The Amman Bomber Who Failed

Alleged Iraqi Conspirator Describes Her Aborted Suicide Attack at Hotel

By Jackie Spinner
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 14, 2005; Page A01

AMMAN, Jordan, Nov. 13 -- She twirled, almost like a model showing off the latest fashion, her waist a thick belt of translucent tape with crude red wires attached. Her hands pumped a black cylinder of plastic, a switch that should have blown her up in a burst of flame and metal but did not.

In a televised confession broadcast on state-run Jordanian television Sunday, Sajida Rishawi, 35, an Iraqi from the city of Fallujah, described how her husband pushed her out of a ballroom at the Radisson SAS Hotel in the Jordanian capital when her contraption failed to explode. His vest detonated, and a ball of flames ripped through the crowded hall.

Iraqi Sajida Mubarak al-Rishawi
On Jordanian television, an Iraqi woman identified as Sajida Mubarak Atrous Risha said she tried to detonate a suicide bomb belt she wore to a wedding in a U.S.-owned hotel in Amman, but was unsuccessful. (AFP/Getty Images)

Rishawi modeled the suicide vest she allegedly wore to carry out the attack. She spun around, showing how it should have worked. At times, the camera focused on her hands, which she wrung as she spoke to an unidentified interviewer, presumably an interrogator.

Rishawi was arrested Sunday morning for allegedly taking part in suicide bombings here Wednesday that killed 57 people at three hotels and jolted a population used to relative security.

Jordanian intelligence had been tracking Rishawi since the night of the bombing, officials said, when an alert was issued that a potential suspect wearing a black dress was seen running from the scene of the Radisson bombing, where 200 people had gathered for a wedding.

Two days later, al Qaeda in Iraq, an insurgent group led by Jordanian Abu Musab Zarqawi, posted a statement on its Web site asserting that three men and a woman married to one of them had died carrying out the coordinated attacks that struck the Grand Hyatt, Radisson and Days Inn hotels in downtown Amman. The statement said the woman, whom it did not name, "chose to accompany her husband to his martyrdom."

But the female bomber apparently did not die.

Jordanian intelligence police arrested Rishawi on Sunday morning after raiding the apartment in the Tela Ali neighborhood in Amman that her husband and the two other bombers had rented on Nov. 7, intelligence sources said. The bombers entered Jordan five days earlier from Iraq with false passports, Jordan's deputy prime minister, Marwan Muasher, said at a news conference Sunday.

Muasher said the husband and wife specifically targeted the wedding party ahead of time, pointing out that they were wearing festive clothes. He identified the husband as Ali Hussein Ali Shamari. He also said Rishawi was the sister of Mubarak Atrous Rishawi, Zarqawi's top deputy in the western Iraqi province of Anbar, who was killed by U.S. forces in Fallujah.

Muasher identified the two other bombers as Rawad Jassem Mohammed Abed and Safaa Mohammed Ali, both 23.

In Fallujah, relatives of the alleged bombers quietly celebrated the Amman blasts, calling the attackers "martyrs."

Abdullah Yousif Omar, 53, who described himself as a relative of one of the bombers, said they were "pioneer leaders in al Qaeda in Fallujah before the occupiers controlled it."

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