Jordan: Jihadis question terror tactics

The apparent identification of a suicide bomber in the Jordan hotel attacks as an Iraqi who had been detained by US forces in Iraq adds a new dimension to reactions in the Hashemite kingdom. Authorities say three Iraqi men died in the blasts, and an Iraqi woman survived when her explosives vest failed to detonate. Knight Ridder newspapers reported that the name of one of the male suspects, Safaa Mohammed Ali, matches that of a man who was detained for about two weeks during clashes between insurgents and US Marines in Fallujah. (UPI, Nov. 14)

The legitimacy of the triple hotel bombing in Amman has been questioned on various Islamic Internet forums, and condemned in a fatwa issued by a fundamentalist sheikh. The “al-Qaeda in Iraq” group, which claimed responsibility for the attacks, broke with tradition by issuing at least three messages justifying the bombings, which killed 57 and prompted local public protests against terrorism.

Following an initial outpouring of support for the bombings from the members of several jihadist forums, one well-known fundamentalist Sheikh, Abu Basir al-Tartousi, issued an unexpected fatwa condemning the operation. In the edict, the Salafist sheikh, who is of Syrian origin but lives in exile in London, states: “This operation contains more negative than positive elements. For this reason it is not allowed to attribute it to Islam, or even to the Jihad.”

According to al-Tartousi, one of several fundamentalist imams who have taken refuge in Britain, like Abu Qatada and Omar Bakri—currently in Lebanon and barred from returning to the UK—the fact that most of the victims were innocent Muslims makes the attacks unjust. “It is forbidden to carry out actions of this kind, it is a mistaken action and is not allowed,” he wrote in the fatwa.

The sheikh asks if the al-Qaeda leadership had allowed its attackers to strike the Radisson Hotel despite the wedding reception underway inside, or whether it left the suicide bombers free to decide. “I have often wondered how it could be possible to say that an action that strikes other Muslims who were at a wedding party was Jihad. The attackers, once they saw the party, should have left,” he said.

Analysing the third statement issued on the attacks, the London-based Arabic newspaper al-Quds al-Arab revealed that one phrase of the message implicitly recognized that carrying out the attack during a wedding reception was an error, though it did not apologize.

The Iraqi woman who should have been the fourth suicide bomber was shown on Jordanian television over the weekend, with the explosives still strapped to her body. Sajida Mubarak Atrous al-Rishawi, 35, is said to be the sister of the right-hand-man of al-Qaeda in Iraq’s leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Samer Mubarak Arous al-Rishawi, who was killed by US forces in Fallujah. In a confession broadcast on TV she showed no remorse or emotion, and explained that she had been at the Radisson hotel with her husband, but her explosives failed to detonate and she fled after her husband blew himself up, in what was the most deadly of the three attacks. No details were given of how she came to be arrested. (AKI, Nov. 14)

See our last post on Jordan.