Jordan’s king demands global anti-terror push, calls al-Zarqawi threat to Middle East
AMMAN, Jordan – King Abdullah II called for a global fight against terrorism Saturday as Jordan acknowledged for the first time that al-Qaida in Iraq used three foreign suicide bombers to attack Amman hotels, killing 57 others.The devastating strike was masterminded by Jordanian-born militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, signaling his group is able to launch terror attacks outside war-ravaged Iraq. Abdullah called al-Zarqawi a growing threat to the Middle East and put the international community on notice that it must cooperate to fight terrorists.”Terrorism is a sick and cross-border phenomenon. Therefore, eradicating it is the whole world’s responsibility,” he told the state-run Petra news agency. “The body parts we saw in Amman we see everyday in brotherly Iraq and have also seen in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco and other countries around the world.”Abdullah later told CNN that four suicide bombers carried out Wednesday’s attacks, suggesting one was the “spouse” of another militant. His remarks seemed to confirm al-Qaida in Iraq’s claim that a husband and wife were among the bombers.”I think that to walk into the lobby of a hotel to see a wedding procession and to take your wife or your spouse with you into that wedding and to blow yourself up (showed) these people are insane,” Abdullah said.He said initial findings coupled with the al-Qaida claim suggested the bombers were Iraqi. Police said Saturday that the bombers who attacked the Grand Hyatt and Days Inn hotels spoke with Iraqi accents.”So there are only two logistical places that they could have come across – either the Iraqi or the Syrian borders,” he said.Earlier, deputy premier Marwan Muasher said the attackers were three “non-Jordanians” belonging to al-Zarqawi’s group, but he ruled out any being women.It was not immediately possible to resolve the discrepancy between Abdullah’s and Muasher’s remarks.Muasher said police were still interrogating 12 suspects believed linked to the attacks on the Grand Hyatt, Radisson SAS and Days Inn hotels, while “many others” currently detained – mostly Jordanians and Iraqis – may soon be released.Security forces have scrambled to step up security in hotels in Amman and across the country as police detained more people in Jordan’s largest manhunt in modern history. Police also are searching for eight vehicles – two with Iraqi license plates – believed linked to the attacks, Jordan’s deadliest ever.Al-Zarqawi, who slipped into northern Iraq from Afghanistan before the U.S.-led invasion of 2003, has long held ambitions to emerge as a global Islamist leader and to spread his anti-American campaign to other Mideast countries.Last month, Iraqi Interior Minister Bayan Jabr said during a visit to Amman that his government had intelligence that al-Zarqawi had ordered some of his fighters to leave Iraq to set up cells in other Arab and Islamic nations.”Al-Zarqawi has proved a very fundamental point that the Americans can’t control al-Qaida in Iraq and now they have begun exporting terrorism outside of Iraq. The Americans have failed,” said Mustafa Alani, an Iraqi senior security analyst with the Dubai-based Gulf Research Center.Police are investigating the theory that two bombs – one attached to a suicide attacker and another a package full of ball bearings – exploded during a wedding at the Radisson attended by almost 300 Jordanians and Palestinians.Many of those killed and maimed in the Radisson attack suffered wounds caused by ball bearings, indicating that the bomber’s TNT-packed belt was not the only explosive device used, a senior police official said Saturday on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.Any TNT would have had to have been smuggled into Jordan because it is not available here, the official added.Other details emerged about the Days Inn strike. Minutes before detonating his bomb, the attacker became angry when staff asked him to move from the area where he was sitting, which was designated for families and not single men.”The man … started mumbling words in an Iraqi accent that the waiter believed were insults before leaving the hotel,” the senior police official said.One waiter described the bomber as a “nervous … dark-skinned man wearing a black leather jacket and black pants,” Days Inn general manager Khaled Abu Ghoush told The Associated Press.”After the man was told to move, he opened his jacket and tugged at something and the waiter immediately called security. The man then fled outside and about two (yards) away from the entrance, blew himself up.”Waiters also told police that two men entered the hotel the morning before the attack and appeared to be staking out the premises, the official added.Al-Qaida in Iraq, which has released three statements since the attacks, claimed the four Iraqi attackers staked out the hotels for a month before donning explosive belts and detonating them minutes apart.It said the bombings were carried out in response to “the conspiracy against the Sunnis,” referring to the group favored under Saddam Hussein’s regime and now believed to form the core of the Iraqi insurgency.Al-Qaida justified the attacks by saying the hotels were “favorite places for the work of the intelligence organs, especially those of the Americans, the Israelis and some western European countries.” More than half of those killed were Jordanians.—Associated Press reporters Dave Gavlak, Jamal Halaby and Zeina Karam contributed to this report.