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Triple Terror In Amman, Jordan

Jordanian policeman stand guard outside the Radisson hotel in Amman after a suicide bomb there and at two other hotels in the Jordanian capital late Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2005.
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According to an Internet posting reported on Arab TV, the terrorist group al Qaeda in Iraq is claiming responsibility for Wednesday night's nearly simultaneous suicide bombs at three Amman, Jordan, hotels with well-known American names.

The bombs, which hit at about 9 p.m. at the Grand Hyatt, Radisson SAS and Days Inn hotels, killed at least 57 people and wounded more than 115 other people.

"A group of lions of al Qaeda... launched a new attack on some of the dens in the land of the Muslims in Amman," says the Internet claim of responsiblity, which surfaced Thursday morning. The message says that despite security measures, "some al Qaeda soldiers were able to reach their targets and carry out their duties."

The statement is attributed to the spokesman for al Qaeda in Iraq, a group led by the Jordanian-born Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Its authenticity could not be immediately determined, but it appeared on a site routinely used by al Qaeda operatives.

CBS News correspondent Kimberly Dozier reports that al-Zarqawi has become Osama bin Laden's top lieutenant in Iraq, a mastermind of some of the deadliest violence the region has ever seen. His path towards terror started at a Jordanian prison. There he was first indoctrinated by militant extremists, which led to his alleged involvement in the 2002 killing of Lawrence Foley, then executive officer of US Aid in Amman, outside the official's home in Amman.

In February, U.S. intelligence indicated that Osama bin Laden was in contact with al-Zarqawi, enlisting him to conduct attacks outside of Iraq, noted another U.S. counterterrorism official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity. Jordan has arrested scores of Islamic militants for plotting to carry out attacks and has also sentenced many militants to death in absentia, including al-Zarqawi.

The bomb at the Radisson hit inside a wedding hall where 300 guests were celebrating. Black smoke rose into the night, and wounded victims stumbled from the hotels.

"We thought it was fireworks for the wedding but I saw people falling to the ground," said Ahmed, a wedding guest at the five-star Radisson who did not give his surname. "I saw blood. There were people killed. It was ugly."

A State Department official says so far there are no known American casualties.

The White House says President Bush "condemns in the strongest possible terms the vicious terrorist attacks against innocent civilians" and extends his condolences to King Abdullah and the people of Jordan.

The statement goes on to say that "Jordan is a close friend" of the U.S., which will offer "every possible form of cooperation in investigating these attacks and assisting in efforts to bring these terrorists to justice."