AMMAN, Jordan (AP) – The Iraqi wife of a suicide bomber made a chilling confession on Jordanian state TV yesterday, saying she also tried to blow herself up during a hotel wedding reception last week but the explosives concealed under her denim dress failed to detonate.
Sajida Mubarak Atrous al-Rishawi, 35, made her statement hours after being arrested by authorities tipped off by an al-Qaida in Iraq claim that a husband-and-wife team participated in last Wednesday’s bombings at three U.S.-based hotels. The attackers killed 57 other people at the Radisson SAS, Grand Hyatt and Days Inn hotels.
Al-Rishawi’s brother was once the right-hand man to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian leader of al-Qaida in Iraq, said deputy premier Marwan Muasher. He said the brother, Mubarak Atrous al-Rishawi, was killed in the former terrorist stronghold of Fallujah, Iraq.
Officials believe al-Rishawi, who entered Jordan from Iraq on Nov. 5, may provide significant information about the operations of al-Zarqawi’s group, which claimed responsibility for the hotel bombings, Jordan’s deadliest terrorist attacks. The group said the attacks were retaliation for Jordan supporting the United States and other Western powers.
Al-Rishawi was shown on state television wearing a white head scarf, a buttoned, body-length dark denim dress, and belts packed with TNT and ball bearings. Muasher told CNN the belts were captured with her.
Al-Rishawi said she and her husband, Ali Hussein Ali al-Shamari, 35, were wearing explosive-laden belts when they strolled into a Radisson ballroom where hundreds of guests, including children, were attending a Jordanian-Palestinian wedding reception.
“My husband wore a belt and put one on me. He taught me how to use it, how to pull the (primer cord) and operate it,” she said, wringing her hands.
“My husband detonated (his bomb). I tried to explode (my belt) but it wouldn’t. I left, people fled running and I left running with them.”
Muasher said al-Rishawi’s husband noticed her struggle and pushed her out of the ballroom in order not to attract attention before blowing himself up.
After a second showing of the tape, a TV announcer cited security officials as saying the woman gave no further details because “she was still suffering from the shock of the blasts and her subsequent arrest.”
Al-Rishawi was arrested yesterday morning at a “safe house” in the same Amman suburb where her husband and the other two bombers rented a furnished apartment, a top Jordanian security official said.
Jordanian security was tipped off to her presence by al-Qaida in Iraq’s claim of a female bomber, the official added, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to journalists. The group apparently assumed she was killed in the blasts.
“There were leads that more people had been involved, but it was not clear that it was a woman and we had no idea on her nationality,” the official said.
Al-Rishawi, who is from the volatile Anbar province town of Ramadi, west of Baghdad, said on state TV that she entered Jordan from Iraq four days before the attacks with her husband and two other men using fake passports. She said they rode across the border in a white car with a driver and another passenger.