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French Version

Al-Qaeda declares four Iraqis bombed Amman hotels

Al-Qaeda claimed a squad of four Iraqi suicide bombers - including a husband and wife - struck three Amman hotels where at least 57 people were killed, while Jordan interrogated 12 suspects Friday believed to have links to this kingdom's deadliest ever attacks.

From the capital, Amman, to remote Zarqa, the birthplace of Al-Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, thousands of Jordanians vented their fury for the second straight day over Wednesday's bombings and called for Zarqawi's death.

"If they want to fight any occupation let them fight it in the countries it occupied, but never to target civilians," said Abdel-Jabber Saeed, a university teacher of religious law in Zarqa, northeastern Jordan. "We can never justify killings in hotels."

"Zarqawi is rejected by everybody in Zarqa, even by his family members," said Mohammad al-Sharaa, a neighbor of the terror leader's clan in Zarqa.

Al-Qaeda in Iraq issued its third Internet claim since the attacks, saying four Iraqis - including what is believed to be the world's first married couple to ever carry out a suicide attack - had the Radisson SAS, Grand Hyatt and Days Inn hotels under surveillance for a month before detonating explosive belts "to achieve greater accuracy in hitting the target."

Police have detained more than 120 people, including many Iraqis and Jordanians, in the massive manhunt for anyone who may have helped the bombers, who strolled up to the three hotels and detonated their explosive belts almost simultaneously.

Among those in custody are 12 people, including Jordanians, regarded by investigators as "suspects" in the attacks, Deputy Prime Minister Marwan Moasher told reporters.

The death toll rose to 57 - including three U.S. citizens.

Authorities have not yet said with certainty that Iraqis were involved, but speculation has been high that Zarqawi wants to spread his group's influence outside Iraq.

Police have said only that three suicide bombers - including one with an Iraqi accent - were behind the attacks, while scores are among those who have been detained for questioning.

Pain and anger overflowed at several funerals held Friday, including one southeast of Amman where Ashraf Akhras, whose wedding at the Radisson was targeted by one of the bombers, wept as his father's body and those of at least four slain relatives were lowered into the ground.

"There is tremendous outrage by the Jordanian public that these people have targeted just innocent people," King Abdullah II told CNN. "And I can tell you that we Jordanians, we get mad and we get even and these people will be brought to justice."

Thousands more Jordanians staged angry protests in Amman and other centers following weekly mosque sermons, which all performed special prayers for the victims.

"Zarqawi, you are a coward! Amman will remain safe!" chanted 3,000 protesters marching past the capital's al-Husseini Mosque.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan met with King Abdullah, condemned the attacks and called for broader regional cooperation to battle terrorists.

"No ideology, no course can justify the vicious killing of innocent civilians," Annan said.

Annan, who has met with Egyptian, Saudi and Jordanian officials on his Middle East trip, said that a regional consensus exists for "collective action against terrorism."

Annan also visited the Radisson and Grand Hyatt hotels, where reconstruction work was already under way and workers busily restoring what has been damaged.

The Daily Star

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