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US foe Zarqawi claims Amman carnage

Amman, Nov. 10 (Reuters): The Qaida group led by America’s deadliest foe in Iraq today claimed responsibility for bombings that ripped through luxury hotels in Jordan’s capital and killed 56 people.

Last night’s near-simultaneous attacks, two bombs turned crowded wedding parties into scenes of blood and panic at the Grand Hyatt and the nearby Radisson SAS in central Amman. A third blast targeted a Days Inn hotel.

Security officials said they believed all three explosions were the work of suicide bombers, but gave few details.

Al Qaida in Iraq, led by Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, said in a statement on an Islamist website that “a group of our best lions” had carried out the attacks, the worst to hit Jordan in its modern history.

“Some hotels were chosen which the Jordanian despot had turned into a backyard for the enemies of the faith, the Jews and crusaders,” said the message in a reference to King Abdullah. Its authenticity could not be verified.

The US has put a $25 million bounty on Zarqawi, who comes from a town north of Amman.

King Abdullah blamed a “deviant and misled group”. Foreign minister Farouq Kasrawi said the attacks would not alter the policies of the kingdom, which is a close US ally.

Al Qaida in Iraq’s statement said: “Let the tyrant of Amman know that his protection... for the Jews has become a target for the mujahideen and their attacks, and let him expect the worst.” Jordan is one of two Arab countries that have signed peace treaties with Israel. It helped the US in the war on Iraq.

Schools, businesses and public offices closed as the stunned kingdom prepared to bury the dead. Security forces threw up roadblocks around hotels and embassies. Flags flew at half-mast.

Baghdad blast

A suicide bomber blew himself up in a crowded Baghdad restaurant frequented by the security forces at breakfast time today, killing 35 people in an attack claimed by al Qaida.

“Body parts are all over the place, we are still collecting them,” a police officer at the scene said soon after the blast. It was one of the biggest attacks in Baghdad in recent months.

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