Jordanians call for al-Zarqawi to burn in hell after country’s ‘9/11’ linked to Iraq conflict

HUNDREDS of angry Jordanians rallied last night outside one of three hotels attacked by suicide bombers, shouting “Burn in hell, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi!”.

The terrorist’s group have claimed responsibility for the blasts that killed at least 56 people.

In an internet statement, al-Zarqawi’s al-Qaida in Iraq linked the blasts to the war in Iraq and called Amman the “backyard garden” for US operations. The group also claimed responsibility for yesterday’s suicide bombing in Iraq which killed at least 35 people in a restaurant.

The al-Qaida claim said Jordan was targeted because it was “a backyard garden for the enemies of the religion, Jews and crusaders... a filthy place for the traitors... and a centre for prostitution.”

The claim said the attacks put the United States on notice that the “backyard camp for the crusader army is now in the range of fire of the holy warriors”.

The hotels, frequented by Israelis and Americans among other foreign guests, have long been on al-Qaida’s hit list.

The date of Wednesday’s attack, November 9, would be written as 9/11 in the Middle East which, like Europe, puts the day before the month. A Jordanian government spokesperson declined to speculate on its meaning.

Police continued a broad security lockdown and authorities sent DNA samples to identify the attackers.

The Amman protest was organised by Jordan’s 14 professional and trade unions, traditional critics of King Abdullah II’s moderate, pro-Western policies.

Protesters shouted: “Death to al-Zarqawi, the villain and the traitor!” Honking vehicles were decorated with Jordanian flags and posters of the king.

“We sacrifice our lives for you, Amman!” the protesters chanted.

Other rallies were held across the kingdom, including the Red Sea port of Aqaba, where attackers using Katyusha rockets narrowly missed a US ship and killed a Jordanian soldier in August.

Amman’s streets were deserted early yesterday, which was declared a day of mourning. Public and private offices were closed under government instructions, apparently to allow tightened security measures to take hold.

Government spokesman Bassel Tarawneh said the bombers killed 56 people but that number likely would rise. In addition to one American, the victims included 33 Jordanians, six Iraqis, two Bahrainis, two Chinese, one Saudi and one Indonesian.

The Palestinian envoy to Amman said the victims included two high-ranking Palestinian security officials, a senior Palestinian banker and the commercial attache at the Palestinian Embassy in Cairo, Egypt.

At least 96 people were wounded, although police said more than 115 were hurt.

Iraqi government spokesman Laith Kubba said the attack should alert Jordan that it needs to stop hosting former members of Saddam Hussein’s regime.

Palestinian legislator Hanan Ashrawi said she did not believe al-Qaida “or any of these violent extremists have had support among mainstream Arab opinion at all. Now they are making sure they are turning everyone against them.”

Deputy Prime Minister Marwan Muasher said al-Zarqawi, who has a $25 million US bounty on his head, was a “prime suspect.”

Al-Zarqawi is most known for devastating suicide attacks in Iraq, often against US targets but also against Shi’ite Iraqis.

But outside Iraq, and especially in Jordan, he has been equally active.

He was sentenced to death in absentia by a Jordanian military court for the 2002 assassination of a US diplomat, Laurence Foley, in Amman.

His group also is accused of previously trying to blow up the Radisson as part of the so-called Millennium plot in 1999 and of orchestrating the August attack at Aqaba.

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