Ashraf al-Akhras was celebrating his wedding with friends and family when a bomb tore through the luxury Amman hotel, killing 10 of his relatives and turning the banquet hall into a scene of horror instead of joy.
Akhras’ father, father-in-law and eight other family members died in one of Wednesday’s closely synchronized attacks on three hotels in the Jordanian capital that killed at least 56 people.
“I was getting married, it was my wedding,” the distraught groom told Reuters. “The explosion happened the moment we entered the wedding hall.”
Security officials say over 250 festively dressed guests were celebrating in the banquet room on the ground floor of the Radisson SAS hotel when a young man wearing an explosive vest blew himself up in the crowded hall.
“We tried to save as many lives as we could ... But I lost my father, my father-in-law and several friends as well,” al-Akhras, 32, said. “A friend of mine lost his mother and father. It’s a tragedy.”
A statement on behalf of Al-Qaida in Iraq said the group was responsible for the suicide bombings, which also left blood and destruction in Amman’s Grand Hyatt and Days Inn hotels.
‘Place of mourning and death'
Blood-stained linen and debris was still being cleared away a day after the explosion in the Radisson banquet room, where the biggest number of people died.
For many of the surviving guests, a night of celebration turned into mourning as bodies were pulled from the rubble and disbelieving relatives wept.
“This is no longer a wedding, it is a place of mourning and death,” said Zeina Abdullah.
Another guest said she had initially thought the electricity had been cut off when she heard the blast. “Then I found out everything had fallen down and my two daughters were dead,” Sameeh Ahmad said.
Jordan’s powerful mainstream Islamist party, which typically steers clear of outright condemnation of suicide bombings against Israeli civilians, slammed the attacks.
“Regardless of the party or the motives which are behind this crime, it cannot be justified,” the Islamist Action Front said in a statement. “It targets innocent souls.”
‘This is not Islam ... It’s a crime'
Jordan is one of only two Arab countries that have signed peace treaties with Israel. It has helped the United States in the war against Iraq.
Jordanian authorities have also stepped up a campaign to rally public opinion against radical Islamist groups and staged small pro-government rallies across the country after declaring a day of public mourning.
“This is not Islam. Muslims don’t kill each other or any other person, what can I say? This is crime, not a fight against oppression in the world. It’s a crime,” said al-Akhras.