Jordan Arrests Iraqi Woman in Hotel Blasts

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Jordan Arrests Iraqi Woman in Hotel Blasts

Newspaper article

By: Hassan M. Fattah

Date: November 14, 2005

Source: Fattah, Hassan M. "Jordan Arrests Iraqi Woman in Hotel Blasts." The New York Times (November 14, 2005).

About the Author: Hassan Fattah serves as a Middle East correspondent for The New York Times. Based in Baghdad, he is also the editor of an English language newspaper Iraq Today. He has contributed to publications like The New Republic and is a sought-after commentator on issues relating to the war in Iraq and subjects relating to the Arab world.


In late 2005 with the United-States-led war against insurgents continuing in Iraq, the Al Qaeda international terrorist group, which was leading the insurgency aimed against the occupation, began to seek other targets for their attacks in other parts of the world. On November 9, 2005, in an attack masterminded by Jordanian-born Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, fifty-seven people were killed in three separate attacks in the Jordanian capital of Amman. The three bombings were coordinated to take place simultaneously, and all occurred in large hotels. They resulted in one of the highest one-day death tolls from terrorism in Jordanian history. The deadliest attack took place at the Radisson Hotel where a Jordanian wedding was taking place, leading to the deaths of many members of the wedding party.

A fourth attack—alleged to have been planned for an adjoining area at one of the three sites—was averted when the female suicide bomber was unable to detonate the explosives strapped to her waist. Within a day of the bombings, Jordanian security officials announced her arrest and brought her before television cameras where she admitted that she intended to serve as a fourth bomber. The woman, whose husband was one of the bombers who succeeded in detonating his explosives, was a sister of a senior aide to al-Zarqawi, and her involvement served to confirm that the Iraqi-based Al Qaeda terrorist organization was behind the Amman bombings. This was of particular significance to the Jordanian people, since al-Zarqawi was born in Jordan and it was especially shocking that a man born in Jordan would order an attack against Jordanians.

The attacks served to demonstrate al-Zarqawi's intent to make his insurgency international, extending beyond the borders of Iraq into Jordan. Even though the attacks took place at hotels primarily frequented by Westerners, the vast majority of the casualties were Jordanians. In the statement claiming responsibility for the attacks, Al Qaeda admitted that those sites were chosen because they largely cater to Westerners. In the wake of the attacks, demonstrations in support of the Jordanian monarchy and against the terrorist policies of al-Zarqawi were seen as evidence that his hopes of influencing Jordanian public opinion away from an alliance with the West and toward support of the insurgency had largely failed.


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The attacks launched against three Jordanian hotels on the November 9, 2005, forced the people of Jordan to realize that the insurgency taking place in neighboring Iraq affected their nation as well. The bombings demonstrated the growing internationalization of Al-Qaeda terrorism, showing that adherents to the group were willing to attack sites in any country that would allow them to demonstrate their opposition to the West. This article suggests that Al Qaeda had been active for some time in trying to attack targets in Jordan. After attacks on high-profile, secured targets were circumvented, al-Zarqawi adjusted his strategy and went after "softer" civilian targets. The attack, thus, demonstrates that the insurgency had entered a new phase.

In describing the arrest of Sajida Mubarak al-Rishawi, this article suggests that the Jordanian authorities used her confession as a tool to further incite public opinion against Al Qaeda. Her confession was made as public as possible—in front of television cameras—with her explosive belt still attached to her waist (details that some believed were staged by the police). In raising the possibility that the authorities "dramatized" the confession, the article sheds light on their desire to use the arrest as a means to shift public opinion further away from the terrorists.

In light of the Jordanian public's vehement reaction against the attacks, it is clear that the bombings largely failed to meet Al Qaeda's (and al-Zarqawi's) goal—winning over the hearts and minds of the Muslim world against the West. While suicide bombings in Israel have enjoyed some degree of support in the Arab world, the Jordanian attacks—resulting in mostly Muslim casualties—were met largely with outrage. Jordan's King Abdullah, who studied in the West and has established strong diplomatic ties with Western governments, made a concerted effort to emphasize that Jordanian Muslims were the targets. With this characterization of the attacks, the Jordanian leader aimed to publicly proclaim the failure of the attacks to terrorize his society and change its support of the West. The impact of these responses—both from the governments and the public at large—will best be gauged by the location and type of international targets selected by the Al Qaeda terrorist network in the future.



Gunaratna, Rohan. Inside Al Qaeda: Global Network of Terror. New York: Berkley Trade, 2003.

Netanyahu, Benjamin. Fighting Terrorism: How Democracies Can Defeat Domestic and International Terrorists. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2001.