Jordan Arrests Woman in Hotel Bombings

Sajida al-Rishawi

Sunday, Sajida al-Rishawi confessed on Jordanian TV to trying to blow herself up at a hotel in Amman. Reuters hide caption

itoggle caption Reuters

Sunday morning Jordanian authorities announced that they had in custody one of the bombers — a woman who is married to one of the suicide bombers. She was caught after she failed to detonate her explosives belt during a wedding reception in one of the hotels targeted in the attacks that killed 57 people.

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

There are new details today about the terrorists who carried out the hotel bombings in Amman, Jordan, on Wednesday that killed 57 people. Authorities have arrested an Iraqi woman they believe failed to blow herself up in the attack. She appeared on television today with the bomb apparatus strapped around her waist and confessed. NPR's Ivan Watson is in Amman, Jordan. He joins us now.

Ivan, elaborate a little bit. What did this woman say?

IVAN WATSON reporting:

Well, Liane, it was a heavily edited piece of television on Jordanian state TV. It showed a woman at one point standing there. She had a black overcoat and a white head scarf, and she demonstrated how the bomb was supposed to be triggered. It was wrapped around her waist. She introduced herself as Sajeeda Atrous(ph), an Iraqi from the turbulent town of Ramadi. And in the video, again which is very heavily edited, she describes how she and her husband left from Baghdad in a white car to Jordan on November 5th. There they rented an apartment here in Amman, and then they somehow acquired two bomb belts that they wore under their clothes to the Radisson Hotel here on the night of November 9th. There they walked into a ballroom where a wedding party was under way. They went to opposite corners of the room, she said. He detonated his bomb, but Sajeeda Atrous says her bomb failed, and she ran out with the survivors after the blast.

That same night there were two other suicide bombs at two other luxury hotels. The initial statements from al-Qaeda in Iraq, which were posted on the Internet, said that three men and a woman, a wife, carried out these attacks. It wasn't until today that the Jordanian government announced that they had captured this woman who was, in fact, she says, a wife of one of the bombers.

HANSEN: Have any other details emerged today about the attacks?

WATSON: Well, all four of these bombers now, the Jordanian authorities say, are Iraqis from Al Anbar province in the west of Iraq. It's the place where Fallujah is, Ramadi. And it says--the Jordanian government says that they all came from Iraq on the same day, on November 5th, and that they all carried out these attacks. The death toll was 57 dead. It was the worst terror attack in this kingdom's history.

HANSEN: You've talked to some Iraqis there in Jordan. What are they saying about all of this?

WATSON: They seem to be a bit conflicted. There are some that outright condemn these attacks. They say that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader, the Jordanian-born leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, that somehow he brainwashed these people, that he's a fanatic. There are others, though, who do sympathize with the insurgency in Iraq, and they seem to be in denial that Iraqis could be capable of attacking civilians here in Jordan, fellow Muslims, people who were attending a wedding, and they question the veracity of this. There are a number of conspiracy theories here that perhaps Israeli intelligence or somehow the US somehow orchestrated these attacks.

I've seen the impact in one of the hotel rooms. The bombs were laced with ball bearings that did not do much damage to the building itself, but riddled the concrete with these small balls that would have torn through flesh, and you could actually see these little ball bearings still sticking out of the concrete.

HANSEN: NPR's Ivan Watson in Amman, Jordan. Ivan, thank you so much.

WATSON: You're welcome, Liane.

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