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Aftermath of London Terror; Hurricane Dennis Approaches

Aired July 8, 2005 - 14:30   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. We're tracking Hurricane Dennis, new information on the powerful storm's path. We'll go live to the National Hurricane Center for a complete update. That's coming up. First, though, let's get a quick check of some other stories "Now in the News."
At least 49 people are confirmed dead in the mass transit bombings in London. That's the latest count from Scotland Yard, amid the difficult task of recovering all of the bodies from bomb-damaged underground trains. Queen Elizabeth says the terrorist bombing will not change the British way of life.

In Iraq, an American soldier is dead and three soldiers wounded in a roadside explosion north of Baghdad. At the same time, a top U.S. general says security forces are finding success in reducing the numbers of rebel attacks in the Iraqi capital.

And the G-8 Summit concludes in Scotland with pledges of aid to Africa totalling $50 billion. World leaders also pledged up to $3 billion in additional aid to the Palestinians in the next three years.

Hurricane Dennis, now a category 4 storm, taking direct aim at Cuba right now, lashing the south central part of the island. Packing winds of 150 miles an hour, it's described as extremely dangerous.

Our Lucia Newman is in thick of things. She's filed this report just a short time ago.


LUCIA NEWMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Well, Hurricane Dennis finally has touched the mainland here. It entered the Cienfuegos province in the south of Cuba and is slowly making its way up here, toward Mantanzas and Havana provinces to the north of the country, where I'm speaking to you from. In fact, I'm talking to you from Vadadero. This the most famous beach resort in Cuba. And there are thousands of tourists from Europe and from Canada who have been completely caught by surprise by this. Many have of them have been evacuated already from the nearby Keys, taken to hotel here in Vadadero, and they're not really sure where to go, because this has been a very fickle storm.

It's very powerful. It's fluctuating between category 4 and 5, which means that it's extremely, extremely, dangerous. And -- but they don't know whether to go Havana, where it's going to come out. So far, at least 6,000 have been evacuated throughout this island. And that means that -- and many, thousands more will be, we are told by the Cuba's civil defense, which has put more than have of the Caribbean's largest island already on maximum hurricane alert.

Now, Cubans are very used to hurricanes. They're used to preparing themselves, getting themselves out of harm's way. They've been taken to shelters, hospitals and schools, and areas that are considered to be safe. But the real problem here comes afterwards, when it's all over. Because unlike in Florida, which is only 90 miles away, people here do not have the resources to protect their homes and what little possessions that they have. There's no Home Depot, there are no hardware stores they can go to, they can't even buy a little bit of tape to protect their windows.

So after this storm passes comes the real problem. They simply are at the mercy of mother nature, when it comes to protecting what they have. Now people are bracing themselves. The storm is expected to finally leave Cuba late this evening and it's moving very, very slowly. The hope is that at least it will slow down as it passes through the mainland.

Lucia Newman, CNN, Mantanzas, Cuba.


BLITZER: Forecasters predict Dennis will intensify even more before slamming into the U.S. mainland along the northern Gulf Coast somewhere. Officials have ordered residents and tourists in the Florida Keys to evacuate. The navy also moving its personnel out. The hurricane watch has been posted for the island chain. Farther north along the Florida Panhandle, residents and tourists also are heading out. Long lines of traffic forming near Pensacola as people moving north, away from the path of Dennis. Officials earlier evacuated beaches along the Alabama coast. Dennis is now expected to make landfall late Sunday, perhaps early Monday.

Joining us from Miami, Ed Rappaport with the National Hurricane Center. What is the latest information we're getting on the track, the path, of Dennis?

ED RAPPAPORT, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER: As of this afternoon, the hurricane is making landfall. The center is coming ashore in southern Cuba, near Cienfuegos. We expect that the motion, which has been to the northwest, will continue. We've pretty much been anchored on that forecast track for more than a day. I think the center will come up and follow a path, something like this. And what that means is that we'll have hurricane conditions over Cuba during the night, then the center will reemerge to the Gulf of Mexico, southeast Gulf of Mexico, the overnight hours.

It still is a major hurricane now. It's category 4 at this time. We think there'll be some weakening. It will still be a category 3 or category 4 hurricane as it passes very close to the Florida Keys, we're hoping just off to the west, far enough to keep hurricane conditions out of there.

BLITZER: What about people who live on the western coast of Florida, as the hurricane moves up the Gulf. What will they be feeling, if anything, the outside effects of this hurricane? RAPPAPORT: We will have some effects for the Florida peninsula. Right now there's already a tropical storm warning up for the southern peninsula. But as the hurricane moves up and comes in roughly parallel to the coast here on the West Coast, we expect that we will have to extend the watches and warnings up the Florida West Coast and ultimately, we're talking about a landfall between southeast Louisiana and the Florida Panhandle.

BLITZER: How accurate is that, based on previous experience, in terms of these hurricanes at the last minute making a left-hand turn or a right-hand turn?

RAPPAPORT: They occasionally do, and so there is some uncertainty, particularly as you go further out in time with the forecast. Obviously, as we get way out here to days three and four from now, there's great uncertainty. But we think that we're pretty much locked into a landfall from southeastern Louisiana, eastward over to the Florida Panhandle.

BLITZER: So at this point, would it be wise for people living along that entire area to start thinking about evacuation or should they wait?

RAPPAPORT: They should be thinking about what they're going to do if an evacuation is called for. Most important issue now is that they should be paying attention to their local emergency management officials. There are no watches or warnings up at this time, but there's a likelihood that watches will have to be raised, either later today or tonight.

BLITZER: And finally, very briefly, the best guess what time it will hit landfall?

RAPPAPORT: That depends. If it comes over more to the right, it's going to come in a little sooner. If it's kind of more -- if it's over to the left, it takes a little bit longer. But we're looking at, likely, the p.m. hours of Sunday.

BLITZER: Sunday night sometime, I hear, on the East Coast. All right, Ed Rappaport with the National Hurricane Center in Miami. Thanks very much, Ed, for that. And to our viewers, stay with CNN the coming hours, the coming days, throughout the weekend, for all the latest information on Hurricane Dennis, what's going on.

Terror in London and fresh fears that al Qaeda could again attack here in the United States. Now, expressions of outrage and condemnation from the Arab world. That's coming up.

Plus, hunting the terrorists. How to find the planners of yesterday's deadly attacks. I'll speak with former CIA deputy director John McLaughlin and retired U.S. general -- brigadier general, James Marks. They're standing by.


BLITZER: Let's get back to the terror attacks in London. Reaction coming in from Arab nations and the Islamic world. Joining us now in Atlanta, our CNN senior editor of Arab affairs, Octavia Nasr. Octavia, what is the reaction, first of all, that you're picking up in the Arab media?

OCTAVIA NASR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Outrage seems to be the headline of the today, Wolf. You may remember in previous times when there were attacks, people always wondered, where is the outrage of the Arab world? And it was seldom that we found it on Arab media or in the Arab street. And we always said, they're too busy dealing with their lives.

Well, this time around, things are very different. In editorials, on the television, on the street, even in chat rooms, everywhere you turn, you see outrage. People are outraged at the outcome. And also they're afraid of a backlash. They think these attacks are going to effect Muslims and Arabs living in Europe. And they think that they are going to be targeted, they're going to be harassed. And they think that the future is going to be very different for them from here on.

BLITZER: What about inside Iraq. What kind of reaction are you picking up there?

NASR: It's very interesting inside Iraq. You know, some are saying Iraqis do not care. So what I did this afternoon, I checked a Web site, a chat room that young Iraqis go to on a regular basis just to talk about dating. You're looking at it here. They talk about dating, they talk about meeting each other, school and so forth.

Well today, there were very interesting remarks here. All of them, out of the 11 comments that I spotted, only two were sort of neutral. Everything else was totally opposed to the attacks. Saying that they salute London, they stand in support of London, and the Londoners that -- they are victims of violence just like the Londoners were on Thursday. And basically, they're saying that they are going to defeat the violence and defeat the terrorists. And they're saying this is totally un-Islamic and they would never support anything like this.

BLITZER: As you know, Octavia, our Barbara Starr is reporting that there are some suspicion the Jordanian born terrorist, Abu Musab al Zarqawi in Iraq, associated with al Qaeda, may have played some role in this London attack. What are you picking up?

NASR: Well, we're not picking up any signals that he, indeed, was behind those attacks in London. But this is not a surprise, and it's not a secret that Zarqawi is connected to Europe.

You may recall the name of the group that Zarqawi leads was not al Qaeda all the time. It used to be Unification and Jihad, if you remember. And Unification and Jihad has operatives in Europe, all over Europe, some terror experts believe: in Spain, in Italy, in France, in Britain. And there are indications from terror experts and intelligence experts, they tell us that he is very well connected in Europe, and he has interest in attacking targets especially in Britain. So, what happened over the last year-and-a-half, Zarqawi Changed the name of his group from Unification and Jihad to the Base of al Qaeda in Iraq. Basically terror experts say that he was the Osama bin Laden wannabe until he pledged allegiance late last year to Osama bin Laden. And then Osama bin Laden came back and accepted his allegiance. And then his group became al Qaeda in Iraq.

So, if you look at the history of this group, it does have links to Europe. So that's not surprising at all.

BLITZER: Octavia Nasr is our senior editor of Arab affairs. Octavia, very interesting. Thank you very much.

Let's get some more analysis, what happened in London yesterday. Brigadier General James Spider Marks is a U.S. Army officer, retired, now a CNN military analyst. Also joining us CNN national security adviser, John McLaughlin, the former deputy director of the CIA.

And I'll start with you John McLaughlin. What are you picking up? What are you hearing? You're still pretty well plugged in.

JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Well, what I'm hearing is that the investigation is proceeding but going very slowly. A lot of hard evidence has not yet developed, in part because it's so difficult to get into these tunnels and do the forensic examination.

What I'm picking up is that there is high suspicion, as everyone has talked about, that this is an al Qaeda related operation. The idea is going around that we need to think about Zarqawi, at least within the realm of plausibility, as someone who could have been behind it. It's not given high credence at this point, but there are some reason to give plausibility to that.

And there is complete transparency here between the British government and American government.

BLITZER: In other words, both sides are sharing whatever they know.

MCLAUGHLIN: Everything is flowing back and forth. The door is open. And everything is being shared fully. The problem is there isn't a lot to share yet in terms of data that is coming out of the investigation.

BLITZER: General, that will pick up as the forensic experts, as they get some of the physical evidence from the scene, the type of explosives, the signature, if you will, of this bomb.

BRIG. GEN. JAMES MARKS, U.S. ARMY (RET): Oh, absolutely. And I think the key thing that John indicated is that there is complete transparency. And that's transparency down to the very lowest levels ere the analysts have what's called analyst chat, or exchange of information. Those are the ones that are really doing the scud work in trying to connect the dots. And that will certainly increase.

BLITZER: When you say that there's complete transparency between the U.S. and the British government, sometimes there isn't even complete transparency within the U.S. government. The FBI sometimes not sharing information with the CIA. But you think that things are generally moving in an excellent direction.

MARKS: When there is an event like this, it clearly is going to move very rapidly, as best it can, again, as John indicated. And it'll move very, very clearly. There will be transparency.

The issue within the government has always been what are these silos and what are these stovepipes and how do you bust into those things so you can share. There's no intent to obfuscate or hold back. And in this case, there will be a great pushing, if you will, there will be an effort to really disseminate the intelligence.

BLITZER: If this were not al Qaeda or some sort of sympathetic group, splinter group, a freelancing group associated with al Qaeda, is there any other suspect out there that would do this without immediately claiming responsibility for it?

MCLAUGHLIN: I don't think so. I guess we could be surprised and find this is a one off group that brought this off. But it does have all the earmarks that we saw in places like Madrid and Istanbul and Casablanca and Bali. Now that said, despite the horror of this operation and the tremendous impact it's had, it was in absolute terms not that sophisticated an operation.

BLITZER: It's a pretty simple operation. You just take a small, 10-pound bomb and carry it on a train.

MCLAUGHLIN: And leave it there. And if timers were involved, it's not that difficult to sequence explosions over an hour. And none of this to minimize the impact and the horror, but it is an operation that technically could be carried out by someone other than skilled al Qaeda operatives.

BLITZER: And the timers, general, could be very simple. They don't have to be wireless, they don't have to be from cell phones. They could be old fashioned timers from a washing machine.

MARKS: It could be very analogue, you're exactly right.

I don't know how that was set off. And we don't know specific...

BLITZER: But we assume it wasn't cell phone, because you probably don't cell phone access, the cell phones probably are not working deep in the underground in those tunnels.

MARKS: Depending upon where the one who ignites it is, is located relative to where that phone is. But you're exactly right. Not to dance on the head of that pin, but you're exactly right. It could have been any number of detonation devices.

MCLAUGHLIN: There's another thing we have to think about here, Wolf, is that as we try to figure out what actually happened and why, could this be, if it's al Qaeda, in a sense, a sign of desperation. In other words, again, not to minimize the horror and the impact, but if this kind of operation has been chosen instead of something more spectacular, possibly because they think they can't bring off something more spectacular, we might be at the front end of a process where this kind of operation would become more the norm, and that would be very hard to deal with, because these are not hard things to do. And they're very hard to detect in advance.

BLITZER: We had an analyst on earlier who suggested the intended target was not British public opinion as much as American public opinion timed to coincide with a visit to the G-8 summit by President Bush, but they couldn't get to the United States so they're doing it in London.

MARKS: Well, the United States is more a hardened than London in this particular instance. And in any type of what's called information operations, which clearly this is. It has a kinetic element to it where things blew up and sadly people were killed. There's also an information element to that as well. And the audience is very broad. It will be accepted and read differently.

MCLAUGHLIN: I think the other thing this underlines is that there is a serious problem in Europe that we and the Europeans have to think about. I mean, there are at least 20 groups that are linked that are linked in one or another to extremists outside of Europe, including those in North Africa. And groups ranging from Ansar al Islam, a group that's present in Iraq and elsewhere in the world. People have been arrested in France and Germany, membership of that group in the last six months.

So that, from the European standpoint, this is a bad sign in terms of a possible front end of a higher level of activism by European extremists.

BLITZER: I mean, middle of the heavy tourism season in Europe. This could have economic ramifications for a lot of European countries, as well. John McLaughlin. Spider Marks. Thanks very much for joining us.

London survivors, the shock and grief on their faces telling the story. Unforgettable images from a photographer on the scene of yesterday's deadly attacks. That's coming up.


BLITZER: Lastly this hour, a look at the London bombings through a set of well-trained eyes. Those are the news photographers. CNN spoke with Edmond Terakopian of the British Press Association.


EDMOND TERAKOPIAN, PHOTOGRAPHER: After I got the news, I got in my car and drove to Edgware Road tube station. And there was just absolute mayhem. Emergency services all over the place, fireman, policemen, ambulance men, going in and out. After about five minutes, some of the passengers start to come out. These were the passengers who didn't seem to be hurt in any way. And they just sort of streamed down the road. They were all on their mobile phones, trying to call loved ones. And shortly after that, we started to see the walking wounded, bandaged up, bleeding.

The majority of people were in shock. There were one or two ladies who were totally distraught, tears coming down the eyes. It was very moving. Even the blank expressions were moving. That actually told more of a story to me. Because it was that blankness that sort of brought it home that they must have been hit with such a shock that they still haven't reacted to it.

One of the worst wounded that I saw today at Edgware Road was this elderly lady who was barefoot. And she had sort of smoke and soot stains on her feet and on her legs. And as I looked up to her face, there was no face. It was covered with this white sort of face mask, bandage type thing. And there was a young, young guy next to her, hugging her across this road. It was very moving.

Looking through some of the images, it brings home the spirits of the people of this country. One gentleman in particular had a newspaper in his arm, like he'd started his day, which he'd not let go of. It's kind of amazing, because he's sort of determined to keep his stature, keep his sort of, you know, his perfect posture and that sort of semi-determined look on his face. I think if you look closer into his eyes and into face, there is an element of shock, as well, in there. It's an interesting sort of juxtaposition, because there's this horror that he's just been through, and, at the same time, is trying to keep his sort of stature. I think it's -- in a way, it sums up Londoners, actually. Stiff upper lip and we'll just carry on.


BLITZER: Once again, that Edmond Terakopian of the British Press Association, explaining what he saw at one of the bombing scenes yesterday.


BLITZER: A special report, "Terror in London," with CNN's chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour, is next.



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