- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 12, 2005

AMMAN, Jordan — Al Qaeda has asserted that a squad of four Iraqi suicide bombers, including a husband-and-wife team, carried out the Amman attacks with explosive belts after carefully staking out the hotels for a month. Jordan interrogated 12 suspects yesterday who may have helped them.

The terror group’s Iraqi faction issued its third Internet statement since Wednesday’s nearly simultaneous attacks, saying the four Iraqis had the Radisson SAS, Grand Hyatt and Days Inn hotels under surveillance “to achieve greater accuracy in hitting the target.”

It was believed to be the first time a married couple has carried out a suicide attack. The couple bombed the Days Inn after the woman “chose to accompany her husband to his martyrdom,” the statement said.

Jordanian officials have found the remains of three males believed to be the attackers but could not confirm a woman was involved. Police were scouring footage from hotel security cameras, and forensic specialists were analyzing the severed head of a woman discovered at one hotel.

In its latest statement, al Qaeda said the bombings were carried out in response to “the conspiracy against the Sunnis,” referring to the Muslim Arab group favored under Saddam Hussein’s regime and now believed to form the core of the Iraqi insurgency.

Authorities have not said with certainty that Iraqis were involved, only that one of the bombers had an Iraqi accent. But there have been indications — including a letter this year from Osama bin Laden’s top deputy — that al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab Zarqawi wants to extend his group’s influence beyond Iraq.

From the capital, Amman, to the northeastern industrial town of Zarqa, the birthplace of Zarqawi, thousands of Jordanians vented their fury for the second straight day and called for the terror group leader’s death.

“If they want to fight any occupation, let them fight it in the countries it occupied, but never to target civilians,” said Abdul-Jabber Saeed, a university teacher of religious law in Zarqa. “We can never justify killings in hotels.”

“Al-Zarqawi is rejected by everybody in Zarqa, even by his family members,” said Mohammed al-Sharaa, a neighbor of the al Qaeda in Iraq leader’s clan in Zarqa.

Many of the 400,000 Iraqis living in Jordan joined the protests and called for punishing anyone involved in the attacks.

Police have detained more than 120 people, including Iraqis and Jordanians, in the manhunt for anyone who may have helped the bombers. Among those in custody were 12 persons, including Jordanians, regarded by investigators as “suspects,” Deputy Prime Minister Marwan Muasher told reporters.

The death toll rose to 57 — including three U.S. citizens but excluding the bombers — after yesterday’s death of Syrian-American filmmaker Mustapha Akkad, producer of the “Halloween” horror movies. Mr. Akkad, 75, of Los Angeles, suffered serious wounds and a heart attack in the Hyatt bombing, which instantly killed his 34-year-old daughter, Rima Akkad Monla, an American living in Beirut.

Pain and anger overflowed at several funerals.

Ashraf Akhras, whose wedding at the Radisson was targeted by one of the bombers, wept as his father’s body and those of at least four relatives were lowered into the ground.

“There is tremendous outrage by the Jordanian public that these people have targeted just innocent people,” King Abdullah II told CNN. “And I can tell you that we Jordanians, we get mad and we get even, and these people will be brought to justice.”

Late Thursday, al Qaeda in Iraq issued a statement justifying the attack on the grounds that the hotels were “favorite places for the work of the intelligence organs, especially those of the Americans, the Israelis and some Western European countries.” But more than half of those killed were Jordanians.

Throughout Jordan, protests followed mosque sermons that performed special prayers for the victims.

“Al-Zarqawi, you are a coward! Amman will remain safe,” 3,000 protesters chanted as they marched past the capital’s al-Husseini Mosque.

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