Al Qaeda Targeted 'Jews and Crusaders' in Jordan

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:16 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - Al Qaeda claimed responsibility on Thursday for bombing three hotels in the Jordanian capital, saying that its target was "Jews and crusaders."

At least 57 people were killed -- and most of them, as it turns out, were not Jews or westerners. More than 115 people were wounded in the near simultaneous blasts that rocked three hotels frequented by Westerners.

Two suicide bombers blew themselves up at the Grand Hyatt and Radisson Hotels. At the Radisson, a bomber strapped with explosives infiltrated a wedding party and blew himself up among the guests. In the third attack, a vehicle packed with explosives blew up outside the Days Inn, Deputy Prime Minister Marwan Muasher said.

Muasher said that the dead and wounded were mainly Jordanians but Israel confirmed on Thursday that at least one Israeli was among the dead. Palestinian officials reported that two senior Palestinian security officials had been killed, including the P.A.'s West Bank intelligence chief.

Almost immediately all eyes turned toward al Qaeda; and on Thursday the group claimed responsibility for the attack in an Internet posting.

The al Qaeda posting reportedly said, "After studying and watching the targets, places were chosen to carry out an attack on some hotels that the tyrant of Jordan has made the backyard garden for the enemy of religion: Jews and crusaders."

The posting was signed in the name of an al Qaeda spokesman. It did not mention Jordan's King Abdullah by name but referred to him as the "tyrant of Jordan," and said that he should know that "the backyard camp for the crusaders' army is now within range of the holy warriors."

Abdullah cut short an official trip to Kazakhstan and arrived home to chair a meeting of his security chiefs. He also toured the blast sites.

Muasher said that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, was a prime suspect.

The Jordanian-born Zarqawi has carried out dozens of deadly bomb attacks against American, allied and Iraqi security forces in Iraq.

Two years ago, he was tried in absentia for plotting terrorist attacks in Jordan and sentenced to death for the murder of a U.S. diplomat Laurence Foley, who was shot in Amman in October 2002.

Zarqawi's group also was tied to a 1999 millennium plot, which Jordan disrupted.

During the 1991 Gulf War, Jordan sided with neighboring Iraq but quickly made up to the West following Iraq's defeat and is now a strong U.S. ally in the region.

Israelis have traveled to Jordan since a peace treaty was signed between the countries in 1994 but during the last few years of intifadah, they have been warned to avoid unnecessary travel to the country.