The Amman hotel bombings of 2005
by Elias Davidsson
The 2005 Amman bombings were a series of nearly simultaneous bomb attacks at three hotels in Amman, Jordan, on November 9, 2005. Approximately 60 people died and according to police, 115 were injured in the bombings.1 Jordanian Deputy Prime Minister Marwan al-Muasher initially announced that at least 67 people have died and 300 people have been injured. The Jordanian government subsequently revised the number of casualties down to at least 59 dead and 115 injured.
The explosions—at the Radisson SAS Hotel, the Grand Hyatt Hotel and the Days Inn, all within walking distance of one another —started at around 21:00 local time.2 The three hotels are often frequented by foreigners but most victims were Jordanians, Palestinians and other Arabs.
Much of the information that appeared in media on the forensics of the attacks was based on unnamed sources who “spoke on condition of anonymity because of the work’s covert nature.”3 Despite the large number of eyewitnesses, only few on-the-record testimonies from eyewitnesses are available and among those who spoke to journalists, only a handful dared to provide their names. More generally, news reports provided only sketchy forensic details and instead swiftly attributed the bombings to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the alleged Jordanian leader of “Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia.”
The explosion at the Radisson SAS
This was the deadliest attack of the three sites. Hundreds of guests were enjoying there a wedding reception when the bomb went off. The bride and groom each lost a parent and were themselves injured.4 According to the New York Times, “numerous Jordanian notables were in attendance.”5
One of only two known witnesses from that bombing site was disk jockey Fadi al-Kessi. He told Associated Press: “The lights at the wedding hall went off seconds, maybe just one second, before the blast, although there was electricity outside the room in the corridor, the nearby lobby area and the reception.”6 He added: “For some reason, I looked to my right in the darkness and saw what looked liked lightning, then there was a loud boom. It felt like the explosion came from the ceiling, then people started running out.”7 If his reported observation was correct, it would mean that whoever detonated the bomb had an accomplice who had access to the hotel’s lights and shut down the lights to the wedding hall, and only to that hall, just prior to the explosion. This witness also suggested that the explosion came from the ceiling, an observation corroborated by another witness, Bashar al-Khalid Daas, the groom’s brother. Daas said he was standing about six feet behind his father when the blast, which he said appeared to come from the ceiling, knocked him to the ground.8 According to the New York Times, Daas said “We were happy celebrating, singing, clapping. I was standing next to my brother. I felt the floor shaking. I thought it was an earthquake in the beginning. Then I realized what happened.”9 Did another device explode below the floor?
Photographs of the bombing site, such as the one below, show severe damage to ceilings, further strengthening the impression gained by the aforementioned witnesses.
Both above observations – that lights went out prior to the explosion and that the explosion came from the ceiling – if true, would shatter the official account, according to which the explosions were the work of suicide bombers. The Washington Post reported that “[i]t was not clear why the lights went out just before the blast”, without, however, trying to investigate the matter or spelling out the implications.10 According to USA Today, an unidentified security official said lights in sections of both the Radisson and Hyatt hotels went out just before the near-simultaneous blasts.11
According to unidentified sources cited by news outlets in four countries12 but based on a common news agency release13, the bomb at the Radisson SAS site had been “hidden behind a plant.” According to a report published by the Washington Post a day after the bombings, police at the scene said a rigged device had been planted in at least one of the hotels.14 Such specific statements can hardly be ascribed to misunderstandings and there is no ground to suspect news agencies of inventing such factual allegations. This leaves us with a set of unanswered questions: Which news agency disseminated the above report? who told the news agency that the device had been “hidden behind a plant” and who told the Washington Post that it had been “planted” in at least one of the hotels? on what evidence were these statements made? and what became of the informants?
Apart from the aforementioned two named individuals, no other eyewitnesses from the Radisson SAS bombing site are known to have described the unfolding events. This fact is surprising, considering the presence of hundreds of people at the scene, some of whom would certainly have seen the alleged perpetrators, noted the location of the blast’s epicenter and report the precise timings.
According to the official story, issued a few days after the events and reported by media, an Iraqi couple was responsible for the Radisson SAS attack, in which the husband blew himself up and the wife, who somehow did not manage to blow herself up, fled from the area, was later discovered, arrested, tried and sentenced to death.
The Washington Post offered its services to the Jordanian authorities, by promoting the uncorroborated and unverifiable narrative of the Jordanian police as a true account of these events, thereby shedding its claim of pursuing quality journalism.15 The Post’s presentation does not even offer a hint that the Jordanian police account may be self-serving or fraudulent. The same blind reliance on police information was shown by other media, also with respect to the other bombing sites.
According to the police sources, as presented by the Washington Post,16
1. an unnamed unnamed taxi driver told the police that he had driven the couple – Ali Hussein Ali al-Shamari, and his wife, Sajida Mubarak Atrous al-Rishawi – to the Radisson SAS hotel. The driver allegedly said that the passengers talked between themselves about Sunni-Shiite divisions in Iraq. The male passenger then allegedly told the driver not to repeat the conversation to anyone.
2. the couple wore “22 pound-explosive-packed belts around their waists”.
3. the couple “drew the suspicion of a hotel clerk, who asked what they were looking for. Al-Shamari replied that they were Iraqis who had never seen a Jordanian wedding party and asked if they could have a look.”
4. after entering the ball room, “Al-Shamari took up position on the right, where men were sitting in the gathering, which was segregated in line with conservative Islamic tradition”, while “Al-Rishawi found a seat on the left, near chatting women and a handful of playing children.”
5. Al-Shamari, “was talking constantly on his mobile phone” before detonating the bomb.
6. when the moment arrived for al-Rishawi to trigger her explosives belt, “there was a problem. She gestured to her husband that it wouldn’t explode.”
7. guests told police “they saw the husband angrily gesture toward the woman, telling her to leave [the area].”
8. as the wife moved toward the door, “the lights went out and her husband jumped onto a dining table and detonated his belt.”
The above account, entirely based on unidentified and unverifiable police sources, was later referred to as factual in the Wikipedia entry on the Amman bombings, demonstrating how history is written in the internet age.
The official account mentions numerous witnesses that allegedly talked to the police: (1) A taxi driver who allegedly drove the bombers to the Radisson SAS hotel; (2) the Radisson SAS hotel clerk who allegedly talked with the male bomber; (3) witnesses who reported that the bomber “talked constantly on his mobile phone,“ (4) guests who saw the male bomber “angrily gesture toward the woman, telling her to leave”; and (5) guests who, after the lights went out, observed as the man “jumped onto a dining table before detonating his belt.“ When considering the widespread distrust of ordinary folks in Arab countries towards government statements, the failure by the authorities to produce in public the witnesses to the aforementioned testimonies suggests that the testimonies were either extracted by force or were simply invented.
According to a “confession” played on Jordanian TV by the wife of the alleged bomber of the Radisson SAS site, she and her husband, Ali Hussein al-Shumari, rented a car and set out for the Radisson SAS.17 With her testimony the taxi driver’s story flew out of the window.
The dearth of public eyewitness testimonies from the Radisson SAS site suggests that real – as distinct from bogus – eyewitnesses were threatened not to reveal what they saw or what they did not see.
The explosion at the Grand Hyatt
The Washington Post of 15 November 2005 published a series of details regarding the bombings, not reported elsewhere.18 The authors of the article, relying on unidentified “top security officials” and other unidentified Jordanians, describe the alleged bomber at the Grand Hyatt, as “thin, dark, with a goatee and wearing a black jacket” and claim that he “sipped orange juice with another Iraqi in the coffee shop overlooking the lobby” where the explosion took place. The authors state with confidence that sitting behind the alleged Iraqi plotters, a known filmmaker, Mustapha al-Akkad, was kissing his daughter, Rima, after she had just arrived from the airport. Mohamed, the alleged suicide-bomber, keenly observed by an unknown person, “looked particularly annoyed by the sight of the well dressed, silver-haired older man kissing the young woman – a public display of affection considered sinful by conservative Muslims.” Apparently the unidentified observer was also capable to read Mohamed’s mind. Mohamed and the other man then allegedly left the coffee shop and went downstairs. Mohamed then returned alone to the coffee shop, “looking considerably bulkier, struggling to walk up the stairs.” Mohamed then returned to his previous table and detonated the bomb without hurting the observer. The authors of the Post’s article admit that nothing more is known about the second Iraqi man, whose existence somehow disappeared from public accounts.
USA Today, however, tells another story.19 Quoting an unidentified “official”, the paper wrote that the alleged bomber was “middle-aged”, had “explosives strapped under his suit” and “was stopped by suspicious security officials in the lobby.” There was no mention of orange juice or kisses. The official did not say why “security officials in the lobby” were suspicious of the man and whether they searched the suspicious man. The paper, however, reported that “hotel cameras had some shots” of the alleged bomber. These were never released to the public, assuming that they existed in the first place. According to “the police spokesman”, identified as al-Da’aja, the attacker “tried to detonate himself inside the hotel lobby, but his bomb did not go off until he rushed outside the hotel lobby.” USA Today informs us also that according to “initial reports” the hotel was attacked by a car bomb. This would have been a third version of the events.
A slightly different version was publicized by The Australian.20 According to that newspaper, citing a hotel employee “who declined to be identified”, the alleged bomber “was wearing a shoddy coat” and “the man, speaking with an Iraqi accent, said he just wanted to look around, so the security guard asked him to leave the premises.”
Because the above versions cannot all be true, some or all of them must be bogus. How such bogus stories find their way to prestigious mass media would be a worthwhile subject of investigation.
We note that all the accounts from the Grand Hyatt are based on unidentified sources. This suggests that those who actually witnessed the events were gagged.
The explosion at the Days Inn
Various sources report that the bomb exploded outside the hotel gates. Scott MacLeod wrote in Time Magazine that the bomb exploded “inside a vehicle” that was “stopped for questioning by security guards”.21 Jordan Times, similarly, wrote that the bomber “attempted to cross a security barrier outside the Days Inn” but “was unable” to do so. The New York Times only cited unnamed officials to the effect that the explosion might have been a “car bomb”. Marwan Muasher, deputy Prime Minister of Jordan, actually told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer late on the day of the bombings, that the alleged bomber at the Days Inn “attempted to cross through the security barriers and could not, and exploded at the barrier.”22
A completely different version was reported by the English-Arab website Asharq Alawsat, The New York Times and The Washington Post. According to the Washington Post – citing Khaled Abou-Ghosh, the hotel’s general manager – the alleged bomber, named Ali, “who sported a short beard and wore a black leather jacket, sat in a small restaurant on the ground floor.” A waiter then allegedly asked Ali if he was having dinner, “and the man – who seemed nervous – answered in an Iraqi accent that he wanted only orange juice.”23
The New York Times cited as a source for the Days Inn bombing a certain Nader al-Khatib, described by the New York Times as “helping run a banquet for about 50 members of one family at his small Days Inn hotel.” The Australian, however, revealed that al-Khatib was none other than the “chairman of the board of the Days Inn hotel.”24 Al-Khatib told the New York Times that he “quickly spoke to staff members, who, he said, related a chilling story of near disaster.”25 At about 9 p.m., al-Khatib said, a man in black pants and a black leather jacket walked into the hotel and sat at a table in the crowded dining area. He said the man “had ordered an orange juice but because he appeared nervous and fidgety, the waiter said the dining area was for families only.” The man rose and made what Mr. Khatib described as a kind of herky-jerky motion with his jacket. He seemed angry, Mr. Khatib said, as he walked outside – and exploded. From the account of The New York Times, it appears that Mr. al-Khatib merely related what he was told.
According to The Australian, al-Khatib said: “[The alleged bomber] seemed odd. He was tugging at his coat like a pervert, so finally the waiter told him ‘this is a family-only coffee shop’ before calling hotel security who escorted him outside.” When he was outside he allegedly blew himself up, “killing three Chinese who were walking into the establishment, and wounding a Jordanian”, said al-Khatib. He did not explain what became of the hotel security employee “who escorted [the alleged bomber] outside”, but added that the “security chief saw [the alleged bomber] moving his arms about and then he blew up”. Apparently the security employee and the security chief (or were they one of the same person?) withdrew swiftly from the area before the device exploded. Fast thinking.
Another mysterious fact reported by the Washington Post and attributed to unidentified officials, is that of a hotel guest who was warned in advance of the impending explosion: “Moments [before the explosions], on an upstairs floor at the Days Inn, a woman was leaving her room when a man who passed her in the corridor told her – in an Iraqi accent – to return to her room because there was about to be an explosion…Then came the blast.”26 The identity of this mysterious woman was never disclosed, if she existed.
Asharq Alawsat does not cite the hotel manager but instead an unidentified “senior police official”, according to whom the alleged bomber “argued with hotel staff” before detonating a belt “packed with up to 22 pounds of explosives” at the building’s entrance.27 The website also mentions, citing this “police official”, that the alleged bomber had “ordered an orange juice and spoke in an Iraqi accent to staff, who asked him to move from an area where he was sitting because it was designated as a ‘place for families’ and not single men. The man became angry and started mumbling words in an Iraqi accent that the waiter believed were insults before leaving the hotel.”
According to Asharq Alawsat, again citing the “police official”, hotel staff saw the man then “kneel to the ground and start tugging at something from under his jacket, apparently fighting with a faulty primer cord for his explosives, which finally detonated, blowing his body apart and killing three members of a Chinese military delegation.” The “police official” told Asharq Alawsat that “waiters” told police that the morning before the attack, “two men entered the hotel and appeared to be staking out the premises before leaving shortly after.” The “police official” did not say who recognized the “two men”, how they were recognized, who they were, and on what grounds was their visit interpreted by waiters as “staking out the premises.” No mention was made later about this episode.
Time and sequence
The Jordanian authorities have not publicly revealed the precise times at which explosions occurred at the three hotels. They did not either reveal the precise locations where the detonation took place. Such information should not have been difficult to determine and there was no apparent reason to conceal this information from the public.
According to Ha’aretz28 and The New York Times29 of November 10, 2005, the first blast went off at 20:50 in the lobby of the Grand Hyatt, then at the Radisson SAS, and finally at the Days Inn. Ha’aretz also quoted CNN to the effect that an eyewitness saw the Jordanian Prime Minister’s car at the Grand Hyatt at the time of the blast. Whether this fact was true, and if so, whether it had any links to the bombings, has not been established.
The hotels where the attacks took place, were equipped with security video cameras. According to NBC News, there was “only one surveillance camera in operation Wednesday night at the Hyatt Hotel,”30 but it proved useless because the images were reportedly not clear.31 According to the New York Times, citing an official with Jordan’s intelligence services, who spoke on condition of anonymity, the wife of the alleged bomber of the Radisson SAS was “spotted on a hotel security camera and police had been searching for her for several days.”32 Where are these images?
Attribution of responsibility
Three days after the bombings, Jordanian Prime Minister told to the Dubai-based news channel Al-Arabiya TV that “investigations have concluded that Al-Qaida Organization, particularly Abu-Mus’ab al Zarqawi group, stands behind the bombings.”33 He added that “[a]ccording to DNA tests, there are three or four [perpetrators]. We are almost certain that those who carried out this action are not from Jordan. I would like to assert that these individuals are not from any country; they have no homeland or identity. They do not belong to any religion. This is because they carry a passport that is called the department of terrorism.”34 Jordan’s Prime Minister stated categorically that Al-Qaeda “stands behind this group. This is a solid fact. That was clear from the manner in which the bombings took place; there was a five-minute difference between each bombing.”35 Solid thinking.
Four days after the bombings, the Jordanian authorities arrested an Iraqi woman, Sajida Mubarak al-Rishawi, under the suspicion to have participated in the Amman hotel bombings. She was accused to have volunteered to become a suicide bomber because three of her brothers had been killed during unspecified “operations” in Iraq.36 She was reportedly unable to succeed in her murderous plan to blow herself up because she left a crucial component – what one investigator called a “key” – in her car.37 That explanation was later replaced by a new one because no car and no “key” could be produced.
Jordanian investigators say they had by November 13 – four days after the bombings – positively identified the remains of three male suicide bombers using DNA analysis.38 They were named as Ali Hussein al-Shammari, Rawwad Jasem Mohammed Abed and Safa Mohammed Ali.39 Fast work.
According to the Washington Post, citing “accounts given by those with whom the AP spoke” suggest that “at least two others involved in the attacks were in the hotels at the time of the blasts.”40 It was not revealed with whom AP spoke and who these surviving accomplices were. Their very existence vanished from later press accounts.
In 2012 Portland attorney Ron Jenkins of Portland, Maine, filed on 9 January 2012 a Complaint in a federal court in Washington D.C. against the Syrian Arab Republic and Syrian Military Intelligence for their alleged roles in the Amman bombings of November 9, 2005.41 This legal action accompanied, as if by chance, NATO’s strategy to destabilize and overthrow the Syrian regime. The People’s Daily reported one day after the Amman bombings, that Syria “strongly denounced the deadly bombings” in Amman, showed its sympathy and support to the Jordanian government and people and sent condolences to the families of the victims.42 No evidence has hitherto linked Syria to the Amman events.
The explosives used
As for the explosives used, unidentified police sources said that it was “probably TNT, not available in Jordan and most likely smuggled in from neighboring Iraq.”43 Furthermore, one of the bombers “may have also detonated a package containing ball bearings”.44 Jordan’s Deputy Prime Minister Marwan Muasher told CNN, however, that two explosives belts were found: One filled with the explosive RDX, the other with ball bearings.45
Apart from the aforementioned speculations, Jordanian officials did not disclose the actual nature of the explosives used in the bombings, the precise locations where the devices exploded and the extent of the damage.
Claims by alleged authors
According to an “internet statement” published on an unidentified website, a group allegedly headed by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi claimed responsibility for the Amman hotel bombings and vowed to pursue further attacks in Jordan for providing a “protective wall” to Israel and US-led forces in Iraq.46 The statement was allegedly “signed” by the group’s spokesman, Abu Maysara al-Iraqi.47 According to the accusations by the alleged masterminds, the targeted Amman hotels “have been turned by the dictator of Jordan (King Abdullah II) into a back garden for the enemies of (our) religion, the Jews and the Crusaders.” The hotels were said “filthy entertainment centers for the traitors and apostates of the umma, and a safe haven for the infidel intelligence services, which are leading their conspiracy against the Muslims from there.”48 Yet neither “Jews” nor “Crusaders” were targeted by the Amman bombings. Of the 59 fatalities in Amman, 52 were Arab Muslims and three were Chinese.
King Abdullah of Jordan told, however, to CNN, that he believed the ultimate targets of the bombers were Jordanians, even though the three hotel chains are Western and some of the victims were foreigners. “Those that know Jordan, the hotels, especially the Days Inn, is a favorite place for Jordanians and Iraqis,” Abdullah said. “These suicide bombers actually went and aimed at Jordanian targets. The Radisson Hotel was a Jordanian wedding with Jordanians and Palestinians, where innocent people were killed. So this was nothing to do with the West. This targeted Jordanian citizens, innocent men, women and children.”49 King Abdullah did not explain why Muslims, let alone alleged supporters of Al-Qaeda who claim to target primarily “Jews and Crusaders”, would seek to kill Jordanian Muslims, including those participating in a wedding party. In her alleged confession, the female wannabe bomber indicated her awareness of the presence of women and children in the wedding celebration. If she really intended to carry out a suicide-operation in that location, she must have been mad and hired by her handlers for that reason. The other explanation is that her alleged confession was induced by threats and had no relation to the truth.
According to the Israeli daily Ha’aretz of November 10, 2005, “a number of Israelis staying yesterday at the Radisson SAS were evacuated before the bombing by Jordanian security forces (sic), apparently due to a specific security alert. They were escorted back to Israel by security personnel.” Israeli businessman and tourists frequently visit Amman, including in the bombed hotels.50 If what Ha’aretz was correct, it would indicate that Jordanian security officials knew that an attack was planned on that particular hotel for that day and permitted the bombings to proceed.
Amos N. Guiora, a former senior Israeli counter-terrorism official, said in a phone interview with The Times that sources in Israel had confirmed to him the pre-attack evacuations. “It means there was excellent intelligence that this thing was going to happen,” said Guiora, who headed in 2005 the Institute for Global Security Law and Policy at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. “The question that needs to be answered is why weren’t the Jordanians working at the hotel similarly removed?”51
We mentioned earlier the story of a woman who told the police that moments before the blast a man who passed her in the corridor warned her – in an Iraqi accent – to return to her room because an explosion was imminent.52 The woman and her knowledgeable informant were not identified. Her report supports the news from Israel regarding official foreknowledge of the bombings.
As of November 12, 2005, up to 200 people have been rounded up in a nationwide hunt for Islamist underground cells and police have searched poor Amman neighbourhoods where Iraqi workers live, a security source told Reuters. Some of those arrested have been released, the source said. Interior Minister Awni Yarfas said those being questioned included Iraqi nationals.53
An unidentified official admitted: “We don’t know if any of them were involved in the attacks or assisted the suicide bombers. Many may simply be innocent.”54 No reports were issued regarding the release of those arrested.
On November 13, 2005, Jordanian security officials announced the arrest in a “safe house” in Amman of an Iraqi woman, Sajida Mubarak al-Rishawi, 35-years old, they said was a fourth bomber in the Amman hotel attacks (see photograph below).55
Three days later, Jordan’s Prime Minister Adnan Badran, announced that she had been arrested in the northeastern city of Salt, where she had sought the help of relatives, not in Amman as previously announced.56 He added that “Salt residents reported about her and she was seized there.” Why did security officials initially say that she was arrested in Amman, if this was not true?
On 13 November 2004, Jordanian TV played a pre-recorded clip on which Sajidah al-Rishawi said she tried to detonate the explosive belt but it failed.57 She said “My name is Sajida Mabruk Atrous Rishawi, born in 1970 in Ramadi (Iraq). I entered Jordan on November 5 with falsified Iraq passports in which the name of my husband was Ali Hussein Ali and mine was Sajida Abdel Kader Latif.”
Wearing a white headscarf and a black coat,58 Sajidah al-Rishawi explained how her husband “had two detonator belts. He put one on me and he put one around himself and taught me how to work it so that we (could) execute (the operation) in hotels in Jordan.”59 She said she and her husband travelled from Iraq four days before the bombings to the Jordanian capital, where they rented an apartment. On November 9, she said, they rented a car and drove to the [Radisson SAS] hotel, where “he went to one corner and I went to another. There was a wedding at the hotel with children, women and men inside. My husband detonated (his bomb) and I tried to explode my belt but it wouldn’t. People fled running and I left running with them.”60
Jordanian officials would not say when the tape was made and whether she was told by her interrogators to wear the bomb belt that she ostentatiously displayed to viewers. It is also unclear how much of the tape, which runs less than five minutes, was edited.61
The State Security Court – a military court – began on 24 April 2006 the trial of Sajidah al-Rishawi who allegedly took part in the Amman hotel bombings.62 Media published later the following photograph of Ms. al-Rishawi standing behind bars during the trial, which took place in the prison.63
She retracted in court her videotaped confession, claiming that she was subjected to physical and mental torture to admit to being part of the plot to attack the hotels.64
Her lawyer,65 as well as Hussein al-Masri, her newly appointed lawyer, seconded her charge “that her televised confession was extracted from her under torture and duress.“ His client seemed to him mentally deranged and appeared to have been manipulated by the militant group.66 Sajida Richawi told the third hearing into the case that she suffered from a psychological problem. Her lawyer said he would ask the court to order that she undergo a psychological evaluation.67 His request was denied.68
“‘I didn’t want to die,'” Al-Rishawi told her lawyer. “‘I didn’t know what to do and I couldn’t get rid of the (explosives) belt. So I ran away immediately after the explosion.'”69 Al-Masri said his client had told him she had never met al-Zarqawi and never belonged to any militant group.70 The Jordanian Bar Association rejected a demand from the military court to appoint a lawyer for al-Rishawi. Her lawyer was then appointed by the court.71
Many Jordanians expressed doubt that al-Rishawi’s confession was real and whether she was even involved in the plot. “I don’t buy it. There are many contradictions, and it just doesn’t make sense,” Mohammed al-Fakhiri, a 33-year-old mobile telephone shop owner in the Jordanian, capital, Amman, told Associated Press.72
In its report on Jordan for the year 2006, Amnesty International affirms that “[t]orture and other ill-treatment of political detainees has been a longstanding problem in Jordan, one that remains as persistent today as when Amnesty International began regularly documenting the problem over 20 years ago.”73 The General Intelligence Department (GID), a military security agency directly linked to the Jordanian Prime Minister, “is the primary instrument of abuse of political detainees and for obtaining these ‘confessions’. GID officers have extensive powers and benefit from near total impunity, acting virtually as a law unto themselves.”74
On September 21, 2006, a Jordanian court sentenced seven people, including Sajida Rishawi, to death by hanging for involvement in the Amman bombings.75 She pleaded not guilty.76 The other defendants were tried and sentenced in absentia.
Political and financial sequels
1. Financial gains
Major U.S. markets dipped in reaction to news of the Amman bombings but closed in “positive territory.” The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 6 points to 10,546, the S&P 500 was higher by 2 points to 1221.84, and the Nasdaq Composite was up 4 points at 2176.77 Those with foreknowledge of the bombings could have enriched themselves by playing the stock market.
2. Rallying the public behind the authorities
Far from causing Muslims to support the alleged terrorists, the bombings caused widespread revulsion among ordinary Jordanians against those responsible for the bombings, while leaving many in doubt about the real instigators.
On the very day of the bombings, BBC reported that Abd-al-Majid Dhunaybat, controller-general of the Muslim Brotherhood group in Jordan, called the bombings “a criminal and terrorist act and no Muslim would commit such a terrorist act that causes bloodletting and harms the sacred life of citizens.”78 In statement to the Petra, the Jordanian press agency, he said: “Islam forbids harming any human soul and considers the killing of one person as outrageous as killing all people…[This act] will only benefit the enemies of the country. We in the Muslim Brotherhood group denounce such ugly and cowardly terrorist acts that cannot be justified under any logic or pretext. The crimes tonight targeted Jordan with all its principles and elements.”79
The Associated Press reported one day later that hundreds of angry Jordanians had taken to the streets crying “Burn in hell, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi!”80
Condemnation of the bombing came also from Zarqa, 15 miles from Amman, the home town of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the alleged leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, accused of ordering the Amman bombings.81
On November 17, 2005, mass demonstrations were held in Jordan against the bombings. According to news reports, at least 200,000 persons participated in the demonstrations. “More than 100,000 people took part in the demonstration which left the al-Husseini mosque and then moved towards Amman town hall,” security forces spokesman Bashir al-Daajeh told Agence France-Presse. “Their number increased as the demonstrators were approaching the town hall and then reached 250,000,” he estimated.82
The bombings were apparently useful in reversing apparent public sympathy for al-Qaeda to revulsion. In a survey of over 1,000 Jordanians by the survey firm Ipsos, conducted for the Jordanian newspaper Al Ghad, as reported by the New York Times, two-thirds of Jordanians asked said they had changed their view of Al Qaeda after the bombings. More than 87 percent also said they considered Al Qaeda a terrorist organization, and almost as many said that Al Qaeda’s acts of terror did not represent Islam. In previous surveys in Jordan, Al Qaeda had enjoyed approval ratings upward of 60 percent.83
3. Government shake-up
King Abdullah II appointed on November 15, 2005, Marouf al-Bakhit, Amman’s ambassador to Israel, to replace the security chief Saad Kheir, a former head of Jordan’s intelligence department. No details were given for the resignation of Kheir and 10 others top Jordanian officials, including prominent religious advisers to the King.84
A few days later, King ‘Abdallah announced that Ma’arouf Bakhit would replace Adnan Badran as Prime Minister and form a new government. On November 27, 2005, Prime Minister Marouf Bakhit announced the formation of a 23-member Cabinet, including nine ministers who served in the former Cabinet of Adnan Badran, four public figures who previously held ministerial posts and 10 newcomers representing public and private sector as well as the civil service. Key appointments indicate that the government’s list of priorities entail overhauling the public sector and pushing forth with the country’s National Agenda, that is to set the course for the Kingdom for the next 10 years. It is also seen as one that will protect the country from terror attacks.85
Unidentified Jordanian officials cited by Ha’aretz and other media said the King may have chosen al-Bakhit due to his reputation as a tough former general. He also taught political science in a southern Jordanian university that trains army and police recruits. He is expected to embrace Abdullah’s policies of upholding the kingdom’s longtime alliance with the United States and strategic ties with Israel under a peace treaty signed in 1994. Al-Bakhit, a graduate of British and American universities, served in the army for 35 years until he retired with the rank of major general in 1999, according to a biography released by the palace press office.86
The reasons for this significant political shake-up were never disclosed. King Abdullah gave, however, a hint in the designation letter to newly appointed Prime Minister Marouf al-Bakhit. He said the 9 November attacks “reaffirm […] our need to adopt a comprehensive strategy to confront the Takfiri culture”. The king called for a “relentless war on all the Takfiri schools, which embrace extremism, backwardness, isolation and darkness and are fed on the ignorance and naivety of simple people.”87
4. Stronger support for the U.S.
Surprisingly, the website of the Council for Foreign Relations (CFR) in Washington, D.C. published merely 24 hours after the Amman bombings a detailed political commentary by Lionel Beehner entitled “The Effects of the Amman Bombings on U.S.-Jordanian Relations.”88 The author was able, at this early hour, to quote Samer Abu Libdeh, a Jordanian scholar and visiting research fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, to the effect that the bombings are likely to “empower the existing relationship [between the United States and Jordan].” Indeed they did.
In demonstrating the salutary effects of the bombings, the author cites unnamed experts to the effect that the two biggest thorns in the U.S.-Jordanian relationship are the war in Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Jordanians came out in droves to protest the 2003 Iraq war. According to a July 2005 poll by the Pew Global Attitudes Project, cited by the author 38 percent of Jordanians surveyed said the main cause of Islamic extremism is U.S. policies in the Middle East—namely its support for Israel. Another disturbing trend in Jordan, highlighted in the July Pew poll, is support for Osama Bin Laden in Jordan has jumped from 55 percent in 2003 to 60 percent in 2005.89 The Amman bombings affected public opinion towards greater support for the government’s alignment with the U.S.
Six days after the bombings, U.S. National Intelligence Director John Negroponte arrived in Jordan for talks.90 No details were offered on the object of the visit.
The Jordanian King meanwhile put the international community on notice that it must cooperate the fight terrorists. “Terrorism is a sick and cross-border phenomenon. Therefore eradicating it is the whole world’s responsibility,” he told the state-run Petra news agency.91
In 2010, Jordanian Prime Minister Samir Rifai defended his country’s cooperation with the CIA in hunting al-Qaeda terrorists who allegedly were behind the Amman hotel bombings. He told the official Petra news agency that Jordan would continue to wage operations against terrorists outside the country “in coordination with others […] We will be present in any place as long as our national security necessitates that and we will reach our enemy anywhere and protect our security regardless of sacrifices,” he added. Rifai said that the Amman hotel bombings were instrumental in “developing our preventive security strategy”.92
During a visit to Washington in 2010, Jordan’s Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh said
I have said very clearly that in the global war on terror and terrorism, Jordan is at the forefront, and we’re there as part of that global network, and we’re also there to protect our national interest…Our partnership [with the United States] is a strategic and solid one based on common values…Our presence in Afghanistan today is twofold: Number one, to combat terrorism and the root causes of terrorism, but also to help out in the humanitarian effort that is needed there. And I would like to say that our presence in Afghanistan will be enhanced and increased in the coming phase…We are not only part of a network of countries that are trying to assist Afghanistan and Afghanis, but also trying to combat terror and terrorism. But we’re also there to defend Jordan’s national interests and defend – to defend Jordanians and safeguard them against this growing threat… We continue to look forward to working with you and with other governments in combating terror and terrorism.93
5. Police state measures
Less than a week after the Amman bombings, Jordan’s interior minister, Awni Yirfas, announced new regulations demanding that all Jordanians notify the authorities within 48 hours of any foreigners renting an apartment or house.94
Jordan also has begun drafting, apparently “under significant pressure from the US”,95 new antiterrorism laws allowing any suspect to be held for questioning indefinitely and imposing penalties on “those who would expose the lives and properties of citizens to danger inside and outside the country,” an unidentified official told media on November 15, 2005.96
In August 2006, Jordan’s parliament passed new anti-terrorism law. This law triggered concerns by UN experts that it could violate human rights.97 It includes provisions legalizing detention for up to 30 days without access to legal counsel, and transferring terror cases from the civil courts to military tribunals. Domestic critics charge that the security services already enjoy sufficient legal powers to combat extremists and that the legislation is an attempt to quash criticism of pro-US government policy. Fourteen opposition parties have joined in condemning the bill, which they say constitutes a declaration of “martial law” and “a blunt violation of the Jordanian constitution and the International Declaration of Human Rights.”98
Using the standard set of criteria used to evaluate whether incidents designated as terrorist acts constitute false-flag operations, we note that criteria 1 to 6 are fully fulfilled, criteria 7 is partly fulfilled and criteria 8 is not fulfilled:
1. The Amman bombings were not claimed by a bona fide organisation, but by someone purporting to be Abu Musab Zarqawi who allegedly led in Iraq a group affiiliated with al-Qaeda. His claims, posted on an unidentified website, could not be verified. News reports cited these claims without providing a source.
2. As the source of the claims could not be authenticated, the alleged demands made by the alleged claimant could not be taken seriously..
3. No one, particularly in Jordan, celebrated the Amman bombings. On the contrary, widespread demonstrations were held to protest the bombings and Islamic organisations in Jordan, including those opposing the government, explicitly condemned these attacks.
4. The only person tried for participating in the bombings, retracted her confession in court. Her mental sanity is in question. She did not justify killing fellow Muslims.
5. The other three persons accused of perpetrating the bombings, allegedly blew themselves up and could, therefore, not be brought to trial.
6. The investigation of the bombings manifested significant omissions, suppression of evidence and the dissemination of untruths to the media.
7. Some, though inconclusive, evidence suggests that Jordanian officials had foreknowledge of the bombings.
8. There is no evidence that military or police counter-terrorism drill was carried out at the time and location of the bombings.
According to the terms of presumptive rule used to assess alleged terrorist operations, if the evidence fulfills at least four of the eight listed criteria, it very likely was a false-flag operation. The above examination of publicly available evidence about the Amman bombings fulfills at least six criteria. It is therefore very likely that the bombings were a false-flag operation mounted with the agreement of the Jordanian authorities.
1. “At least one American among dead in Jordan”, USA Today, 10 November 2005, at http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/world/2005-11-09-jordan-blast_x.htm. According to Jordan’s government spokesman Bassel Tarawneh, 96 people were wounded.
2. We could not find out the precise times of the explosions. Surprisingly, a Pakistani daily was somehow able to report that the Radisson SAS explosion had taken place at precisely 9:02pm and “was immediately followed by a second blast at the Grand Hyatt.” (“Triple suicide bombing in Amman kills 23”, Daily Times (Pak), 10 November 2005, at http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=20051110story_10-11-2005_pg1_3)
3. Michael Slackman and Souad Mekhennet, Jordan says bombing suspect aimed to avenge brothers, The New York Times, November 15, 2005, =199
4. “’Al-Qaeda’ claims Jordan attacks”, BBC, 10 November 2005, at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/4423714.stm
5. Hassan M. Fattah and Michael Slackman, “3 Hotels Bombed in Jordan; At Least 57 Die ”, The New York Times, 10 November 2005, at http://www.nytimes.com/2005/11/10/international/middleeast/10jordan.html?_r=0
8. Jonathan Finer, “The Best Day Became the Worst”, The Washington Post, 11 November 2005, at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/11/10/AR2005111000223_2.html
9. Michael Slackman, Nov. 11, 2005, supra n.
10. Jamal Halaby and Zeina Karam, “Details of Deadly Jordan Bombings Emerge”; The Washington Post, November 15, 2005, at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/11/15/AR2005111501231_pf.html, =217
11. “Amid plan for anti-terror law, top Jordanian officials resign”, USA Today, November 15, 2005, =216
12. “Dozens killed in triple Jordan blasts”, Gulf News, 10 November 2005 (at http://gulfnews.com/news/region/jordan/dozens-killed-in-triple-jordan-blasts-1.444060); “57 killed in Amman blasts”, Daily News and Analysis (India), 10 November 2005 (at http://www.dnaindia.com/world/report_57-killed-in-amman-blasts_9210); “Triple suicide bombing in Amman kills 23”, Daily Times (Pakistan), 10 November 2005 (at http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=20051110story_10-11-2005_pg1_3); “53 die as terrorists hit Jordan”, News.Com.Au (Australia), 9 November 2005 (at http://traveloscopy.com/CMS/content/view/411/35/).
13. The common source of this statement is inferred from the equal wording of the reports.
14. Jonathan Finer and Naseer Mehdawi, “Bombings Kill Over 50 At 3 Hotels in Jordan”, The Washington Post, 10 November 2005, at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/11/09/AR2005110901185.html
15. When journalists present unverifiable allegations based on unnamed sources as facts, they in the very least violate basic standards of good journalism. They may, however, act as paid agents for corporations or intelligence agencies.
16. Jamal Halaby and Zeina Karam, supra n.
17. Hassan M. Fattah, “Jordan Arrests Iraqi Woman in Hotel Blasts”, The New York Times, 13 November 2005, supra n.
18. Jamal Halaby and Zeina Karam, “Details of Deadly Jordan Bombings Emerge”, The Washington Post, 15 November 2005, at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/11/15/AR2005111501231.html
19. “At least one American among dead in Jordan”, USA Today, 10 November 2005, at http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/world/2005-11-09-jordan-blast_x.htm
20. The Australian, supra n.
21. Scott MacLeod, “Behind the Amman Hotel Attack”, Time Magazine, Nov. 10, 2005, at http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1128209,00.html#ixzz2G574mbiK
22. “Series Of Blasts In Jordan Kill Many”, CNN, 9 November 2005, 16:00 ET, at http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0511/09/bn.03.html
23. Jamal Halaby and Zeina Karam, supra n.
24. “Last moments of Amman bombers recalled”, The Australian, 12 November 2005, cached at http://email@example.com/msg16366.html
25. Hassan M. Fattah and Michael Slackman, “3 Hotels Bombed in Jordan; At Least 57 Die”, New York Times, 10 November 2005, at http://www.nytimes.com/2005/11/10/international/middleeast/10jordan.html?_r=0
26. Jamal Halaby and Zeina Karam, supra n.
27. “Police learn second Amman bomber spoke with Iraqi accent”, Asharq Alawsat, 12 November 2005, at http://www.asharq-e.com/news.asp?id=2629
28. Zohar Blumenkrantz and Yoav Stern, “Scores dead in three Amman hotel bombings; Israelis evacuated before attack”; Ha’aretz, November 10, 2005, =214
29. Hassan M. Fattah and Michael Slackman, supra n.
30. Mellisa Stark and Tom Aspell, supra n.
31. Michael Slackman and Souad Mekhennet, Jordan says bombing suspect aimed to avenge brothers, The New York Times, November 15, 2005, =199
32. Hassan M. Fattah, “ Jordan Arrests Iraqi Woman in Hotel Blasts”, The New York Times, 14 November 2005, supra n.
33. “Amman says Al-Zarqawi behind blasts; plotters ‘not from Jordan’”, BBC Monitoring Middle East, November 12, 2005 (emphasis added)
36. Michael Slackman and Souad Mekhennet, Jordan says bombing suspect aimed to avenge brothers, The New York Times, November 15, 2005, =199
37. Ibid. The story of the taxi-driver who drove the couple to the hotel was found more convenient, as reported by the Washington Post (supra).
38. Melissa Stark and Tom Aspell, “Jordanian authorities question suspects in Amman hotel bombings”, NBC News, November 12, 2005, =204; and Hassan M. Fattah, “Jordan Arrests Iraqi Woman in Hotel Blasts”, supra n.
39. “Jordan female suicide bomber confesses on television”, AFP, November 13, 2005, =205
40. Jamal Halaby and Zeina Karam, supra n.
41. “American Victims of 2005 Amman Hotel Bombings Seek Justice From Syria”, PR Newswire, January 10, 2005
42. “Syria denounces hotel bombing attacks, in Jordan”, People’s Daily (Beijing), 10 November 2005, at http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/200511/10/eng20051110_220232.html
43. Melissa Stark and Tom Aspell, supra n. (emphasis added)
44. Ibid. (emphasis added)
45. “’Bomber confession’ shocks Jordan”, CNN, supra n.
46. Lamia Radia, “Qaeda warns of more Jordan attacks after hotel bombings”, Agence France Press, November 10, 2005, =200
47. Liam Christopher, “Married couple in hotel suicide squad”, Daily Post (Liverpool), November 12, 2005, =203
48. Lamia Radia, supra n.
49. Hassan M. Fattah, “Jordan Arrests Iraqi Woman in Hotel Blasts”, The New York Times, 14 November 2005, at http://travel.nytimes.com/2005/11/14/international/middleeast/14amman.html?_r=0
50. Zohar Blumenkrantz, supra n. 13
51. Ashraf Khalil, Ranya Kadri and Josh Meyer, Suicide Attacks Kill at Least 57 at 3 Hotels in Jordan’s Capital, Los Angles Times, November 10, 2005, =215
52. Jamal Halaby and Zeina Karam, supra n. 10
53. Jordan questions suspects after Amman hotel bombings, The Times of Malta, 12 November 2005, at http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20051112/local/jordan-questions-suspects-after-amman-hotel-bombings.72266
54. Liam Christopher, “Married Couple in Hotel Suicide Squad”, Daily Post (Liverpool), November 12, 2005
55. Jamal Halaby, “Woman admits role in Jordan attack”, Associated Press, 14 November 2005, at http://www.boston.com/news/world/articles/2005/11/14/woman_admits_role_in_jordan_attack/?camp=pm
56. Shafika Mattar, “Jordan Releases Details on Would-Be Bomber”, The Washington Post, 16 November 2005, at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/11/16/AR2005111600380.html
57. “Jordan shows ‘would-be bomber’”, BBC, 13 November 2005, at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/4433712.stm
58. “Jordan female suicide bomber…”, supra n. 19
59. Lamia Radia, supra n.
60. Hannah Allam, “Hotel bombers linked to anti-US groups in Fallujah”, The Age (Australia), 15 November 2005, at http://www.theage.com.au/news/iraq/hotel-bombers-linked-to-antius-groups-in-fallujah/2005/11/14/1131951100281.html?page=2
61. Hassan M. Fattah, “Jordan Arrests Iraqi Woman in Hotel Blasts”, The New York Times, 14 November 2005
62. “Jordan opens trials of Amman, Aqaba bombings suspects 24, 26 April”, BBC, April 18, 2006, =206
63. “Jordan convicts 10 on terrorism charges”, The Telegraph (UK), 4 October 2010, at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/jordan/8041659/Jordan-convicts-10-on-terrorism-charges.html
64. Rana Husseini, “Prosecutor seeks death penalty for Rishawi”, Jordan Times, 10 July 2006, at http://www.jordanembassyus.org/07102006002.htm
65. Shafika Mattar, “Iraqi woman accused in Amman hotel bombings says confessed under torture”, Associated Press, May 11, 2006, =207
68. “Amman would-be bomber pleads not guilty”, UPI, May 15, 2006, =208
72. “’Bomber confession’ shocks Jordan”, CNN, November 14, 2005
73. Amnesty International Report 2006 – Jordan, Amnesty International, 23 May 2006, at http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/447ff7ac25.html
75. Musa Hattar, “Iraqi woman to hang over Amman hotel bombings”, AFP, September 21, 2006, =209; and “Seven sentenced to death over Amman bombings”, BBC Monitoring Middle East, September 21, 2006
77. The Street, supra n.
78. “Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood leader says blasts “terrorist acts””, BBC Monitoring Middle East, November 9, 2005
80. “The Amman hotel bombings”, The Washington Times, November 11, 2005
81. Melissa Stark and Tom Aspell, supra n.
82. “200,000 protest Amman attacks”, Washington Times, 18 November 2005, at http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2005/nov/18/20051118-110234-2315r/?page=all
83. Hassan M. Fattah and Michael Slackman, “11 Top Jordanian Advisers Resign in Wake of Attacks”, supra n.
84. “Jordan security aide and 10 others resign”, supra n.
85. “Government of H.E. Marouf Bakhit Cabinet List of 27 November 2005”, Website of the Jordanian Embassy in the Netherlands, at http://www.jordanembassy.nl/jordan/GL1105.htm
86. “Abdullah urges new PM to pursue all-out war against Islamic militancy”, Ha’aretz (based on Reuters), 24 November 2005, at http://www.haaretz.com/news/abdullah-urges-new-pm-to-pursue-all-out-war-against-islamic-militancy-1.174977
87. “Jordan king urges PM to battle militants”, USA Today, 24 November 2005, at http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/world/2005-11-24-jordan-prime-minister_x.htm
88. Lionel Beehner, “The Effects of the Amman Bombings on U.S.-Jordanian Relations”, CFR, 10 November 2005, at http://www.cfr.org/jordan/effects-amman-bombings-us-jordanian-relations/p9200
90. “Amid plan for anti-terror law..”, supra n. 7
91. Paul Garwood, supra n. 1
92. “Premier vows pursuit of terrorists outside Jordan”, Trend Daily News (Azerbaijan), January 12, 2010, =210; also Abdul Jalil Mustafa, “Jordan defends cooperation with CIA to defeat Al-Qaeda”, Arab News, January 13, 2010, =211
95. Dominic Moran, “Jordan juggles anti-terror law, reform”, International Relations and Security Network, 11 September 2006, at http://www.isn.ethz.ch/isn/Digital-Library/Articles/Detail/?ots783=4888caa0-b3db-1461-98b9-e20e7b9c13d4&lng=en&id=52436
97. Musa Hattar, supra n.
98. Dominic Moran, supra n.