- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 12, 2005

ZARQA, Jordan — Sympathy for al Qaeda’s leader in Iraq, Abu Musab Zarqawi, turned to hatred in his hometown yesterday as clan members and ex-neighbors dismissed the justification for the Amman bombings.

The terrorist chose his name to honor this city where he was born, and he enjoyed rock-star-like fame here when he took up the fight against American troops in Iraq.

Even when he and his followers began beheading kidnapped aid workers and contractors, and circulating images of the beheadings in Internet videos, local support for the town’s favorite son did not waiver.

But Wednesday’s hotel attacks that killed at least 59 persons, mostly Jordanian civilians and all Muslims, appeared to have quickly transformed him from hero to villain.

“I feel ashamed of what he did in the name of Islam,” said Moussa Rashid Khalayleh, a senior member of Zarqawi’s Khalayleh clan.

“I am not ashamed of what his group is doing fighting the U.S. occupation of Iraq, but killing civilians, killing Muslims here in Jordan is shaming.”

Zarqawi’s group has taken the unprecedented step of issuing a second, and then a third statement of responsibility for the Amman bombings.

Some security analysts suggested that the group had been stung by criticism of the civilian deaths — especially the bombing of a wedding party for a Palestinian family at one hotel.

In Zarqa, Munder Moomeni, 38, a former soldier who lives next to Zarqawi’s house, 13 Ramzi St., described his former neighbor with an expletive that literally means one born out of wedlock.

By killing Jordanians here in Jordan, civilian Jordanians going to a wedding, they did something that not even a JewSimilar condemnation came from the next room where his wife, Umm Mahmoud, uttered a stream of invective against Zarqawi.

“Yesterday we watched on television what had happened in Amman,” she said. “The carnage was so bad, so awful, we could not eat all day long.”

The Moomeni family said they had no dealings with the remnants of the Zarqawi family still living in the two-story house at No. 13.

A woman answered the intercom although she politely but firmly told the Daily Telegraph to go away.

“Don’t hang around here much longer,” other neighbors advised. “They will start throwing stones at you.” Some residents remembered the young man who was born there in the late 1960s but who did not immediately adopt religion.

He was known as Ahmed Fadel Nazal Khalayleh and some described him as a young bully.

“He was a bit of a thug, always walking around carrying knives,” said Amer Hassoun, 35, whose parents came to Zarqa as Palestinian refugees.

“But then he went away to Afghanistan and when he came back he had become very religious. If he came down the street today, people would want to see him because they are curious. But he is not regarded as a saint around here.”

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