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Thursday, November 10, 2005

BBC NEWS | Middle East | 'Al-Qaeda' claims Jordan attacks

BBC NEWS | Middle East | 'Al-Qaeda' claims Jordan attacks 'Al-Qaeda' claims Jordan attacks

Al-Qaeda in Iraq has claimed it carried out the bomb attacks which killed at least 57 people in three hotels in Jordan's capital Amman.

The alleged claim was made in a statement posted on the internet.

Jordan's Deputy Prime Minister Marwan Muasher had earlier said that al-Qaeda militants in neighbouring Iraq were a "prime suspect" for the bombs.

At least 300 people, mostly Jordanians, were injured in the blasts at the Grand Hyatt, Radisson and Days Inn hotels.

'Suicide bombers'

"Some hotels were chosen which the Jordanian despot had turned into a backyard for the enemies of the faith, the Jews and crusaders," the message read.

The BBC's Caroline Hawley - who was staying at the Hyatt when the bomb exploded - says that it is always difficult to verify al-Qaeda claims appearing on the internet.

It may simply be that al-Qaeda in Iraq would want to claim the attack, she says.

I lost my father and my father-in-law on my wedding night - the world has to know that this has nothing to do with Islam
Bridegroom Ashraf Mohammad

However, the authorities have been saying that the attack bears all of the hallmarks of al-Qaeda, and in particular the Jordanian-born leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Mr Muasher said two of the late-evening attacks appeared to have been carried out by suicide bombers strapped with explosives, and the third by a suicide car bomb.

King Abdullah II, who cut short his visit to Kazakhstan to return to Jordan, said the deadly blasts were "terrorist acts" and pledged that "justice will pursue the criminals".

The Jordanian government has declared a day of national mourning for the victims.

Wedding party attacked

The authorities in Jordan have given a breakdown of the nationalities of some of those killed and injured in the explosions. Among the dead are 15 Jordanians, five Iraqis, Arabs from several other countries, one Indonesian and three Chinese.

The authorities say 30 of the dead have not yet been identified.

Among the wounded are several Westerners including one American, five Germans and one person of Swiss nationality.

In the worst attack, hundreds of guests were enjoying a wedding reception at the Radisson SAS when the bomb went off.

The bride and groom each lost a parent and were themselves injured.

"There were a lot of injured people and some dead people. Some of them are from my family and some are from my wife's family," the groom, Ashraf al-Khaled, said.

"We tried to save as many people as we could, but God took some."

"I lost my father and my father-in-law on my wedding night," he added. "The world has to know that this has nothing to do with Islam."

I was just a few blocks away from the Radisson SAS hotel where the one of the explosions took place and I heard a huge thundering bang
Yazeed, Amman

Security has been tightened around Amman and Jordan's land borders have been closed.

Roadblocks were set up around hotels and embassies, and Prime Minister Adnan Badra ordered all schools and public offices to close on Thursday.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has postponed a scheduled visit to Jordan.

A White House spokesman condemned the bombings as "a heinous act of terror".

Our correspondent, who was at the Hyatt, says the device apparently went off in a bar in the lobby.

Western ally

A favourite with businessmen and Westerners, the hotel was packed at the time.

Our correspondent says windows were blown out by the blast, and she saw several badly wounded people. Many of the injured were taken to hospital in taxis and private cars.

There was very little security apparent at the hotel prior to the blast, she adds.

Jordan, a key US ally in the Middle East, has long been regarded as a prime target for attacks by radical Islamic militants, correspondents say.

The BBC's Jon Leyne in Jordan says Jordanians had been expecting this for months.

King Abdullah has been planning a visit to the US - as well as to Israel and the West Bank, our correspondent says.

In the past few years, Amman has also become a base for Westerners who fly in and out of Iraq for work.
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