The Human Toll of the Jordan Suicide Bombings

The human toll of Wednesday's suicide bombings in the Jordanian capital of Amman continues to strike an angry chord across the Mideast nation. The most tragic of the three bombings occurred at a wedding reception — Ashraf and Nadia were married that day, and they had just gone to one of Amman's glitziest hotels for the party when the bomber struck.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

Jordan has arrested 12 men, some Jordanians, some foreigners, all believed to be linked to Wednesday's suicide bombings in Amman. An Internet statement today, purportedly posted by the group al-Qaeda in Iraq, said the attacks were carried out by four Iraqis, including a husband and wife. The bombers struck three hotels, the Grand Hyatt, the Days Inn and the Radisson SAS. At that hotel the blast went off in the middle of a wedding party. NPR's Ivan Watson reports from Amman.

IVAN WATSON reporting:

It was supposed to be the happiest day of a young man's life. Just before 9PM on Wednesday, a 32-year-old medical equipment salesman named Ashraf Khalid Daas(ph) was escorting his new bride down the hall of the Radisson Hotel towards the ballroom which was packed with relatives and friends.

Mr. ASHRAF AL-AKHRAS (Bombing Victim): We were just 10 feet away of the entrance and the--I can't remember--that my father and her father were standing on the door inviting people to go inside when the blast happened.

WATSON: A male suicide bomber had infiltrated the party and then set off explosives hidden under his clothes. Ashraf's brother, Bashir, describes what happened next.

BASHIR (Bombing Victim): I heard the bang and the floor just shaking a lot, so I thought there was an earthquake. Then the lights go off. I heard people screaming and running. I saw the ceil--the roof--ceiling is falling down on the people inside the hall.

WATSON: Two days after the explosion, hotel owner Mary Nasall(ph) showed what was left of the ballroom.

Ms. MARY NASALL (Hotel Owner): It's like it was made to cause as much damage as possible. Like not infrastructurewise, but human lifewise.

WATSON: The bomb blew upwards, ripping through plaster and wood, ceiling and walls. The concrete beneath showed little structural damage, except for the nails and ball bearings packed into the suicide vest now embedded in the cement. There are still bloodstains and bits of flesh everywhere. Somehow, Ashraf and his bride survived the explosion unharmed, but the day after their wedding, Ashraf buried his own father and father-in-law, and he is mourning the loss of more than 30 other relatives and friends.

Today, he welcomed visitors to a wake held in a tent decorated with Jordanian flags.

Unidentified Man #1: (Foreign language spoken)

Unidentified Man #2: (Foreign language spoken)

WATSON: Men, some dressed in suits and ties, others in Arab headdress and long robes, all filed in to sit, share condolences and drink small cups of strong hot coffee.

(Soundbite of dishes clinking)

WATSON: Through it all, Ashraf was stoic. He says he doesn't have time for tears right now.

Mr. AL-AKHRAS: I'm trying to be strong, trying to get strength, because if I'll shake or something, I'll harm my mom, my brothers, my wife as well, so I need to be strong. Maybe when I put my head on the pillow I cry. I don't know.

WATSON: Across town, one of the youngest survivors of the wedding blast lay in a crib in a children's ward of a city hospital.

(Soundbite of crying child)

WATSON: Three-month-old Tulean Samer(ph) is in stable condition after the explosion broke her right arm. Her father, Samer(ph), leans over the crib, pressing his forehead against his daughter's cheek.

SAMER (Father of Tulean Samer): She's exactly like her mother.

WATSON: Twenty-seven-year-old Samer, a doctor, had to work at the hospital on Wednesday and could not accompany his family to the wedding. Later that night, he got a call that there'd been an explosion at the same hotel that his daughter and young wife had just gone to.

(Soundbite of heart monitor)

SAMER: I was crying. We went running down the street because I was ringing in her mobile--calling her mobile. It was ringing, but there is no answer. No answer. I didn't know that she's dead.

(Soundbite of heart monitor)

SAMER: Still, and to now I am calling her. There is no answer.

WATSON: Samer's 22-year-old wife, Benciana(ph), was killed in the explosion, but it wasn't until dawn the next morning that Samer found her lying in the morgue. The bomber, he says, was an animal.

SAMER: He's animal. Exactly animal, not human. If he was human, he would not do this thing. She's three months old and her mother 22 years old and the others.

(Soundbite of heart monitor)

SAMER: But God will take revenge, I'm sure. God will take revenge on these people.

WATSON: Grieving, Samer whispered to his injured daughter. A rose lay on top of several clean, folded diapers at the baby's feet.

SAMER: (Whispering) (Foreign language spoken)

(Soundbite of heart monitor)

WATSON: Ivan Watson, NPR News, Amman.

SAMER: (Foreign language spoken)

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