Jordan denounces bombers

Jordanians have mourned those killed and have angrily denounced those behind the attacks, claimed by Al-Qaeda in Iraq, which is led by Jordanian-bord Abu Musal al-Zarqawi.

“Burn in hell, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi!”, shouted hundreds of angry demonstrators, honking horns and waving Jordanian flags outside the Radisson SAS hotel, where one of the bombs detonated.

The suicide attacks late on Wednesday targeted three luxury hotels in the Jordanian capital that are frequented by Westerners.

“We pledge to everyone that we will track down the criminals and those who stand behind them and get to them wherever they are and flush them out of their holes and bring them to justice,” King Abdullah said in a televised address.

Most of those killed were Jordanian.

At least 12 foreigners were also killed, including five Iraqis, three Chinese, a Saudi, an American, a Palestinian and an Indonesian, while Israel radio reported that an Israeli businessman was also killed.

Another 102 people were injured.

The al-Qaeda in Iraq group claimed responsibility for the attacks in an Internet statement.

“The protective wall for the Jews… and the military base of the Crusader armies and the (Iraqi) government… are now in the line of fire of the mujahedeen and their raids,” it said.

But King Abdullah said his country will not be “blackmailed” into changing its policies and vowed to catch those behind the bombings.

“Every cowardly criminal act perpetrated against Jordan will increase our resolve in adhering to our policies and to confronting forcefully all those who try meddle with the country’s security and stability,” he said.

A security source said a number of suspects had been arrested in the investigation, adding: “They include Jordanians and Arab nationals, including Iraqis.”

Jordan’s Deputy Prime Minister Marwan Moasher told news agency AFP that Zarqawi was “certainly the prime suspect”, saying later that the three bombers’ remains had been found but not yet identified.

Zarqawi was released from a Jordanian jail in 1999 under an amnesty granted by King Abdullah but now faces a death sentence in Jordan for the killing of a US diplomat in 2002 and is wanted for a number of attack plots.

Angry protests

The bombings shattered the relative calm of one of the region’s most stable states and key US ally.

Jordan reopened its borders after sealing them after the attacks, while increased security was in force at airports and police presence stepped up outside hotels in the capital.

Thousands waving Jordanian flags took to the streets of the capital and other parts of Jordan to vent their anger over the violence, particularly against Zarqawi.

“These are evil acts carried out by cowardly people,” shouted 15-year-old student Hossam.

In the deadliest blast, a suicide bomber blew himself up in a ballroom at the Radisson SAS where a wedding reception was in full swing. The bride and groom both lost their fathers and were themselves injured.

“It’s a hideous crime. It transformed a wedding into a funeral. I don’t understand how anyone can blow himself up at a wedding party full of women and children,” said Hosni al-Akhras, uncle of the bridegroom.

Another suicide bomber detonated his charge at the entrance of the Grand Hyatt and a suicide car bomber attacked the nearby three-star Days Inn.

International condemnation

The UN Security Council condemned the bombings in a statement issued ahead of a visit to Amman on Friday by UN chief Kofi Annan.

The 15-member council stressed the need “to bring the perpetrators, organisers, financiers and sponsors of these intolerable acts to justice”.

US President George W Bush said he had telephoned King Abdullah to assure him of his strong support.

“The world saw with horror the attacks on innocent people in Jordan by killers who defile a great religion,” he said. “We have an obligation and a duty to remain strong, remain firm, and to bring these people to justice.”

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said it was not yet clear who was behind the bombings, but told reporters it “has the hallmarks of al-Qaeda.”

Iraqi government spokesman Leith Kubba said the bombings showed that countries in the region had to stand together in the fight against terrorism.

“This is a hard blow for Jordan and for Jordanian citizens, but this could wake up Jordan’s public opinion to the reality of what is going on in Iraq,” he said.

King Abdullah has cancelled a planned visit to the West Bank and Israel due to begin on Monday for talks on the Middle East peace process.

Jordan, the second Arab state to sign a peace treaty with Israel after Egypt, has in the past broken up a number of al-Qaeda-linked networks suspected of plotting attacks against Western targets in Jordan.

The last militant strike in Jordan was a rocket attack in August targeting US warships in the Red Sea port of Aqaba that authorities blamed on Zarqawi’s group.