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Explosions in Istanbul, Turkey

Aired November 20, 2003 - 06:03   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: On a day when President Bush is in Britain talking world peace, explosions kill a score of people and wound hundreds in Iraq and in Turkey.
Let's begin in Turkey -- actually, let's bring in our senior international editor, David Clinch, right now to bring us up-to-date.

We have confirmed now that there were two explosions -- one at this international bank with British ties, the other at the British consulate.

DAVID CLINCH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL EDITOR: Correct. We have had the Turkish officials and CNN Turk, our sister network in Istanbul, in Turkey, confirm to us that there were two explosions -- one at the consulate in Istanbul, the British embassy is in Ankara. We understand the British ambassador is on his way from Ankara to Istanbul to assess.

Foreign Secretary Straw told us earlier in a live press conference that at least three or four staff members at the consulate in Istanbul did not turn up for a roll call after that explosion. We do not know if they are British citizens or local staff members. We do not know if they're dead, but we are looking into that. We expect the ambassador to turn up there at the consulate shortly.

We also know that this bank, HSBC, an international bank that's headquarters in London, was also targeted in another place in Istanbul.

COSTELLO: And these were huge explosions...

CLINCH: They were very large explosions.

COSTELLO: ... because this explosion at the bank also damaged a nearby shopping mall.

CLINCH: That's correct. And we're being told now from officials in Turkey, CNN Turk is reporting that at least 15 people had died and hundreds are injured. These obviously were huge explosions.

Our CNN Turk reporter at the consulate location, for instance, was able to tell us that -- we are being told that they were car bombs, and that the car attempted to go into the consulate area and was stopped at a wall, which he said was 100 meters away from the building, and yet there is still damage to the building itself and obviously to the mall nearby. COSTELLO: And, of course, the next question: Who is to blame? The British foreign secretary, Jack Straw, spoke just a short time ago. Let's listen to what he had to say.


JACK STRAW, BRITISH FOREIGN SECRETARY: What has happened in Istanbul this morning are clearly appalling acts of terrorism. We still obviously do not have details by any means, but it appears there have been five, at least, bomb blasts, where were coordinated, including one on the HSBC headquarters and another on the British consulate general building.

So, we are aware that there are already a number of reports of deaths and serious injuries.

I've just spoken to Peter Westmacott, who is the British ambassador in Ankara. He is now on his way in the Turkish minister of the interior's airplane to Istanbul.

So far as British employees at the consulate general are concerned, there are three or four who have not reported to the roll call, and we are obviously making every effort to identify what has happened to those individuals.

I intend to make a statement at 12:30 in the House of Commons. At this stage, we cannot say for certain who has been responsible for this appalling act of terrorism in Istanbul, which comes on top of the savage outrage against the Jewish and Muslim people in Istanbul last Saturday.

But I'm afraid to say it has all the hallmarks of the international terrorism practiced by al Qaeda and the associated organizations, and it re-emphasizes the central message of President Bush and Prime Minister Blair and all other world leaders about the fact that we face a very serious threat of international terrorism, and that the whole of the international community has to understand and accept its responsibilities to dealing with it.


COSTELLO: And, of course, he said all of the earmarkings of al Qaeda to blame for these two terrorist attacks in Istanbul, Turkey. And not long after Jack Straw spoke, there was a call to a Turkish government office, and it said...

CLINCH: That's correct. A call in Istanbul to a Turkish government office, which we understand came from a Turkish Muslim militant group claiming responsibility for these attacks, and saying that they had done this on their behalf, but also on behalf of al Qaeda. They claim to have links to al Qaeda and be acting on orders from al Qaeda. We're checking into that, but interestingly, this same group claimed responsibility for the attacks on Jewish targets in Istanbul just last weekend. So, we're looking into that.

COSTELLO: OK, we'll let you get back so you can look into that further.

We want to head live to London now and our Robin Oakley.

We had expected the president and Tony Blair to speak when they appeared briefly for a photo-op outside of 10 Downing Street, but in they went.

Robin, can you hear me?

ROBIN OAKLEY, CNN SENIOR EUROPEAN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I can hear you, Carol, yes. I'm sorry. I thought you were continuing further there.

We were expecting to have some words from Tony Blair and George Bush, but not really until their press conference this morning. Jack Straw had obviously been deputed to give the first reaction from the two governments to what has happened in Istanbul. And it's being seen as no coincidence whatsoever that these attacks have happened while Tony Blair and the queen are playing host to George Bush on his state visit to London.

Turkey, of course, is a crucial ally for the United States. It's an important member of NATO, and, of course, Britain is among those countries pushing for Turkey to be admitted in due course into the European Union with the support of the United States.

So, no coincidence really seen here in London about this -- Carol.


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