they were aimed not only at the Jews inside but even at the Turks themselves, Thomas.

ROBERTS: And Chris, unfortunately, the Neve Shalom Synagogue has been a target for violence in the past.

BURNS: Yes, absolutely. Back in 1986, gunmen went in there, a gunmen who were believed to have had sympathies for the Palestinian movement went in there and sprayed worshipers with gunfire and killed 22 worshipers inside. That obviously was the bloodiest attack in that synagogue, the biggest synagogue, the main synagogue in Istanbul, the biggest city in Turkey.

And obviously, of course, this latest -- these latest twin car bombings are only the latest attacks against Jewish and Israeli institutions around the world, so obviously the Israelis very much on guard around the world in case there are any future attacks as well, Thomas.

ROBERTS: Chris, thank you. Our Chris Burns live for us this morning in Jerusalem.


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