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Jordan: Rocket attack suspect arrested

Three others wanted for targeting U.S. ships escape into Iraq

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(CNN) -- Jordan has arrested a Syrian man it calls the "prime suspect" in the rocket attack intended for two U.S. warships that killed a Jordanian soldier, but three other suspects escaped into Iraq, authorities in Amman said Monday.

A statement read on state television identified the suspect as Mohammad Abdullah Hassan al-Sihly, a Syrian citizen who lived in Amman. Jordan's government said he is connected with a known terrorist group based in Iraq.

His two sons and a fourth man, an Iraqi national identified as their leader, also took part in the attack, authorities said.

Friday's attacks targeted but missed two American vessels moored in the Jordanian port of Aqaba for training exercises in the region.

An al Qaeda-linked group claimed responsibility. (Full story)

The government statement said al-Sihly entered Jordan in December 2004 after being wounded in Iraq, where U.S. troops have battled a persistent insurgency for more than two years since the 2003 invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

His sons, Abdullah and Abdulrahman, and Mohammed Hameed Hassan al-Iraqi -- also known as Abu Mukhtar -- entered Jordan in early August, smuggling seven Katyusha rockets into the country, officials said.

Three rockets of that type were fired in Friday's attack on the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge and the amphibious transport USS Ashland, authorities said.

The group allegedly rented a warehouse in an industrial district of Aqaba, Jordan's Red Sea port, and set a timer to launch the rockets Friday morning.

Al-Sihly's sons and Abu Mukhtar returned to Iraq after setting the rockets to fire, Jordan's government said.

The group was in "direct contact" with leaders in Iraq, who were kept informed on their progress, the government said.

There were no injuries among the nearly 4,000 sailors or Marines aboard the U.S. vessels.

But one rocket struck a Jordanian military warehouse, killing a Jordanian soldier and severely wounding another. Another rocket landed in the neighboring Israeli port of Eilat, but injured no one.

Earlier Monday, Jordanian authorities said they found a Katyusha rocket launcher they believe was used in the attacks, along with four unlaunched rockets they defused.

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