Jordan: Female Bomber Is Sister of Top Al-Qaida Figure in Iraq

Would-be bomber identified as Sajida Mubarak Atrous al-Rishawi, sister of former right-hand man of the head of Al-Qaida in Iraq al-Zarqawi.

AMMAN, Jordan - Police have captured an Iraqi woman would-be suicide bomber who failed to detonate her explosives inside one of Amman's three bombed hotels, blown up by three other Al-Qaida cell members including her husband, Jordan announced Sunday in a dramatic breakthrough in the case.

The woman, identified as the sister of Jordanian-born Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's former right hand man in Iraq's volatile Anbar province, was to make a televised confession on Jordan's state-run television later in the day, officials said.

Jordan's deputy premier said the four Iraqis drove into Jordan from Iraq on Nov. 4, just five days before the attacks and rented an apartment in western Amman. They took taxis to the attack sites on Wednesday.

The involvement of al-Zarqawi in the triple hotel bombings is a worrying development for the region, indicating that the feared terrorist or his leaders have deadly designs and abilities beyond war-ravaged Iraq's borders.

The would-be woman bomber was identified as Sajida Mubarak Atrous al-Rishawi, 35, the sister of the slain former militant Mubarak Atrous al-Rishawi, the former right-hand man of al-Zarqawi, the head of Al-Qaida in Iraq.

Muasher said the brother was killed by U.S. forces in the one-time terrorist stronghold of Fallujah, west of Baghdad, but it was unclear when.

It also was unclear where police arrested the woman, or when.

Al-Qaida in Iraq had already claimed responsibility for the bombings, which it said it launched to strike at Jordan's support for the United States and other Western powers, and because it accused Jordan of defiling Islam.

But Al-Qaida, in its Internet claims of responsibility, had said that all four bombers succeeded, so the news of the arrest of one would-be bomber - the woman - came as a surprise.

King Abdullah, who also said Sunday that three Iraqi men and one woman carried out the attacks, has pledged to target anyone supporting or sympathizing with such terrorists.

Muasher said the three suicide bombers who attacked the Grand Hyatt, Radisson SAS and Days Inn hotels Wednesday - killing 57 others - were all Iraqis. They were identified as al-Rishawi's husband, Ali Hussein Ali al-Shamari, 35, from Anbar; Rawad Jassem Mohammed Abed, 23; and Safaa Mohammed Ali, 23.

The four left their apartment on Wednesday - the day of the attacks - and took taxis to the hotels, including the Radisson, where almost 300 people were attending a Jordanian-Palestinian wedding reception in one of the hotel's ballrooms.

"It is clear from the way she was dressed and the explosive belts with ball bearings that they wanted to target innocent civilians, and also wanted to inflict the biggest number of casualties and victims," Muasher said.

Al-Rishawi entered the hotel's reception with her husband. When the husband noticed his wife was having trouble detonating her bomb by pulling its primer cord, he "pushed her out of the ballroom. Once she was out, he blew himself up," Muasher said.

The bomb strapped to the man's body was packed with the powerful explosive RDX and ball bearings and was designed to kill as many people as possible, Muasher said.

Investigations showed that no Jordanians were involved in the actual attacks, but several Jordanian followers of al-Zarqawi have been arrested, the deputy premier added.

Al-Qaida in Iraq's operation in Jordan - its deadliest inside a neighboring Mideast country - raised fears that al-Zarqawi's terror campaign has gained enough momentum to spread throughout the region.

Jordan's confirmation of the Iraqi link could harm already bruised relations with its eastern neighbor after both have previously traded diplomatic blows over the crossing backward and forward of militants.

Earlier Sunday, Iraq's defense minister offered Jordan its support in the hotel bombings probe and warned that unchecked violence in Iraq will spread terrorism across the region.

"We are partners in facing terrorism," Defense Minister Saadoun al-Dulaimi told The Associated Press. "Amman's ordeal and Jordan's ordeal is the ordeal of all Iraqis."

The terrorists' "target is to kill tolerance and destroy coexistence in Arab and Muslim cities," al-Dulaimi said.

Al-Dulaimi also criticized Syria for letting Islamic extremists train on its soil and enter Iraq to carry out terrorist attacks.

"Let me tell the Syrians that if the Iraqi volcano explodes no neighboring capital will be saved," the Iraqi official said. "We have a 620 kilometer border with this country and we have 620 problems with the Syrians."

The United States and Iraq have repeatedly called on Syria to lock down its borders and stop Al-Qaida in Iraq extremists allied to Jordanian-born militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi entering Iraq.

Syria has also been implicated by United Nations in the Feb. 14 assassination of ex-Lebanese premier Rafik Hariri.

"It seems our brothers in Syria won't like what we say in this period, which is a critical one for the Syrians," al-Dulaimi said.

Wednesday's Amman hotel attacks sparked the largest Jordanian manhunt in living history and angered most of this desert kingdom's 5.4 million people and many of the 400,000 Iraqis living here.

Al-Zarqawi, who traveled from militant training grounds in Afghanistan to Iraq before the U.S.-led 2003 war, has been sentenced to death in absentia in Jordan for terror-related crimes here. He has vowed to topple the kingdom's moderate Hashemite rulers.