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Jordan: Iraqi Woman Confesses To Taking Part In Deadly Suicide Attacks

  • Ron Synovitz --> Sajida al-Rishawi and her defused explosive belt as seen on television (AFP) An Iraqi woman has confessed on Jordanian television to being part of last week's suicide bomb plot that killed 57 people at three international hotels in Amman. Sajida al-Rishawi says she and her husband went to one of the hotels together to carry out part of the attack. Her husband died when he detonated a belt of explosives. But al-Rishawi says her bomb failed to go off.

Prague, 14 November 2005 (RFE/RL) -- In her television confession, Sajida al-Rishawi -- wearing what appeared to be a disarmed bomb belt -- confirmed what Jordanian authorities have been keen to stress since the triple suicide attacks of 9 November.

The three suicide bombers in Amman were not disgruntled locals who sympathized with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian-born Al-Qaeda leader in Iraq. Instead, they were Iraqi nationals from the western desert province of Anbar -- a Sunni guerrilla stronghold that borders Jordan.
Authorities have been warning that al-Zarqawi -- a man with a $25 million bounty on his head -- has been sending out jihadists from Iraq to strike at targets in other countries.

Al-Rishawi told Jordanian television viewers that her husband -- Ali Hussein al-Shimeri -- was one of the suicide bombers. She said they had traveled together to Jordan from their hometown of Al-Ramadi with the intention of carrying out a suicide attack together: "On the 5th of November, I agreed with my husband to travel to Jordan with a fake Iraqi passport of the names Ali Husseyn-Ali and Sajida Abd al-Qadir Latif. We waited, and a white car came for us. In the car was the driver and another man. We entered Jordan. My husband brought us from there. He organized it."

It was not clear under what circumstances al-Rishawi gave the confession. Al-Risahwi herself is the sister of Samir Mubarak Atrous al-Rishawi, a former lieutenant to al-Zarqawi. She says she watched as her husband detonated explosives that were strapped to his body after entering the Radisson SAS Hotel in Amman. She said she survived because the explosives she was wearing did not detonate: "In Jordan, we rented a flat. We had two explosive belts. [My husband] put one on me, and he wore the other. Then he taught me how to use it, what to string to pull...and how to have control over it. We went to the hotel to carry out the operation in Jordan. We hired a car and went to the [Radisson] hotel on November 9th. We went into the hotel. [My husband] went to one corner, and I went to another. There was a wedding in the hotel. There were women and children. My husband executed the attack. I tried to detonate, and it failed. I got out. The people started to get out and I went with them."

Al-Qaeda in Iraq claimed responsibility for the bombings. In an Internet statement, the group said a married couple and two other men had attacked hotels frequented by diplomats and Western security contractors who operated out of Iraq.

But Jordan's King Abdullah told reporters yesterday that Al-Qaeda was mistaken about the death of al-Rishawi. "I've just been informed by intelligence services, who have been working very hard to track down the perpetrators of these crimes, that they have arrested what seems to be the fourth [would-be] suicide bomber," he said. "The woman that was indicated by the Zarqawi people to have blown herself up actually did not. It seems that her device malfunctioned and she left the Radisson Hotel. She did go in with her husband but had failed, thank God, to succeed. And she is in custody at the moment."

Abdullah said the way to prevent future terrorist attacks is to enhance international cooperation: "Obviously, the tragedies that unfolded in Jordan have happened in many parts of the world from Asia to Russia to all Muslim Arab countries, to Europe and to the Americas. This is a phenomenon that brings us closer together because the only way that we'll be able to overcome these extremists is if we are united and one."

Last week's attacks sparked outrage -- and generated solidarity -- among Jordanians. Thousands of people gathered for demonstrations in Jordan to condemn such attacks.

Yesterday, a silent demonstration in Amman was led by a woman wearing a black bridal dress to symbolize the country's pain over the killings. Jumana Twal was one of the organizers of that event. "This silent procession is to give the Jordanians the opportunity to show the world that we are standing against terrorism," she said. "It is a silent procession to show also to the world the mourning that we are in -- and that we are really sad for Amman."

Jordan is a close ally of the United States in the war on terrorism. The country has served as an important transit hub for American contractors moving in and out of Iraq. Jordanian special forces also have worked closely with U.S. forces in Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Until last week, Jordan had been spared the kind of large-scale terrorist attacks that have hit other countries. But authorities have been warning that al-Zarqawi -- a man with a $25 million bounty on his head -- has been sending out jihadists from Iraq to strike at targets in other countries.
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