Blasts Hit Three Hotels in Jordan, Kill Scores Bombs rock three hotels in the downtown area of Jordan's capital, Amman. More than 50 deaths have been reported and more than 100 have been wounded after the near-simultaneous blasts at the Grand Hyatt, the Radisson SAS Hotel and the Days Inn.
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Blasts Hit Three Hotels in Jordan, Kill Scores

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Blasts Hit Three Hotels in Jordan, Kill Scores

Blasts Hit Three Hotels in Jordan, Kill Scores

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

And I'm Melissa Block.

Three bombs exploded today in Amman, the capital of Jordan. The targets were hotels in the downtown area of the capital city: the Grand Hyatt, the Radisson SAS and the Days Inn. Dozens of people are reported killed; scores have been wounded. Kristen Gillespie is a free-lance reporter in Amman.

And, Kristen, I understand you were very near one of the hotels when the first explosion happened. Tell us what you saw.

Ms. KRISTEN GILLESPIE (Free-lance Reporter): We ran over to the Hyatt and saw glass blown out from the lobby. Now the police weren't letting us inside. What they were doing was moving bodies that had been wounded and killed outside so they could be put into the ambulances as quickly as possible, and the ambulances just sped off. There were, you know, a dozen coming every minute or two.

BLOCK: The rescue operation, I guess, would have been hampered by the fact that there were then two more explosions in very quick succession.

Ms. GILLESPIE: Exactly. It almost seemed like the ambulances were speeding all over the place, not sure where they were going. The Grand Hyatt and the Radisson are very close to each other, about a quarter of a mile apart. So the ambulances were working overtime. The hospitals tonight are overflowing with people.

BLOCK: What have you been able to piece together about exactly how these attacks were carried out?

Ms. GILLESPIE: People are saying this is the hallmark of al-Qaeda, multiple bombings within minutes of each other. No one's taken responsibility yet. But certainly if it is three suicide bombers, that would point to at least tactics that al-Qaeda uses.

BLOCK: And these were bombs strapped to people's bodies, car bombs, what exactly?

Ms. GILLESPIE: Well, a Jordanian official is saying that the bombs were strapped to people's bodies. Other witnesses at the Radisson are saying that a man with a suitcase possibly entered, which of course wouldn't be uncommon in a hotel. Right now it's just not clear exactly what happened, but it seems to be the consensus that they were suicide bombers.

BLOCK: Who stays at these hotels that were targeted tonight?

Ms. GILLESPIE: The hotels attract a mix of people. They have foreigners coming on vacation. Mostly these days they have contractors going in and out of Iraq. Royal Jordanian operates a flight into Baghdad, but through Amman. So anybody who goes to Iraq basically generally comes through Jordan at some point. So it's a favorite stopping point for people going in or coming out. There are Jordanians who want a nice evening out at the restaurants or cafes that these five-star hotels have to offer. And there is a rather significant Iraqi diaspora here living in Jordan, perhaps half a million people out of a population of roughly five million, and they also frequent these hotels. So if you really wanted to target a mix of people, then these hotels are a good place to do it.

BLOCK: And what sorts of security measures have been in place before this?

Ms. GILLESPIE: Security at the hotels is generally tight, not as tight as you see in other Arab countries like Egypt, where you have to walk through an airportlike device, metal detector, and have your bag searched before you enter. It hasn't gotten to that point. It might. What usually happens is if there's a terror threat, the intelligence services here will close the parking lots for the hotels and they put big potted plants outside the entrances so that a potential suicide bomber vehicle couldn't pull up to the front of the hotel. And this--the perpetrators changed tactics. They didn't use a vehicle; they used themselves.

BLOCK: Reporter Kristen Gillespie, talking with us from Amman, Jordan, about tonight's explosions at three hotels in that city.

Kristen, thanks very much.

Ms. GILLESPIE: Thank you, Melissa.

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