- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 20, 2005

BAGHDAD — U.S. forces sealed off a house in the Iraqi northern city of Mosul where eight al Qaeda suspects died in a gunfight — some by their own hand to avoid capture. A U.S. official said efforts were under way yesterday to determine whether terror leader Abu Musab Zarqawi was among the dead.

Close relatives in Jordan, meanwhile renounced Zarqawi, whose al Qaeda in Iraq group took responsibility for the Nov. 9 suicide attacks on three hotels in Amman, Jordan, that killed 59 persons.

In Washington, a U.S. official said the identities of the suspects who died in Mosul were not known. Asked whether they could include Zarqawi, the official replied: “There are efforts under way to determine if he was killed.”

The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information.

American troops maintained control of the site, imposing extraordinary security measures, a day after a fierce gunbattle broke out when Iraqi police and U.S. forces surrounded a house after reports that members of al Qaeda in Iraq were inside.

Three insurgents detonated explosives and killed themselves to avoid capture, Iraqi officials said. The U.S. military said 11 Americans were wounded.

In Amman, the family of Zarqawi — whose real name is Ahmed Fadheel Nazzal al-Khalayleh — reiterated its strong allegiance to Jordan’s King Abdullah II in half-page advertisements in the kingdom’s three main newspapers. Zarqawi had threatened to kill the king in an audiotape released Friday.

“A Jordanian doesn’t stab himself with his own spear,” said the statement by 57 members of the al-Khalayleh family, including Zarqawi’s brother and cousin. “We sever links with him until doomsday.”

The statement is a serious blow to Zarqawi, who likely no longer will enjoy the protection of his tribe and whose family members may seek to kill him.

“As we pledge to maintain homage to your throne and to our precious Jordan … we denounce in the clearest terms all the terrorist actions claimed by the so-called Ahmed Fadheel Nazzal al-Khalayleh, who calls himself Abu Musab Zarqawi,” the family members said.

“We announce, and all the people are our witnesses, that we — the sons of the al-Khalayleh tribe — are innocent of him and all that emanates from him, whether action, assertion or decision.”

The al-Khalayleh tribe is a branch of the Bani Hassan, one of the area’s largest and most prominent Bedouin tribes, which help form the bedrock of support for the royal family’s Hashemite dynasty.

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