Motive Glimpsed in Jordan Attack

By Jackie Spinner
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 15, 2005

AMMAN, Jordan, Nov. 14 -- Relatives of the woman who failed in a bid to bomb a hotel in Jordan said she was radicalized by the U.S. attack on Fallujah in November 2004 to retake the Iraqi city from insurgents. They said Sajida Rishawi, 35, had watched her husband dragging bloodied insurgent fighters through their gate, burying the dead in their back yard.

Rishawi's friends and family members in Fallujah sought to explain what drove her, after seeing footage broadcast by Jordanian state-run television that showed the captured woman modeling a suicide vest that she allegedly wore as part of coordinated bombing attacks on three hotels here that killed 57 people.

Rishawi and her husband, Ali Hussein Ali Shamari, went to the Radisson SAS Hotel as part of a team of four bombers who intended to blow themselves up at the hotels on Wednesday. According to Rishawi, she was unable to explode her vest, and her husband pushed her out of a ballroom hosting a wedding reception. Her husband and the two other male bombers died carrying out their attacks. Rishawi lived and was captured on Sunday by Jordanian police.

Her brother, Mubarak Atrous Rishawi, a top deputy for Jordanian-born insurgent leader Abu Musab Zarqawi, was one of the fighters killed in Fallujah during the fierce street battles between U.S. forces and insurgent fighters that left the city in ruins, Jordanian officials said.

In Fallujah, a relative, who would not give his name, said Rishawi became extreme "when she saw the number of people killed by the Marines. Her husband used to bring the wounded and killed to their house. They buried some of the killed in their back yard."

On Monday, Jordanian officials outlined details of Rishawi's capture, describing it as basic, precise police work. The officials disputed reports that a hotel security camera had caught Rishawi on tape. Based on leads about when the bombers came into Jordan, intelligence agents reviewed images at the border crossings with Iraq and identified the bombers, including Rishawi, the officials said.

In addition to the husband-wife team, Jordanian officials have identified the two other bombers as Rawad Jassem Mohammed Abed and Safaa Mohammed Ali, both 23.

Meanwhile, the U.S. military in Baghdad said Monday that American troops had briefly detained a man with the same name as one of the bombers in November 2004 and let him go after two weeks. The military identified the individual as Safaa Mohammed Ali.

The American military said it could not confirm that the man in its custody then was one of the bombers. But relatives in Fallujah said he was, according to Knight Ridder Newspapers, which first reported it.

Ali was picked up during the Fallujah operation, said Lt. Col. Barry Johnson, a U.S. military spokesman.

"A review of the circumstances of his capture by the unit determined there was no compelling evidence that he was a threat to the security of Iraq and he was therefore released," Johnson said.

In Amman, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas visited the bombed Radisson Hotel on Monday. He and his entourage rushed past journalists waiting for Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and toured the wreckage of the ballroom, which was obstructed from view by a newly constructed brick wall.

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