Sun, Nov 20, 2005 - Page 6 News List

Zarqawi message defends attacks

AMMAN BOMBINGS A purported voice recording of the al-Qaeda in Iraq frontman was posted on the Net, as thousands protested the Nov. 9 triple suicide attack in Jordan

AFP , DUBAI

Al-Qaeda's Jordanian-born Iraq frontman Abu Musab al-Zarqawi defended this month's deadly bombings in Amman in a purported voice recording posted on Friday as tens of thousands of his countrymen rallied to protest the attacks.

The audiotape insisted it had not been al-Qaeda's intention to target the wedding party which was hit in the Nov. 9 triple suicide bombings that killed 59 people, saying the group had information the hotels were being used by US intelligence agents.

"If we'd wanted to carry out bombings in the middle of a wedding, there are wedding halls all over the country and their doors are open," said the voice, whose authenticity could not immediately be verified.

"God knows that the decision to target these hotels was taken only after ascertaining that they had become bases for Jewish and America security services," the voice added.

"If we had wanted to kill innocents as the apostate [Jordanian] regime claims, we would not have resorted to sacrificing the lives of those who got through the security barriers," the voice said.

"It would have been much easier for us for them to have set off the bombs in a public place -- that would have been an easier target," the voice said.

In the aftermath of the attacks, even bloggers on extremist Islamist Internet forums had criticized Zarqawi for the strikes, with some calling on him to explain the purpose of attacks that killed mostly Jordanians.

The audiotape also warned Jordanians to stay away from luxury hotels like the three hit in this month's bombings, as well as the diplomatic missions of countries which took part in the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

It told them not to approach "US and British bases ... tourist hotels and all the embassies and consulates of countries that took part in the war in Iraq."

To end al-Qaeda attacks in Jordan, the tape demanded the departure of British and US troops from the kingdom, the closure of the US and Israeli embassies and an end to training in Jordan for Iraq's fledgling security forces.

It also demanded the closure of the Jordanian mission in Baghdad and of what it said were "secret prisons" on Jordanian territory.

The Internet posting came as at least 200,000 people marched though the center of Amman in the largest show of public anger over the bombings so far, police and organizers said.

Many protestors shouted slogans against the al-Qaeda Iraq frontman, chanting: "Zarqawi, from Amman, we say to you: you are a coward."

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