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Hotel blasts kill dozens in Jordan

Al-Zarqawi 'prime suspect' in nearly simultaneous suicide attacks


Acts of terror

AMMAN, Jordan (CNN) -- Three apparent suicide attackers detonated nearly simultaneous explosions Wednesday night at hotels in downtown Amman, Jordan, killing at least 67 people and wounding more than 150 others, the deputy prime minister of Jordan said.

There have been no claims of responsibility, Karim Kawar, the Jordanian ambassador to the United States, told CNN.

But Deputy Prime Minister Marwan Muasher said Jordanian-born terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the head of al Qaeda in Iraq and that country's most-wanted terrorist, is among the suspects.

"Obviously, he's a prime suspect," Muasher said.

The blasts occurred first at the Radisson SAS, then at the Grand Hyatt and then at the Days Inn between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. (2 p.m. and 3 p.m. ET). The three hotels are within a few hundred yards of one another.

Muasher said the largest blast occurred at the Radisson during a wedding celebration, set off by a suicide bomber wearing a belt packed with explosives. Most of the casualties there were Jordanian, he said. (Watch eyewitness describes the scene -- 2:46)

The blast at the Grand Hyatt also appeared to have been caused by a bomber wearing an explosive belt, Muasher said.

At the Days Inn, a car failed in an attempt to breach a security barrier and exploded outside the hotel, he said.

Randa Jaaqoub told CNN she was in the Hyatt lobby with her fiance when that blast occurred.

"Everything just exploded, and we had fire and smoke all over," said the Jordanian-American from Illinois. "We saw the bodies and blood all over."

The couple ran into the kitchen and then outside, where they made their way to a hospital. Jaaqoub suffered superficial wounds, and her fiance's knee was cut.

"We were just in total shock because, here in Jordan, it's a safe place," she said.

Though security forces sealed off the hotels soon after the attacks, a reporter for the Jordanian Times, Rana Husseini, said she gained entrance to the Radisson about 20 minutes after the explosion.

The lobby and wedding hall were "destroyed," with shattered glass all over the floor, she said.

"There were tables and chairs turned over, there was blood on the chairs," she said. "It was really a horrific scene."

Ashraf Khalid, the groom, told reporters the blast took place as he and his bride were entering the banquet hall at the Radisson.

He lost as many as 10 of his relatives, including his father, Khalid said, adding that no westerners were at the party.

'A shock to all of us'

"This is not Islam," Khalid said. "This is a terrorist attack in our capital."

Muasher said the attacks were "something that Jordan is not used to."

"This is the first really extensive attack we've had, probably ever, in the kingdom," he said.

"This has come as a shock to all of us," Kawar told CNN. He added, "We try to be as vigilant as possible but, at the end of the day, we're all vulnerable to such attacks."

Video from the scene showed hundreds of police and emergency officials cordoning off the area around the hotels. Inside the Radisson, a hole was blown into the ceiling of a ballroom and tables and chairs were strewn across the room.

Dozens of ambulances were lined up outside the hotels, loading up and speeding off, their sirens wailing.

At Khalidi Hospital, near the affected zone, Dr. Khalid Salayman said some of the casualties were Iraqis and Germans.

American Dana Burde said she was in the lobby of the Radisson when the blast there occurred.

"We were sort of blown out of the room, but our group is all fine," she said.

"There was a lot of debris and, certainly, there were people killed," said Burde, a New Yorker who is in Amman attending a conference on refugee education.

She said she heard an explosion at the nearby Hyatt five minutes after the blast at the Radisson.

King condemns attacks

An Italian businessman who was in the Hyatt said he saw three apparently lifeless bodies there.

Jordanian Embassy officials in Washington said the blasts came without warning and that no Jordanian government officials were in any of the buildings.

Prime Minister Adnan Badran told Jordanian television that all government offices and schools would be closed Thursday.

Soon after the attacks, Jordanian King Abdullah condemned them, telling reporters, "Justice will pursue the criminals."

The king also vowed that Jordan "will be resilient," Kawar said. An emergency Cabinet meeting was called.

Prior to the millennium celebrations, the Radisson was the target of a plot that was broken up by Jordanian law enforcement.

Jordan, considered a key Arab ally of the United States, helps train Iraqi troops and is host to the headquarters of many international aid agencies that pulled relief workers out of Iraq as the insurgency there deepened.

In a written statement, Jordanian House Speaker Abdel Hadi Majali called the blasts "a criminal terrorist act."

Asked whether al Qaeda may have been behind them, he said: "There is definitely an organization behind these attacks. Al Qaeda tried before and we foiled some attacks."

In August an al Qaeda-linked group claimed responsibility for rocket attacks that targeted but missed two U.S. warships in the Jordanian Red Sea port of Aqaba. (Full story)

U.S. offers help

Though the hotels cater to international travelers, it was not clear whether those people were targeted.

All three are commonly used by Jordanians, said a Westerner who has lived in Jordan for more than a year.

In Washington, a White House spokesman said the administration knew of no U.S. casualties.

The State Department had not recently issued travel warnings for Americans visiting Jordan.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice condemned the attacks and said the United States "has offered Jordan whatever assistance and support it may need."

U.S. President George W. Bush called the attacks "cowardly" and "barbaric."

The United States has proposed sending a team of FBI agents to help determine details of the attacks, such as what type of explosives were used.

Asked who is suspected of masterminding the attacks, one State Department official cited al-Zarqawi.

Two U.S. intelligence officials concurred that the attacks bear the hallmarks of al-Zarqawi, who has expressed an interest in launching attacks outside Iraq.

Days Inn issued a statement saying four of its guests were wounded, three of them seriously, but no one had been killed.

CNN's Hala Gorani contributed to this report.

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