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Deadly Car Bombings in Saudi Arabia

Aired May 13, 2003 - 06:27   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: We want to update you now on the deadly car bombings in Saudi Arabia. We know at least 10 Americans and many others have been killed in these blasts. That's according to Secretary of State Colin Powell, who is now in the Saudi capital. He says the attacks bear the earmarks of al Qaeda. The simultaneous blasts ripped through three residential compounds or airport complexes and, of course, many Americans and others of other nationalities lived in those apartment complexes.
Right now we want to bring in CNN's Mike Brooks -- Mike, are you there?


Good morning.

COSTELLO: Good morning.

And the reason we want to talk to you, because you were part of the team that investigated the Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia back in 1996. These pictures must look familiar to you.

BROOKS: They do. I investigated, I was on the post-blast team and the rapid deployment team with the FBI's Joint Terrorist Task Force in 1996 and also investigated the U.S. Embassy bombing in Nairobi in 1998. And a lot of similarities here, Carol.

We go back to 1995 to the Saudi Arabian National Guard facility bombing that killed five Americans with a small truck bomb. They got just into the gate, pulled up in front of the parking lot at lunchtime, detonated a bomb there.

And then we go to June 25, 1996, Khobar Towers. A truck, a truck used to clean out Port-A-Johns stuffed with at least a minimum of 5,000 pounds of C4 explosive pulled out, pulled to perimeter of a fence -- as we're looking at the pictures now -- and detonated a bomb there, killing 19 Americans, wounding hundreds of others.

Then we go to 1998, simultaneous attacks in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania with small truck bombs. And then we go as far as last year in Mombassa (ph), at the resort there, if you recall, where they had simultaneous attacks at the resort with a car bomb and also at the airport with two surface to air missiles.

COSTELLO: These were heavy...

BROOKS: So a lot of similarities here, Carol. COSTELLO: Yes, these were heavy duty explosives apparently used in this most recent bombings. What would you say they were? How powerful would they have to be?

BROOKS: Well, from looking at the pictures that we're seeing so far and from the history of what al Qaeda uses, back in 1995 at the OPM Sang bombing (ph), they used TNT. They used C4, which is, again, a high explosive. In '96 in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam they used, again, TNT. In Mombassa, TNT. We look to Bali, also, where they also used another improvised explosive device using TNT.

So this definitely has the earmarks. But we go back to Khobar, where they thought that initially it might have been al Qaeda related, but later on the investigation revealed that it was a local Shia group that was Iranian backed and possibly, again, possibly funded by bin Laden.

But, you know, we looked at the other ones and there's so much similarity here, Carol, that's very, very...

COSTELLO: Yes. Colin Powell, though, thinks that this has all the earmarks of al Qaeda because they were coordinated attacks, you know, more going on -- more than one going off at the same time. And you have to admit, this seemed very well coordinated with, you know, the gunmen running in in advance of the car bombs going off.

BROOKS: Sure. And that has, again, you look at the embassy bombing in Nairobi, where one of the bombers got out with a gun and a grenade to draw people in the embassy to the window before the bomb was detonated to cause more injuries. And there, again, a coordinated attack in two different countries -- Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania and Nairobi, Kenya. Very similar.

The FBI and along with DOD, the CIA and the U.S. Department of Diplomatic Security worked together on these, on the incidents like this. And the FBI's critical incident response group will probably be putting together a team to send there because they do have extra- territorial jurisdiction to investigate acts of terrorism against Americans overseas.

COSTELLO: Understand.

We understand some members of the FBI and CIA are in Saudi Arabia right now. What will the cooperation be like with Saudi officials investigating this?

BROOKS: Well, to be honest, when we were investigating the Khobar Towers incident, on the surface it seemed like it was, they were very cooperative. But behind the scenes, there were some problems, because we had a group that was investigating the post-blast scene there at the crater, going through, looking for pieces of evidence. Then we also had investigative teams. They were not very cooperative with the investigative teams. They were very reluctant to let our investigators go out into their community, even with them accompanying us. And it's, it was sometimes like pulling teeth, to be honest. And, but at the end we did work together and we came up with most of the evidence of the truck that delivered the bomb. We did do a good investigation. The Saudis notified the Americans authorities that they had four people initially and then they went ahead and executed the four Shias that they had, that they got there in Saudi Arabia.

COSTELLO: Well, we hope there is cooperation this time, as well. And we hope it starts at the beginning of the investigation, and not the end.

BROOKS: Exactly.

COSTELLO: Mike Brooks, many thanks for calling in early on DAYBREAK and informing us of all of that.


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