King Abdullah Cancels Trip to Israel After Amman Triple Suicide Bombing

Israeli Arab among 57 killed in Amman attacks; 2 PA officials also killed; Al-Qaida claims attacks; 115 hurt in bombings at 3 hotels popular with westerners.

Israel on Thursday evening says Jordan's King Abdullah II has canceled a planned trip to Israel after at least 57 people were killed in simultaneous suicide bombings at three hotels the Jordanian capital of Amman on Wednesday night.

An Israeli Arab businessman was one of the casualties in the multi-pronged terror attacks, the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem said Thursday. Two high-ranking Palestinian security officials were also said to be among the dead.

Husam Fathi Mahajna, 40, from the nothern town of Umm al-Fahm, was a guest at a wedding held at the Radisson Hotel and his body was taken to the Jordan University Hospital in Amman, where it was identified by a local friend.

The family of Mahajna headed to Amman on Thursday morning. Mahajna was to be buried in his hometown on Thursday at 7 P.M.

It was still unclear whether there were any other Israeli casualties in the attack. Hours before the bombings, many Israelis were evacuated from the Radisson SAS, one of the hotels hit in the attacks, apparently due to a specific security alert.

More than 115 people were wounded in the bombings at the Radisson, Days Inn and Grand Hyatt, where the bomber is believed to have blown up in a banquet hall where a wedding reception was underway. The Radisson is known to be popular with Israeli tourists.

"There were three terrorist attacks on the Grand Hyatt, Radisson SAS and Days Inn hotels and it is believed that the blasts were suicide bombings," police spokesman Major Bashir al-Da'aja told The Associated Press. He declined to elaborate.

Most of the victims of the attacks were Jordanian, said Jordanian Deputy Prime Minister Marwan Muashar said.

Al-Qaida in Iraq posted a statement in an Arabic Internet site in which it claimed responsibility for the bombings.

The claim of responsibility, signed in the name of the spokesman for the group Al-Qaida in Iraq, said that "after studying and watching the targets, places were chosen to carry out an attack on some hotels that the tyrant of Jordan has made the backyard garden for the enemy of the religion - Jews and crusaders."

Hundreds of angry Jordanians rallied Thursday outside one of tthe three U.S.-based hotels attacked by suicide bombers, shouting, "Burn in hell, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi!" after the terrorist's group claimed responsibility for the blasts that killed at least 56 people, including an American.

Protesters - including women and children - gathered outside a bombed hotels, shouting, "Death to al-Zarqawi, the villain and the traitor!" Drivers honked the horns of vehicles decorated with Jordanian flags and posters of the king. A helicopter hovered overhead.

Jordan rounds up first suspects Jordan's King Abdullah II chaired a meeting with his security chiefs, just hours after returning home from a trip abroad and inspecting the still-smoldering sites.

Jordanian security forces snared a group of Iraqi suspects in the triple hotel bombings that killed at least 56 people, and officials said Thursday one of the bombers spoke Iraqi-accented Arabic before he exploded his suicide belt in the Grand Hyatt Hotel.

A senior security official linked the bombings to Jordan's war-ravaged eastern neighbor, saying the Hyatt bomber spoke with an Iraqi accent and several other Iraqis have been detained.

Security staff patrolling the Hyatt stopped the middle-aged terrorist as he was wandering the lobby. He spoke briefly to the guards before detonating the explosives strapped underneath his Western-style suit, the official said on condition of anonymity because he was unauthorized to speak to the media.

"Among those arrested there were different nationalities, including Iraqis and other Arabs, and not only Jordanians," the official added.

Another official, insisting on anonymity because he is not allowed to speak to the press, said that DNA tests were being carried out to determine the identity of the perpetrators, including two suicide bombers who blew themselves up in two of the separate hotel attacks. A third suicide attacker used a car to attack the third hotel.

Palestinian officials among dead Two high-ranking Palestinian security officials, a senior Palestinian banker and the commercial attache at the Palestinian embassy in Cairo died in the bombings in Jordan, the Palestinian envoy to Amman said on Thursday.

Maj.-Gen. Bashir Nafeh, the head of military intelligence in the West Bank, and Col. Abed Allun, a high-ranking Preventive Security forces official, were killed in the attack at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, Ambassador Attala Kheri told The AP in a telephone interview.

Jihad Fatouh, the commercial attache at the Palestinian Embassy in Cairo, and Mosab Khorma, deputy Chairman of Cairo-Amman Bank in the Palestinian territories, were also killed in the three nearly simultaneous suicide bombings on American-owned hotels in the Jordanian capital on Wednesday night, Kheri said.

The Palestinian Authority ordered Palestinian flags lowered to half-staff for one day, and declared a three-day mourning period.

"It's a very sad day for Palestinians, and we extend our condolences to King Abdullah and the Jordanian people," Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia told reporters. "We condemn this attack vehemently. It's a criminal attack that targeted innocent civilians."

International condemnation Jordan's King Abdullah II condemned the attacks as "criminal acts committed by a deviant and misleading bunch" and said they would not sway Jordan from continuing its battle against terrorism. He cut short his official visit to Kazakhstan to return home.

"The hand of justice will get to the criminals who targeted innocent secure civilians with their cowardly acts," he said in a statement carried by the official Petra news agency.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon called King Abdullah and expressed his condolences. He told the Jordanian King the entire world must unite in the war against terror.

U.S. President George W. Bush condemned the bombings and offered U.S. assistance in the investigation.

"The president condemns in the strongest possible terms the vicious terrorist attacks against innocent civilians in Amman, Jordan," said a statement by White House spokesman Scott McClellan.

"Jordan is a close friend of the United States, and we will offer every possible form of cooperation in investigating these attacks and assisting in efforts to bring these terrorists to justice," he added.

Israelis allowed to return A Jordanian police official said the attacks hit minutes before 9 P.M. in two districts in the Jordanian capital, including the commercial areas of Jebel Amman and al-Rabiyeh, which houses the Israeli Embassy.

The Allenby border crossing between Israel and Jordan was opened to allow Israelis to leave the Hashemite Kingdom immediately.

The first bomber struck the Grand Hyatt, completely shattering the stone entrance.

Police said a second explosion hit the nearby Radisson SAS hotel where about 250 people were attending a wedding reception.

The Radisson in particular is popular with Israeli tourists and was a target of several foiled Al-Qaida plots in the past.

"The attacks carry the hallmark of Al-Qaida," one police official said on condition of anonymity in line with police regulations. "However it is not certain. We are investigating."

Ayman al-Safadi, editor of Jordan's Al-Ghad newspaper, told Al-Arabiya satellite network that it was a "terrorist operation."

"Finally, the terrorists succeeded in breaking the security in Jordan," he said, referring to past success in foiling many terror plots.

The Grand Hyatt and Radisson SAS hotels, in the Jebel Amman district, are located about one kilometer apart and are frequented by American and European businessmen and diplomats. The Days Inn is located three kilometers away.

An American businessman who was at the Grand Hyatt when the explosion occurred, said that it was caused by a "bomb that went off in the lobby." He declined to identify himself.

"It was a miracle that we made it out with a scratch," said a British guest at the Grand Hyatt.

"We thought it was fireworks for the wedding but I saw people falling to the ground," said Ahmed, a wedding guest at the Radisson who did not give his surname. "I saw blood. There were people killed. It was ugly."

Security was beefed up across the capital, especially around hotels and diplomatic missions, police said. Several armed policemen and cars were patrolling the streets of Amman, where Jordanian Prime Minister Adnan Badran declared Thursday a national holiday - apparently in order to allow tightened security measures to take hold.

Jordan, a key ally of both the United States and Israel, had largely escaped the terror attacks that have hit other parts of the Middle East, and its sleepy capital, Amman, is viewed as a haven of stability in the region.

But Jordan has not been entirely immune: On August 19, militants fired three Katyusha rockets at a Navy ship docked at the Red Sea resort of Aqaba, narrowly missing it and killing a Jordanian soldier.

Jordanian officials blamed that attack on Al-Qaida in Iraq, and there have been growing worries that the violence in Iraq could spill over into Jordan, where many Iraqi exiles have taken refuge from the violence.

Jordan has arrested scores of Islamic militants for plotting to carry out attacks in the moderate Arab kingdom. It has also sentenced numerous militants to death in absentia, including the Jordanian-born leader of al-Qaida in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.