- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 23, 2005

AMMAN, Jordan — Iraq’s al Qaeda wing took responsibility yesterday for a rocket attack that barely missed U.S. warships moored in the Jordanian port of Aqaba.

The Internet statement was signed Abu Maysara al-Iraqi, the spokesman for al Qaeda in Iraq, headed by Jordanian-born terrorist Abu Musab Zarqawi.

Jordan said Monday it had arrested a Syrian, one of four men purportedly involved in the attack. The captured man’s two sons and the Iraqi leader of the group were thought to have escaped to Iraq, officials in the Jordanian capital said.

Jordan said the four were part of an Iraq-based terrorist organization, which the government did not identify. The government has received several warnings in recent months, however, that Aqaba had become a primary target of the al Qaeda terror network, a security official has said.

Zarqawi’s terror group was the second to take responsibility for the rocket attack.

The first claim was issued by the Abdullah Azzam Brigades shortly after the Katyusha rockets were fired Friday from a hilltop warehouse overlooking Aqaba and its port.

The Zarqawi group explained the delay in issuing its claim by saying it waited five days “so that the brothers could finish retreating.”

The Syrian arrested in the attack was identified as Mohammed Hassan Abdullah al-Sihly. He purportedly was assisted by his two sons, who also hailed from the northern Syrian city of Hama, although the father was said to live in Amman. The fourth member of the team and its reputed leader was Mohammed Hamid Hussein, an Iraqi.

“We know for certain it is al Qaeda and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi who were behind the attack. Our interrogations revealed this. Their goal is to destabilize Jordan and spread terror even if they camouflage this with alleged political goals,” Interior Minister Awni Yarfas told Reuters news agency.

In the attack, the most serious against the U.S. Navy since the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen, one rocket flew across the bow of a U.S. amphibious assault ship and crashed into a warehouse, killing a Jordanian soldier. Another missile landed near a Jordanian hospital, and a third hit a taxi on the outskirts of an Israeli airport, but did not explode.

A Jordanian government official said the rocket launch was triggered by a timing device that allowed al-Sihly’s sons and the Iraqi to escape into Iraq hours before the attack.

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