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11 top Jordan officials resign in wake of blasts

Eleven top Jordanian officials, including the kingdom's national security adviser, resigned Tuesday in the wake of last week's triple hotel bombings, state-run TV announced.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Eleven top Jordanian officials, including the national security adviser, resigned Tuesday and the government imposed tough new rules aimed at foreigners in the wake of the deadly hotel bombings.

A fourth American died of wounds sustained in the attacks, according to the U.S. Embassy, raising the death toll to 58, plus the three bombers. The American was not further identified.

U.S. National Intelligence Director John Negroponte met top officials in Amman to praise Jordan’s response to the attacks, according to official media, while interrogators questioned the sole surviving member of the attack team about al-Qaida’s network in Iraq.

Two Interpol forensic experts also came to Amman to “exchange information and expertise in the field of fighting crime,” the state-run Petra news agency said.

More details emerged about Sajida Mubarak al-Rishawi, the would-be bomber arrested Sunday following the triple suicide bombings carried out by her husband and two 23-year-old Iraqis on the Radisson SAS, Grand Hyatt and Days Inn hotels.

In a televised confession, al-Rishawi has said her 22-pound explosives belt failed to detonate, though her husband’s did, killing more than 20 wedding partygoers at the Radisson.

Al-Qaida in Iraq, led by Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, claimed responsibility for the Nov. 9 attacks in an Internet statement.

Bomber’s brother killed by U.S. troops
Two of al-Rishawi’s friends said three of her brothers, including a known al-Qaida in Iraq cell leader in the former insurgent bastion of Fallujah, were killed by U.S. forces last year. The friends, from Iraq’s troubled western province of Anbar, spoke on condition of anonymity because they feared retribution from militants.

It was unclear if her brother’s deaths spurred al-Rishawi to take part in the plot or if she was influenced by her 35-year-old husband, who appeared to be the attack cell leader.

Police believe al-Rishawi, who comes from Ramadi in western Iraq, may provide vital clues to al-Qaida in Iraq and possibly al-Zarqawi’s whereabouts. But her interrogation is going slowly among an increasing sense she played only a small part in the operation.

The questioning is expected to last a month and she will be tried in a Jordanian military court, where she could be charged with conspiring to carry out a deadly terrorist attack, a crime that can carry the death penalty.

Interior Minister Awni Yirfas announced new regulations Tuesday aimed at keeping foreign militants from operating covertly in Jordan, including a demand that Jordanians notify authorities within 48 hours of any foreigners renting an apartment or house.

“Violators of this regulation will face legal ramifications,” Yirfas said without elaborating.

The rules require that authorities be given the names, nationalities and passport details of any foreigner renting a property.

“Usually I give such information about any foreign tenants I have, but I think the move is necessary now as a result of the attacks,” said property owner Suleiman Rakan, whose building faced a block in western Amman’s Tlaa’ Ali suburb where the hotel bombers rented a safe house.

No details were given for the resignations of the 11 top officials, who included national security adviser Saad Kheir and Faisal Fayez, the Royal Court chief and a former prime minister.

But the bombings sparked national outrage and raised concerns over the handling of the country’s national security services.

New anti-terrorism laws for Jordan
Jordan has also started drafting new anti-terrorism laws that will likely be ready for parliament debate early next year, an Interior Ministry official said.

The laws propose allowing any suspect to be held for questioning indefinitely and imposing penalties on those who put lives or property at risk — inside or outside the country, the official said. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Anyone condoning or justifying terror actions or supporting them financially will face penalties under the proposals, he added.

Jordanian security forces already wield far-reaching powers to arrest and hold suspects. The news laws would be the country’s first specifically designed to counter terrorism.