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Defiant Jordanians Rally After Attacks

The nation declares a day of mourning for those killed in the hotel bombings. A USC graduate is reportedly among the dead.

November 11, 2005|Ken Ellingwood and Ashraf Khalil | Times Staff Writers

AMMAN, Jordan — Waving national flags and pictures of their king, Jordanians took to the streets in a show of defiant anger over the suicide bombings at three hotels in the nation's capital for which Islamic militants in Iraq purportedly claimed responsibility Thursday.

An official day of mourning closed government offices and businesses and gave stunned residents an opportunity to express their outrage at Wednesday's suicide bombings, which left 56 people dead, dozens more injured and shattered Jordan's carefully groomed image as an isle of calm in an otherwise turbulent region.

Flags flew at half-staff, and radio stations played patriotic songs throughout the day. Motorists honked, and marchers held banners condemning terrorism as modestly sized rallies were held in Amman, the capital, and in countryside villages. Wearing red-checked kaffiyehs, youthful demonstrators chanted allegiance to King Abdullah II and denounced Abu Musab Zarqawi, the Al Qaeda-linked Jordanian national whose Iraq-based militant group is believed responsible for the blasts.

A statement said to have been written by Zarqawi's group and posted on an Islamist website took responsibility for the attacks, but the validity of the claim could not be verified. The statement tied the attacks to the group's fight against U.S. forces in Iraq. Amman is a key stopover for officials and contractors on their way to Iraq, and the three hotels that were hit -- the Radisson SAS, the Grand Hyatt and the Days Inn -- were known to be frequented by Westerners.

More than half of those killed in the blasts, 33, were Jordanians, Deputy Prime Minister Marwan Muasher said Thursday. Others killed included six Iraqis, two Bahrainis, two Chinese, an Indonesian, a Syrian, a Saudi and an American. Madison Conoley, spokesman for the embassy, said he could not confirm reports that as many as four other Americans were injured.

In Los Angeles, a family member said Thursday that a producer's daughter who died in the blast was an American who lived in Beirut.

Patricia Akkad told Associated Press that Rima Akkad Monla, 34, was in Amman for a wedding. Akkad's ex-husband, Moustapha Akkad, produced the "Halloween" movies and "Lion of the Desert."

It was unclear whether Monla, a USC graduate, was the American that the State Department listed as dead.

Authorities said several people had been detained, but they did not say whether they were suspects or witnesses. Some news reports said Iraqi nationals were among those held, but police said they would not disclose the identities or nationalities of those detained because the investigation was still in its early phases.

Muasher said authorities had concluded that remains of the suicide bombers had been found among those of the 56 dead victims. He said investigators hoped to identify the suspected bombers through DNA.

The FBI on Thursday sent a team of specialized bomb investigators to Amman at the request of the Jordanian government that included, officials said, at last five experts in evidence recovery, explosives and bomb forensics.

Several U.S. counter-terrorism officials said that all preliminary indications pointed to the attack being the work of the militant group run by Zarqawi, called Al Qaeda in Iraq. They noted that his operatives had tried to launch terrorist strikes against Amman in the past. Officials also cited a 2004 audio recording issued in Zarqawi's name in which he vowed "more fierce confrontations with the Jordanian government."

Zarqawi, who spent several years in Jordanian prisons before being released in 1999 after Abdullah took the throne, has long had ties to the loose-knit Al Qaeda network founded by Osama bin Laden.

The king on Thursday promised a stiff fight to bring those responsible to justice.

"We will pursue those criminals and those who are behind them, and we will reach them wherever they are," he said in a brief televised address, according to Reuters news agency.

Jordan remained under tight security and a heavier-than-normal police presence, though its land borders were reopened after being shut down following the bombings Wednesday evening. Officials promised stepped-up efforts to prevent future terrorist actions, without detailing what those measures would be.

The U.S. Embassy issued a notice Thursday advising Americans to take precautions and to "postpone any nonessential travel to Jordan until the situation here clarifies."

Muasher defended Jordan's overall readiness, saying authorities had succeeded in thwarting a number of past terrorist plots. "Just because we don't publicize all of them doesn't mean they are not there," he said.

"This madness has reached us, and we have to deal with it," Muasher said.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, en route to Bahrain as part of a previously scheduled trip to the region, called the triple attack a "terrible tragedy."

"The demonstrations [in Jordan] show that ordinary people are really tired of these killers," Rice said.

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