Three suspected suicide bombers blew themselves up at three international hotels in Jordan’s capital on Wednesday, killing at least 57 people and injuring more than 300 others, Jordanian Deputy Prime Minister Marwan Muasher told CNN.
Reports said there had been explosions at Radisson SAS and Grand Hyatt hotels in Amman, and the official Petra news agency said there had been a third blast at the Days Inn hotel in the city.
Entrance to Days Inn following bombing (Photo: Reuters)
Muasher said the attacks at the Grand Hyatt and Radisson hotels were carried by suicide bombers carrying explosives belts, while the third blast was caused by a car bomb.
A local police official said the attacks "bare the hallmarks of al-Qaeda.”
The Israeli Foreign Ministry said no reports of Israeli casualties have been received as of yet.
Israel’s ambassador to Jordan, Yaakov Hadas, told Israel’s leading news source Ynet that, “Much to our joy, there are no Israeli casualties. A number of textile executives that stayed in one of the hotels have been taken out of there and will be sent back to Israel tonight. There is also a wrestling team that was on its way to a tournament in Qatar - they did not stay in the hotels; they are fine and will continue on their way on Thursday.
“A group of tourists from Abu-Gosh stayed at the Hyatt, and they too are fine. We are focusing our efforts on attempting to locate other Israelis in case they are n need of assistance.”
'Israel familiar with this situation'
The ambassador said the Israeli embassy is on high alert, adding that, “I myself did not hear the blasts, but I need to mention that many weddings are held during this time of the year, during which it is customary to have fireworks shows, so my ear is not as sensitive.
Jordanians securing Radisson hotel (Photo: AFP)
“This is the first attack of its kind in Jordan; there was an attempt to carry out a huge attack last year, but it was thwarted. We have expressed our condolences to the Jordanian government and offered our assistance, but as of now they are not in need of our services. It is tumultuous here in the aftermath of the attacks; unfortunately, we in Israel are very familiar with this situation.”
The Israel Airports Authority has decided to open the Allenby Bridge in order to allow Israelis who wish to return from Jordan to do so before Thursday morning.
The blasts appeared to happen at much the same time.
Witnesses said the structure of the Radisson hotel was intact, but there had been extensive damage to ceilings.
The explosion ripped through a banqueting room where about 250 people were attending a wedding reception, witnesses said.
They said the room was torn apart and bomb seemed to have gone off near a wall that separated it from the bar area.
Security sources speculated the bar was the target, rather than the wedding party.
Popular with Israelis
The explosion at the nine-story Hyatt appeared to have struck the lobby, witnesses said.
The Radisson is known to be popular with Israeli tourists, but there was no confirmation of the nationality of any of the dead or wounded. Witnesses said many Western tourists were staying at the three hotels.
King Abdullah said following the bombings that “justice will reach the criminals.”
“These terrorist attacks are criminal acts executed by terror groups,” said the King who is currently abroad.
“Jordan remains determined to pursue the struggle against terrorism, terrorist groups and all those who support and justify their acts,” read a statement issued by the monarchy.
Scene of Amman terror attacks (Photo: AP)
U.S. President George W. Bush condemned the suicide bombings and promised assistance in the investigation.
"The president condemns in the strongest possible terms the vicious terrorist attacks against innocent civilians in Amman, Jordan," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said in a statement.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called it a "great tragedy" that shows "the very difficult war that we're fighting." She described Jordan as "a tremendous fighter and a tremendous ally in the war on terrorism."
United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who is visiting Saudi Arabia as part of his tour of the Middle East, canceled his trip to Jordan, which was scheduled for Wednesday.
Israel’s Magen David Adom rescue service said it had offered to send medical aid to Jordan, including transport for any wishing to receive treatment in Israel.
Jordan has so far been spared major attacks on foreigners despite its proximity to Iraq, but the authorities had long been braced for trouble.
Terror experts have named Jordan as a hub for World Islamic Jihad activity. Last August three Katyusha rockets were launched from a warehouse window in Aqaba; one rocket passed above a U.S. battleship docking in the city’s port, and another landed in close proximity to the airport in Eilat, in Israel’s southernmost tip.
The third landed near an Aqaba hospital.
'Zionists are a legitimate target'
An Al Qaeda affiliated group, the Abdullah Azzam Brigades in Syria and Egypt, said in a statement released immediately after the attack that it was behind the attack.
"A group of our mujahideen have targeted U.S. vessels in Jordan and (Israel's) Eilat port with three Katyusha rockets before safely returning to their base," said the group’s statement.
"Zionists are a legitimate target and we warn the Americans, who are spreading their corruption throughout the world and who have stolen the wealth of the Muslim nation, to expect even more stinging attacks.”
Last July it was reported that the U.S. had obtained a letter sent by Osama Bin Laden's deputy Ayman Zawahiri to the leader of Iraq's insurgency Abu Musab al-Zarqawi outlining its future strategies.
According to the letter, intercepted during an operation in Iraq, al-Qaeda plans to broaden its activities from Iraq to Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Israel.
News agencies contributed to this report