Terror Attacks in Jordan
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MARGARET WARNER: Jonathan Finer of the Washington Post, welcome. Well, you’ve been to the scene of these blasts. Tell us about it.
JONATHAN FINER: Well, there’s similar scenes. There’s a ground level of three hotels in downtown Amman fairly devastated. Lots of broken glass and guests streamed out of emergency exits standing around in the streets. Other guests headed to the hospitals that they felt like maybe loved ones or friends may have been injured in these things. Certainly we have lots of very scared people. This is not a city that’s accustomed to this sort of attack.
MARGARET WARNER: How good is the security? How tight is the security at these luxury hotels favored by westerners?
JONATHAN FINER: You know, to be honest, I’m based in Baghdad, and by the standard of hotels there, it’s certainly not very intense security here. But I have a feeling that that’s going to change in the coming days. It’s already changing; as we’re trying to get back into our hotels here they’re scanning people with metal detectors and they’ve blocked off some of the streets here, things that they did not do before.
MARGARET WARNER: From what you know, where were authorities looking in terms of pinning the blame?
JONATHAN FINER: Well, already you’ve heard people mention the sort of usual suspects. You’ve heard people mention al-Qaida. You’ve heard people say that that’s probably based on the fact that it was a coordinated attack, a complicated attack and possibly suicide bombers involved, that that would be a prime suspect at this point. Several politicians that came to the scenes of these attacks certainly put the blame on al-Qaida.
MARGARET WARNER: And we hear that the deputy prime minister, in fact, said that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the insurgent leader in Iraq who is from Jordan is a, quote, prime suspect. Now, how active are he and his network in Jordan?
JONATHAN FINER: You know, if that is in fact the case, that might be the first successful attack carried out by them in this country. Certainly they’re very active next door in Iraq. But, you know, you’d imagine with his ties to this country that it wouldn’t be beyond the reel realm of possibility that he’d be carrying out activities here as well.
MARGARET WARNER: Now, are there other Jihadist networks and major figures in Jordan?
JONATHAN FINER: I mean, I would imagine these groups and networks are all loosely affiliated. They’re very decentralized; they operate in a number of countries in this region and Jordan would certainly be one of them.
MARGARET WARNER: Now, if it is one of these groups, whether it’s Zarqawi or an affiliated group, what do authorities there think would be the motive to attack these sites in Amman, Jordan, his home country?
JONATHAN FINER: Well, you know, there would be lots of psychology involved in making that analysis. At this point I think, you know, it’s safe to say that there was — the targets were sort of the tourist, the western infrastructure. These are three sort of high-level five-star hotels favored by westerners doing business and traveling through Amman and certainly that would fit the pattern of recent attacks also in Baghdad where you saw the Palestine and the Sheraton Hotels there hit by car bombings a few weeks ago.
MARGARET WARNER: Now, the Jordanian government, I gather, has actually cooperated security-wise with the United States, not in terms of fighting in the war in Iraq but in terms of, what, training Iraqi forces, providing intelligence, has that been controversial?
JONATHAN FINER: That’s right. There are a number of training facilities also in Jordan that are run by U.S. military for training Iraqi soldiers and the new Iraqi army as well.
MARGARET WARNER: And are those controversial with the Jordanian public?
I would imagine they become more so if they aren’t already after something like this because I would imagine that there will be people that will say that that’s a big part of why this may have happened.
MARGARET WARNER: Why do you think or why do authorities there think that Jordan has escaped massive bombings like this so far when, in fact, I think the king was quoted as saying recently they foil an attack every couple of weeks.
JONATHAN FINER: That’s right. I think that they’ve felt that to some extent they had been lucky and to some extent they’ve been good. Their security forces had been successful at thwarting some of these attacks. But, as you rightly point out, it’s the kind of thing that couldn’t go on forever. And a lot of people that we talked to on the streets said that they thought this was inevitable eventually.
MARGARET WARNER: And, finally, Jonathan, as we speak right now, what else — first of all, have there been any arrests that you know about? And what have police done to sort of lock down the city?
JONATHAN FINER: I have no idea if there have been any arrests or not. Police have closed a number of main streets leading into and out of these areas where the hotels are located. They’ve sort of sectioned the city off so that it’s hard to get into and out of some of these places.
They’ve put barricades on the roads leading into the hotels so that the cars can’t drive right up in front of the hotels the way they used to and people have to walk in, show their key if they want to come in through the front entrance. All these things are new security measures as of about two hours ago.
MARGARET WARNER: All right, Jonathan Finer of the Washington Post, thanks so much.
JONATHAN FINER: Thank you.