|Amman suicide bombings kill 57
|Explosions rip Radisson SAS, the Grand Hyatt and Days Inn hotels; more than 115 injured, mostly Jordanians
Explosions on Wednesday ripped through three Amman hotels, killing at least 57 people and injuring more than 115, mostly Jordanians, Deputy Prime Minister Marwan Muasher said.
The first ever suicide attacks in Jordan targeted Radisson SAS and the Grand Hyatt hotels — both only a block from each other in a commercial and residential Jabal Amman District — as well as Days Inn in Rabia area.
In the deadliest blast, a suicide bomber blew himself up just after 9:00pm in a ballroom at the Radisson SAS while a Jordanian wedding reception was under way, Muasher, also government spokesperson, told reporters.
"Policemen were removing body parts splattered all over the floor at the Radisson SAS ballroom. I don't believe that anyone would want to kill people at a wedding," said Lower House Deputy Odeh Qawas outside the hotel.
The bride and groom both lost their fathers and were themselves injured
Shortly afterwards, a suicide bomber also detonated his charge at the entrance of the Grand Hyatt.
Marwan Hweimel, an eyewitness, said he saw tens of bodies sprawled in front of the Grand Hyatt lobby along with shattered glass and debris. "We tried to carry as many people as possible and put them in cars to take them to hospitals," he said. "It was a horrible scene."
The third explosion was carried out by a car bomber who attempted to cross a security barrier outside the Days Inn.
"We condemn this cowardly act and heinous crime and tell whomever planned this, that their attempt to undermine the Kingdom's security and its unity will not work," Muasher said.
He could not say if there were suspects or if any group claimed responsibility but said investigation was under way. He told reporters that Jordan's land borders were closed for security reasons.
Most of the Kingdom's hotels were also cordoned off and security was beefed up following the attacks. Roads leading to the hotels, located in the upper part of the city, were also blocked off to cars and passersby. The sound of police and ambulance sirens could be heard all over the city as cars raced back and forth from the scenes to nearby hospitals.
Eyewitnesses at the Jordan Hospital said the number of casualties was growing rapidly as doctors in the emergency rooms attempted to help as many as they could. Other hospitals were sending equipment to the Jordan Hospital to help salvage as many injured as possible.
Police officers were seen frantically trying to remove the bodies of the dead and the injured and tried to push off members of the press and media from the entrances of the three hotels. Blown-up car tyres, debris and shattered glass at the entrance of the Grand Hyatt as well as the Days Inn were visible.
Amman is considered as one of the most stable and safest capitals in the Arab world.
Officials and observers said that the attacks carry the style of Zarqa-born Abu Mussab Zarqawi, the frontman of Al Qaeda in Iraq.
Muasher said Wednesday he was "positive" that Zarqawi, was a "prime suspect" in the deadly bombings.
"Al Qaeda and Zarqawi were certainly involved in the rocket attacks in Aqaba a few months ago, and, you know, I'm positive he's a prime suspect in this case as well, but I cannot tell for sure," Muasher told CNN.
A Western security expert familiar with Jordan said Zarqawi would be a prime suspect behind the apparently coordinated suicide attacks, which bore the clear mark of Al Qaeda.
Authorities have in the past broken up a number of Al Qaeda linked networks suspected of plotting attacks against US and other Western targets. Zarqawi, who has a $25 million bounty on his head, was condemned to death in absentia in April for the 2002 murder of a US diplomat in Amman.
Jordan has so far been spared major attacks on foreigners despite its proximity to Iraq and popularity as a tourist destination, but the authorities had been braced for trouble.
The August attack that targeted US warships in the port city of Aqaba was also blamed on Al Qaeda group led by Zarqawi.
The then-fired rockets killed one Jordanian soldier while another landed across the border in the neighbouring Israeli resort of Eilat.
The three hotels are frequently visited by Western tourists and diplomats. The Radisson SAS, in particular, is popular with Israeli tourists, and was a target of several foiled Al Qaeda plots in the past, namely a conspiracy to attack US and Israeli tourists during the Kingdom's millennium celebrations.
"Al Qaeda and those guys like to go back to places they've missed or where they weren't so successful the first time around," A US official said.
By Alia Shukri Hamzeh with agency dispatches
The Jordan Times