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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Explosion in Central City of Najaf

Aired August 29, 2003 - 07:29   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Let's go back to Iraq this morning. There has been an explosion in the central city of Najaf. The blast occurred near one of the Shiites' holiest shrines. We should mention at this early hour there is some confusion about the extent of the damage and also injuries and deaths. We are getting numbers, as many as 17 dead, from the French press wires, AFP. From the A.P. they're saying that at this point five people dead. We're trying to clear up some of this confusion.
Let's go right now to CNN's Rym Brahimi.

She joins us live from Baghdad with the latest -- Rym, lots of confusion, as I just said.

What do you know?

RYM BRAHIMI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Soledad. We know for now that coalition provisional authorities are confirming that there has been a car bomb in Najaf. Now, we've also spoken to members of a Shia movement that has offices in the city of Najaf, which is about two hours south of Baghdad. And they say that there has been an explosion, indeed.

As you mentioned earlier, 17 dead is the figure that's being reported by the French Press Agency, AFP. They're also reporting 15 people wounded. We don't have those figures yet. There's a lot of confusion, as you mentioned, with regard to the level of confusion and chaos that this has created.

Apparently the explosion also smashed some of the shop windows in the neighborhood and it happened not far from the Imam Ali Mosque, which is one of the holiest sites for Shia Islam.

Now, this is, this comes only a week, barely a week after another explosion took place in the same city of Najaf. And that explosion last week hit the offices of a prominent Shia leader. In the explosion, three of the bodyguards of that religious cleric died and there were a few wounded there, as well. So definitely a lot of questions are going to be raised there as this, it seems that the violence is now spreading not only out of the Sunni triangle, but into very holy, symbolic cities -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Rym, I know it's early yet, but I'm curious to know if you're getting any description of the damage, outside of the actual numbers of injured and killed what the scene looks like. Because it does sound so confusing, it makes it sound as if the extent of the damage is actually quite large. BRAHIMI: Well, I can tell you this, just being very cautious, though, because, again, we're waiting for confirmation on those descriptions. But we've heard from somebody that one of the buildings has been flattened. We've also heard that some of the shops, basically the explosion blasted holes in those shops and has literally caused pandemonium in that area.

Now, you can imagine what it's like. Today is Friday, which is the Muslim day of rest. It's also the day when Muslims go to pray at the mosque. And so there would have been a lot of people in the streets at this time of day. This is, it's now past prayer time, but there should definitely have been quite a few people around because prayer time is about 1:00 or 2:00, 1:00 p.m. It lasts until 2:00 p.m. And this is about the time that it seems to have gone off -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: All right, CNN's Rym Brahimi will continue to cover that and follow that for us this morning.

Rym, of course, we're going to be checking back in with you a little bit later this morning.

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