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U.S. may have once detained Jordan bomber

The U.S. military said Monday that troops had detained and later released an Iraqi with the same name as one of the suicide attackers who struck three hotels in Amman, Jordan, last week.
/ Source: The Associated Press

American forces detained and later released an Iraqi with the same name as one of the suicide attackers who struck three hotels in Amman, Jordan, last week, the U.S. military said Monday.

Jordanian authorities said Safaa Mohammed Ali, 23, was among the suicide attackers who struck last Wednesday at the Grand Hyatt, SAS Radisson and Day's Inn hotels, killing 57 people.

A statement by the U.S. command said someone by that name was detained in November 2004 in connection with the American assault on the insurgent stronghold of Fallujah. The command said it could not confirm whether the person detained was the same man who took part in the Amman attack.

"He was detained locally at the division detention facility" but was released two weeks later because there was no "compelling evidence to continue to hold him" as a "threat to the security of Iraq."

Woman confesses
The announcement follows the televised confession Sunday by Sajida Mubarak Atrous al-Rishawi, an Iraqi woman who was accused of being the fourth would-be suicide attacker.

Al-Rishawi, from the militant hotbed of Ramadi and the sister of a slain lieutenant of Jordanian-born militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was arrested earlier Sunday.

Al-Rishawi’s brother was once the right-hand man to al-Zarqawi, head of al-Qaida in Iraq, said Jordanian Deputy Premier Marwan Muasher. He said the brother, Mubarak Atrous al-Rishawi, was killed in Fallujah.

During the three-minute televised segment, al-Rishawi said that "my husband detonated (his bomb) and I tried to explode (mine) but it wouldn't." She appeared anxious and wore a white headscarf. "People fled running and I left running with them."

Al-Rishawi, 35, was made to display the clothing she wore into the party in which at least 25 people were killed by her husband, Ali Hussein Ali al-Shamari, also 35.

Investigators are still interrogating al-Rishawi, who officials believe may provide a key link to al-Zarqawi and provide insights into the terror group's operations.

But questioning was slow, apparently because she still suffered from the shock of the attacks and her subsequent arrest, a security official said Monday.

Authorities believe more people helped arrange the attacks, but it was unclear if they were among 12 suspects arrested in connection with the bombings.

Muasher said investigations showed no Jordanians were involved, but several local followers of al-Zarqawi have been arrested.

Jordan's King Abdullah II on Sunday told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that “all Jordanians are unified, in that they want the people who are responsible for these crimes to be brought to justice.”

“If we know where they are, even if it’s beyond the borders of Jordan, we will give it the best shot possible to bring these people to justice,” he said.

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 here for terrorism-related crimes. He has vowed to topple the kingdom’s moderate Hashemite rulers. The U.S. government is offering a $25 million bounty for information leading to his capture.

Woman's clan has U.S. ties
Residents of Iraq’s Anbar province said al-Rishawi comes from a clan living mostly in Ramadi, an insurgent stronghold about 70 miles west of Baghdad.

Ironically, the clan, known variously as the Burishas and the Rishawis, is known for its good ties with the Americans. Its members include Iraq’s defense minister, Saadoun al-Dulaimi, who visited Jordan on Sunday.

Al-Dulaimi offered Jordan his government’s support in the bombing probe and warned that unchecked violence in Iraq will spread terrorism across the region.

He also accused Syria of letting Islamic extremists train on its soil and enter Iraq to carry out terrorist attacks. The United States and Iraq have repeatedly called on Syria to lock down its borders and stop al-Qaida extremists from entering Iraq.