AMMAN. November 10, 2005. Al-Qaida claimed responsibility Thursday for three suicide bomb attacks on Western hotels that killed at least 56 people,
, linking the deadly blasts to the war in Iraq and calling Amman the "backyard garden" for U.S. operations. Police continued a broad security lockdown and authorities sent DNA samples for testing to identify the attackers. Land borders were reopened after being closed for nearly 12 hours.
Government spokesman Bassel Tarawneh lowered the death toll by one, citing confusion in the early hours after the blasts. He said the number was likely to rise slightly.
He said the victims included 15 Jordanians, five Iraqis, one Saudi, one Palestinian, three Chinese, one Indonesian; 30 others hadn`t been identified.
The nearly simultaneous attacks late Wednesday also wounded more than 115 people, police said. They detained several people overnight, although it was unclear if those being held were of suspects or witnesses.
The al-Qaida claim, posted on a militant Internet site, said Jordan became a target because it was "a backyard garden for the enemies of the religion, Jews and crusaders ... a filthy place for the traitors ... and a center for prostitution." The authenticity of the posting could not be independently verified, but it appeared on an Islamic Web site that acts as a clearing house for statements by militant groups.
The claim of responsibility, signed in the name of the spokesman for Al-Qaida in Iraq, 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."
Iraqi government spokesman Laith Kubba said the attack should alert Jordan that it needed to stop playing host to former members of Saddam Hussein`s regime.
"I hope that these attacks will wake up the `Jordanian street` to end their sympathy with Saddam`s remnants ... who exploit the freedom in this country to have a safe shelter to plot their criminal acts against Iraqis ."
He also said Iraqis may have had a hand in the attacks.
"The al-Qaida organization has become as a plague that affected Iraq and is now transmitted by the same rats to other countries. A lot of Iraqis, especially former intelligence and army officers, joined this criminal cell," Kubba said.
Jordan`s Deputy Prime Minister Marwan Muasher said shortly after the blasts that al-Qaida in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was a "prime suspect." The Jordanian-born al-Zarqawi is known for his animosity to the country`s Hashemite monarchy. The claim of responsibility did not name King Abdullah II but twice referred to the "tyrant of Jordan."
In the attacks, the suicide bombers detonated explosives at the Grand Hyatt, Radisson SAS and Days Inn hotels just before 9 p.m. One of the explosions took place inside a hall where 300 guests were celebrating a wedding.
Until late Wednesday, Amman --- a comfortable, hilly city of white stone villas and glitzy high-rises --- had mostly avoided large-scale attacks and was a welcome sanctuary of stability in a troubled region.
Al-Zarqawi is most known for the string of devastating suicide attacks launched in Iraq, often against U.S. targets but also against Shiite Iraqis. He has shown a flair for propaganda and drawn wide support among militants in the region.
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 October 2002 assassination of a U.S. diplomat, Laurence Foley, in Amman.
His group also is accused of previously trying to blow up the Radisson SAS in Amman as part of the so-called Millennium plot in 1999 and of an attack this August on a U.S. Navy ship in the Jordanian port of Aqaba that killed one Jordanian soldier. In Amman, a security official said authorities had tips on suspects who are being hunted, including possible sleeper cells or individuals who may have assisted the attackers and later fled in a vehicle bearing Iraqi license plates.
The official, insisting on anonymity because he is not allowed to speak to reporters, said that DNA tests were being carried out to determine the identity of the perpetrators, including two suicide bombers who blew themselves up in two of the separate hotel attacks. A third suicide attacker used a car.
The state Jordan Television showed Abdullah inspecting the sites of the blasts after returning home early Thursday, cutting short an official visit to Kazakhstan. He later presided over a meeting of his security chiefs, including police and intelligence.
The hotels, frequented by Israelis and Americans among other foreign guests, have long been on al-Qaida`s hit list.