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THE SITUATION ROOM
67 Dead in Amman Blasts, Number Expected to Rise
Aired November 9, 2005 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world into THE SITUATION ROOM where new pictures and information on the terror attacks in Jordan are arriving all the time.
Happening now, it's 2:00 a.m. Thursday in Amman, reeling after a series of coordinated suicide bombings at three hotels. Dozens of people are killed, more than 150 injured, and the casualty figures are rising each hour. Who's behind the deadly attacks? So far there is no claim of responsibility, but experts say they bear all the hallmarks of an al Qaeda group. We'll show you why.
And it's 7:00 p.m. over at the White House, which is closely watching developments in these deadly bombings, waiting for word of possible American victims. We'll take you there live.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
A close friend of Washington, a neighbor of Iraq, those facts apparently placing the kingdom of Jordan once again squarely in the sights of terrorists. They hit three targets in the capital of Amman Wednesday evening, hotels popular with Western visitors all within about a mile of each other.
Jordan's deputy prime minister says the three nearly simultaneous suicide bombings killed at least 67 people, injured more than 150. Those numbers have been climbing each hour and they are likely to rise once again.
Our reporters around the world are standing by with the latest information. CNN's Hala Gorani is on the scene for us in Amman. Our chief international correspondent, Christiane Amanpour is standing by in London. Our national security correspondent David Ensor is here in Washington. Our White House correspondent Dana Bash is standing by on the North Lawn of the White House.
Let's begin with Hala Gorani, she's on the scene for us in Amman. Set the scene, Hala, tell us what has happened. Tell us what's going on.
HALA GORANI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're joining you live from Amman in Jordan, a city that's been rocked by three explosions. Three suicide bombers, according to officials, targeted Western hotels and Western interests in this capital city -- the Radisson, the Grand Hyatt and the Days Inn. The latest toll, 67 people killed, more than 100 injured. One of our crews at Jordan Hospital describing the kind of injuries they are seeing among those who survived the blast, injuries typical with -- the kind of injuries you would see after a blast, shrapnel, limb injuries, and as we said, dozens of dozens of people killed.
The question is, why Jordan, why now? It is a country seen as closely allied to the United States, a country also among the Arab countries in the Middle East that is at peace with Israel, and a country that many say was a logical target for terrorists who oppose U.S. and Western foreign policy in the Middle East.
The question now is, who is responsible? There's been no claim of responsibility. But analysts and officials alike are saying that this simultaneous set of explosions bears the hallmark of an al Qaeda- associated group that has targeted Jordan, that is seen as well, as a soft target. Many of these hotels did not have security. And so it would have been easy if the scenario that unfolded was one where a suicide bomber walked into a hotel, to walk in, and in a crowd, as it was the case in the Radisson, where there was a wedding party going on, explode himself and cause many injuries and deaths.
Back to you.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Hala. We will get back to you shortly. Hala Gorani on the scene for us in Amman.
Our chief international correspondent, Christiane Amanpour is following the story as well. She's joining us from London. What do you make of this horrible situation, Christiane?
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, many really do say that it was a matter of time before Jordan was hit. Jordan has foiled several terrorist plots in the past. But it is, because of its position, not just next door to Iraq and in such a sensitive position in the Middle East physically and geopolitically, its close support of the United States, its close support of the peace between Israel. Snd it -- the fact of the matter is that it is not just a gateway right now for Westerners, for military going in and out of Iraq, but it is actually a place of business for many who simply cannot work in Iraq because it is too dangerous.
Jordan has been humming with the kind of business that it has been hoping to attract over the years. It's been humming with this business from inside Iraq, from all the people who want to do business with Iraq, because it is too difficult to get there. And as you know, the al Qaeda terrorists, Abu Musab Zarqawi, and Osama bin Laden, his deputy Zawahiri, they have wanted to target any kind of business or diplomacy that goes on inside of Iraq. And Jordan, has been, as I say, a target in the past.
You know that in August there was an attempt to strike U.S. warships in the southern part of -- port Aqaba, that they missed, that was thwarted. That there have been other plots that have been thwarted in the past, leading up the millennium, just before the year 2000. And subsequently there have been many, many plots against Jordan, and against Western interest in there, most of which has been thwarted. There hasn't been this kind of a large scale attack against such obvious targets yet, and it has happened.
It is very similar to the kinds of attacks that have gone on elsewhere in the Middle East over the last year or so, also in Europe, whether it be Spain, whether it be London, and elsewhere, all bearing the hallmarks of al Qaeda or al Qaeda-affiliated groups, those who believe in al Qaeda ideology.
And Osama bin Laden's deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, has surfaced several times over the last few months in various messages, including messages that talk about global jihad and the only way forward for Muslims is to wage this kind of jihad.
BLITZER: Christiane Amanpour is going to be with us for the hour of our special coverage here on THE SITUATION ROOM. Christiane, we will get back to you very soon.
Who is we hind the bombings? Immediately after the attacks, fingers began pointing directly at al Qaeda. American officials strongly suspect an al Qaeda ally in Iraq, a Jordanian native.
Let's turn to our national security correspondent, David Ensor, for more. David?
DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as you say, it's early days in the investigation, a primarily Jordanian operation, but U.S. intelligence officials that we're talking to are certainly looking very closely at Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
ENSOR (voice-over): U.S. intelligence officials say Abu Musab al- Zarqawi is at the top of their list of suspects in the Amman attacks.
PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: His group has long had a presence in Jordan. They were very focused on overthrowing the Jordanian monarchy.
ENSOR: Officials say they suspect Zarqawi for several reasons.
First, the method of the attacks. Suicide bombings, used as Zarqawi's terrorists have done to such deadly effect in neighboring Iraq.
REUEL MARC GERECHT, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: You don't need very many young men to have a pretty effective, pretty lethal terrorist cell, certainly if you have young men who are willing to incinerate themselves.
ENSOR: Second, the history. Zarqawi's men killed American diplomat Lawrence Foley in 2002. They were behind the rocket attacks in the Port of Aqaba that killed two just months ago, according to U.S. And they tried by failed to attack Jordanian intelligence in April of 2004.
And third, the Jordanian terrorist leader, affiliated with al Qaeda, has repeatedly stated his intention of hitting his homeland. In an April 2004 statement, he said, quote: "We will have more fierce confrontations with the Jordanian government. The chapters of some of these confrontations have ended, but what is coming is more vicious and bitter, God willing."
ENSOR: Finally, these U.S. intelligence officials who are suspecting Zarqawi may be behind the attack point to the brutality of it, the attack on a wedding, so many of the people who died were Jordanians who were trying to celebrate a joyous occasion, that, they note, is something that the Zarqawi gang have done repeatedly in Iraq in the past. And it runs counter to the approach that the higher leadership in al Qaeda takes.
In that letter that you may remember, was captured by U.S. intelligence, and they claim they believe it is an authentic letter from Ayman al-Zawahiri, the number two man, Zawahiri said to Zarqawi, if you go on hitting innocent Muslims, you will lose the hearts and minds campaign. It appears that whoever made these attacks in Jordan wasn't concerned about that.
BLITZER: All right, David, thank you very much. Let's head back to Amman right now. Hala Gorani is standing by. Christiane Amanpour is in London for us.
Hala, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, he seems to be emerging as the terror suspect number one for this act, even though no one has yet claimed responsibility. What you are hearing in Jordan?
GORANI: Well, we are hearing that the modus operandi of the attacks, near simultaneous explosions at three targets associated with the West, and Western-owned companies, the Grand Hyatt, the Radisson, and the Days Inn closely resembles the kind of MO that an al Qaeda- associated group such as the one headed by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi would execute. So this is something that we are hearing not only in Jordan, but around the world.
What's going on in Amman now is there is a calm that has descended on the streets of the Jordanian capital as the country is digesting this wave of violence with at least 67 people killed. And the military across the capital guarding now key positions and strategic positions, these Western hotels, Western companies, government buildings, some might say a bit too little and a bit too late after these attacks killed so many.
BLITZER: Hala, we know the Jordanian government, King Abdullah and his government, very closely aligned, very supportive, very -- working day-to-day with the United States. But what about the average Jordanian on the street? How popular or unpopular is the United States, for that matter, in Amman right now?
GORANI: You don't sense on the streets of Jordan the kind of animosity against the U.S. that you might in other Arab countries.
And what we saw a few hours ago was a spontaneous demonstration of support for the king of Jordan after these attacks; clearly destined at weakening and embarrassing King Abdullah. We saw Jordanians come out and say, with our blood and with our soul we support our king.
So if you travel around the Middle East and other countries, Egypt, Syria perhaps, even countries in the Gulf, you might hear perhaps a little more anti-Western rhetoric, something you don't hear as much here in Jordan where there is an alliance from the powers that be, but where the general population don't voice their kind of anti- Americanism in the way other Arab countries and residents of other Arab countries might.
BLITZER: Hala, stand by.
Christiane Amanpour is still with us. Christiane, I don't think we can overemphasize how important Jordan over these past several year has become as a gateway not only to Iraq, but to so many other countries in that part of the world. And this is a statement, this terror attack, that goes to the heart of that, I suspect.
AMANPOUR: Absolutely. I mean, I don't think you can underestimate just how much the usual suspects in terms of these terrorists who, in any event over the years, have attacked the United States and Western interests. Even before the Iraq war, you can't underestimate the level of, if you like, recruiting sergeant that Iraq has taken on. The anger in many, many parts of the world about the Iraq war, many parts of the Middle East is palpable, and the anger against any countries that are perceived to be supporting or helping that.
And even though in Jordan, as Hala said, it is not the same kind of anti-American militancy that you see in many, many other parts of the world, even there, they are uncomfortable about the -- what they call the American occupation of Iraq, what they call the hand-picked government, the hand-picked elections that they believe has such a U.S. flavor and U.S. influence.
So there's a great deal of discomfort in many parts of the Islamic world, even amongst countries that are American allies, about what is going on there. And that simply sort of feeds into these terrorists who are trying to, as they've said themselves, wage a global jihad against not only U.S. interest but Western interest in an attempt to establish an Islamic caliphate in parts of the Islamic world.
And as I say, just in September, yet another message from the al Qaeda hierarchy leaders, talking about how they will only be able to achieve their goals by this continuing war on the U.S. and other interests, including those allied with the United States, such as Jordan. And many people believe that it was just matter of time before Jordan faced this same kind of massive terrorism that other countries have done.
BLITZER: Christiane Amanpour in London, Hala Gorani in Amman, thanks to both of you.
Let's get a different angle for this developing story. For that, we will turn to our Jack Cafferty. He's watching all of these developments unfold in New York. Jack?
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Wolf. Jordan, the site of today's attacks, of course, a close ally of the United States. In the past, Jordan has arrested many Islamic militants who planned to carry out attacks there. They have trained Iraqi troops. They have hosted aid groups who got relief workers out of Iraq during insurgent attacks.
Jordan also sentenced many radicals to death in absentia, including the terrorist leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. And of course, as David Ensor was suggesting, the speculation early on in this thing today is that the Jordanian-born al-Zarqawi is probably the architect behind these attacks.
So the question is, how will today's bombings affect relations between the United States and Jordan? We've been close friends for a long time. The email address, CaffertyFile@CNN.com.
David Ensor raised another interesting point, and that's how these bombings might affect the relationship between these terrorists and innocent Muslim civilians. I mean, walking into a wedding reception and killing a bunch of people that have nothing to do with the international struggle for oil or religious dogma or anything else to me seems to be a kind of a stupid thing, tactically, to do.
Eventually people, ordinary folks in the Muslim world are going to say, enough. And when that happens, the game is over for these folks.
BLITZER: Jack Cafferty, thanks very much. And we invite our viewers not only in the United States, Canada but around the world to email Jack with your comments, your statements. He'll be back with some of those emails later this hour.
Coming up, two of the hotels were previous targets of al Qaeda. Could members of an al Qaeda group finally hit their mark? We'll take a closer look at that story.
And President Bush is condemning the vicious attacks against innocent civilians. After the break, we will take you live to the White House for more reaction.
And officials want to know this. Who committed these savage acts? An investigation is just getting under way.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Welcome back to our special coverage, "Terror in Jordan." We are here in THE SITUATION ROOM in Washington, U.S. officials closely watching developments in Amman. Andrea Koppel is over at the State Department, Dana Bash is over at the White House.
Dana, first to you. I take it the president has just issued a statement.
DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. We had a statement from the press secretary. But we just, a few minutes ago, got a formal written statement from the president of the United States. And I'll read it to you.
It says: "Today's terrorist bombings in Amman were cowardly attacks on innocent Jordanians and their guests. These barbaric attacks again demonstrated the terrible cruelty of the terrorists and the great toll they take on civilized society."
And it goes on to say that: "I send my prayers and condolences and those of the American people to the families of all those killed in these attacks and to those who were wounded. To the people of Jordan and King Abdullah," the president says, "we pledge our full support in their efforts to bring their terrorists to justice. Jordan is a key ally in the war on terror and will have all assistance we can offer."
So that's the first formal statement from the president since these bombings took place earlier today, Wolf. And they took place while the president was actually in the East Room of the White House, giving out Medal of Freedom awards, and it was after that that he was informed about this. And since then, as you can imagine, White House officials have been working the phones and talking to officials on the ground in Jordan to get the latest information that they possibly can. But this is the statement from the president tonight.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Dana. The hotels attacked in Amman are popular with Americans and other Westerners. There is no word yet on any American casualties.
But let's head over to the State Department, our correspondent Andrea Koppel is monitoring the situation there. Andrea?
ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we are expecting the State Department to issue an updated travel warning, as you might imagine, for Jordan in the wake of today's attacks, alerting Americans not to travel there unless it is absolutely necessary.
The State Department also has a task force at the standby, at the ready in the eventuality that there are American casualties, there are Americans who need more assistance than simply phone numbers, which I will give you in a moment. A short time ago, Secretary of State Rice, who was meeting with the U.N. General Assembly president, Jan Eliasson, had this to say about today's attacks. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, do you have any reaction to the Jordan bombings?
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: I've just been apprised of them, and we are watching the situation, but clearly, this is a great tragedy and again it shows that people will take innocent life without any remorse. And it just shows the very difficult war that we are fighting. And Jordan has of course been a tremendous fighter and a tremendous ally in the war on terrorism.
So I'm not fully apprised of what has happened. But it looks like a very bad situation. And of course, our hearts go out to those who have been lost and to the people of Jordan.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KOPPEL: Jordan, an important U.S. ally, not just because of the fight in the war on terror, but as you know, Wolf, Jordan is only one of two Arab states to have diplomatic relations with Israel.
Now as for that number, for any Americans who -- or for that matter, anyone who is concerned that they may have a U.S. citizen, a relative, family member, loved one who is in that country, we have got a couple of numbers to put up for you. One is for a local call domestically, that number is 888-407-4747. Overseas, you can call 202- 501-4444. The State Department reaching out to the Jordanian government, Wolf, ready to offer whatever assistance it can.
BLITZER: Andrea Koppel, thank you very much.
Senator Jay Rockefeller is the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, he joining us now live from Capitol Hill. Senator Rockefeller, thanks very much. What are you hearing about this attack in Jordan today?
SEN. JAY ROCKEFELLER (D-WV), VICE CHAIRMAN, SENATE INTELLIGENCE CMTE.: We're not getting intelligence yet. And cannot confirm for sure that it was Zarqawi or al Qaeda-related, although that would be the first conclusion I would suppose.
But I have to tell you one thing, Wolf, I mean this is a 70 percent Palestinian nation, a nation of friends, a king who is our -- by far, our best friend, and now it's moved into three American hotels in Jordan.
And then I think back to the days of shock and awe, where it was almost like, well, we're really going to show them, aren't we? And then, here we are two years later, and I sort of increasingly ask myself, OK, so what progress have we made? You know, what do we have to show for this? Osama is still loose, Zarqawi is still loose. Zarqawi was up in northeast Iraq, he got out of there. We can't run him down. He's not up at 15,000 feet in the Afghan mountains or Pakistani areas like Osama.
BLITZER: Well, let me interrupt you, Senator...
ROCKEFELLER: What about...
BLITZER: Senator, why is it so hard to find the guys, Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, his number two, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi? What's the problem?
ROCKEFELLER: The problem is that we don't seem to be able to put together either the technology or the manpower or the combination thereof in order to get the job done. And just as an American citizen, I just -- increasingly, it is frustrating to me that we wait and we -- this moves closer and closer to America, and there are no answers as to how to get them. I can't tell you how to get them.
But we have something called a U.N. -- U.S. military, and intelligence services are meant to be helping, but it is not working, is it? And I think it must be tremendously frustrating not -- obviously to those who have lost people, if they know about it yet, but it's not impressive.
We have got to get on a schedule here, where we say to the Iraqis, all right now, you get your police or military level -- effective and fighting up to a certain level by a certain point, and we'll be with you. But it's not going to be forever. You've got to show us that you can control some of these situations.
Why can't we find Zarqawi? Why can't they find Zarqawi? I'm very troubled by -- and I'm very unhappy about that.
BLITZER: Well, the -- as the vice chairman of the Intelligence Committee, are you suggesting that the U.S. intelligence community simply does not have the adequate human intelligence resources right now to get this job done?
ROCKEFELLER: I'm saying at least that. We know that was true during -- you know, in the late -- after the U.N. pulled out in 1998. And then we really didn't have a chance to penetrate what Saddam had as a very, very full iron curtain towards human intelligence.
But that time has passed. I mean, he came out of his little hole some time ago, and he's been in prison, he's on trial. And we now have presumably adequate resources there, but it's not turning anything up. And I'm just getting a little anger each day about -- hearing about what Zarqawi's done, and Osama, and Zawahiri, and all the rest of it. And it's very clear, you know, that they are very much in charge of what's going on. That they do motivate others, and we, for some reason, are not up, evidently, to doing our part of this.
BLITZER: Senator Rockefeller, thanks for spending a few moments with us tonight.
ROCKEFELLER: Thank you.
BLITZER: Senator Jay Rockefeller is the vice chairman of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee.
Still to come here, our special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM, more on today's tragic bombings in Jordan. We're getting some new information on the investigation, and why the FBI now may join in.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Jordan is no stranger to terrorism. The country has suffered numerous attacks in the past, but has managed to thwart many others.
Our Zain Verjee is joining us now live from the CNN Center with more. Zain?
ZAIN VERJEE, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, as we've been hearing, Jordan is a close ally, both of the United States, and also one of only two Arab countries, the other is Egypt, to have made peace with Israel. Partly for those reasons, Jordan has been a target for terrorists.
VERJEE (voice-over): Today's multiple bombings in Amman come just three months after the last terrorist attack in Jordan. But it was the United States military that was the intended target. Three Katyusha rockets were fired at two U.S. warships that were on training missions there, the USS Ashland and the USS Kearsarge. A rocket actually flew over the bow of the Ashland, but all three missed their targets. One did hit a nearby warehouse, killing a Jordanian solider.
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's group, al Qaeda in Iraq, claimed responsibility for the attacks. Zarqawi, himself a Jordanian, was sentenced in absentia to death for the assassination of the American diplomat Lawrence Foley. He was gunned down in front of his house in Amman in October of 2002. And the U.S. believes Zarqawi was involved in a plot to attack intelligence agents, tourists and hotels in Amman during millennium celebrations.
The Radisson SAS Hotel hit in today's bombings was believed to be among the targets of that plot, which Jordanian authorities stopped in late 1999. Five Jordanians were indicted just this past July in connection with that case.
VERJEE: And, Wolf, although there have been those previous attacks, this is one believed to be the first in Jordan using suicide bombers.
BLITZER: Zain, thank you very much. Zain Verjee reporting for us.
It's not the first terror attack, as we just heard, in Jordan, but the Amman bombings came suddenly, leaving the country in quite a shock. Why Jordan, why now? Salameh Nematt is the Washington bureau chief of Al-Hayat, an international Arab daily newspaper. Salameh, thanks very much for joining us. Why now? Why do you think? What's going on?
SALAMEH NEMATT, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, AL-HAYAT: I think we cannot isolate this attack from what's happening in the region. To the east, you have this raging war still in Iraq. And you have to the north, Syria is in a crisis, the noose is tightening around the Syrian regime, attempts by Syria to destabilize Lebanon.
Al Qaeda feels cornered politically and physically. And in Iraq, the last American offensive has been really effective.
BLITZER: In the western part of Iraq, along the Syrian border.
NEMATT: Yes, in the western part of Iraq.
And Jordan has been inching closer to cooperation with the Iraqi government -- a couple of weeks ago, a security agreement with Prime Minister (ph) Jaafari, who visited.
BLITZER: So you agree with most of the experts that it's got the fingerprints of the Jordanian -- and you yourself are a Jordanian, you're from Amman -- you agree that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian terrorist, seems to be behind this?
NEMATT: Well, he might be. He might as well be behind it.
But I think, I'm increasingly convinced that al Qaeda is becoming very much like the Abu Nidal group, the Palestinian terrorist group of the '70s and '80s, basically a gun for hire. The question is which intelligence service has penetrated that, you know, terrorist group and which one is using them?
You know, in the case of the assassination of Hariri, the Mehlis investigation showed that the suicide bomber was an Iraqi who thought he was killing Iyad Allawi, the Iraqi prime minister.
BLITZER: You're talking about Rafik Hariri, the former Lebanese prime minister, and a lot of the blame going to Syria. You see a similar pattern here?
NEMATT: I think, you know, with the Syrians trying to destabilize Lebanon, you know, sending the PFLP, you know, the Palestinian extremist group into the refugee camps in Lebanon, the arming of Hezbollah and the escalation, I think the Jordanians would probably be also looking at Syria for possible links in this attack.
BLITZER: Wait a minute. Are you suggesting that Syria may be trying to destabilize Jordan?
NEMATT: Yes. I don't think that we can rule that out, considering that Syria has -- feels the heat. The regime itself threatened, if it has to submit top leaders to the international investigation, being implicated in the assassination of Hariri. Lebanon has become an exposed area for their actions. They would like to see a destabilization of Jordan, because it would ease the pressure on Damascus.
I'm not saying that I have information leading to that, but I think the Jordanians will be looking at that link.
If al Qaeda implemented the attack, it doesn't mean that there was nobody behind a certain cell belonging to al Qaeda.
BLITZER: Salameh Nematt writes for Al-Hayat, the international Arab daily. He's the Washington bureau chief, formerly served briefly as an adviser to Jordan's royal court.
Thank very much for joining us.
NEMATT: You're welcome.
BLITZER: Provocative words.
Just ahead, will the FBI help Jordan investigate today's terror attacks? Our Justice correspondent Kelli Arena is getting some new information. We'll go to her live right after this.
Plus, the latest intelligence on who's responsible. CNN terrorism expert Peter Bergen is standing by to join us in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Stay with us.
BLITZER: An attack may come thousands of miles from home, but when American interests are targeted around the world, U.S. investigators are often sent to the scene.
Is the FBI about to get involved in what has happened in Jordan today? Let's get some answers.
Our Justice correspondent Kelli Arena is standing by. Kelli, what are you hearing?
KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it sure looks that way. The FBI says Director Robert Mueller is being briefed on the developments from both a strategic information and operation center at headquarters, and from the FBI's legal attache in Amman.
But an FBI team has not been deployed to Jordan, at least not yet. But their bags are backed and they're ready.
ARENA (voice-over): When the USS Cole was bombed or the U.S. embassies in East Africa were attacked, FBI teams quickly deployed to investigate.
It is anticipated a team will also head to Jordan, but the FBI can't go unless the Jordanian government officially asks for help.
PAT D'AMURO, FMR. FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: The thing that's different for FBI agents abroad is that they do not have any law enforcement authority. All their authorities come from the government that they are working in.
ARENA: FBI officials say the bureau has an excellent relationship with Jordan. Agents have been permanently based in a legal attache office in Amman for nearly five years.
Counterterrorism experts say they have every confidence the Jordanians are capable of getting to the bottom of the attacks, but having access to real-time intelligence is crucial.
D'AMURO: One of the things that the FBI brings to the table is the vetting out of information, taking that information and conducting other investigative leads to test that information, or showing connections to other individuals.
ARENA: Especially important is whether any of the evidence leads back to the United States or to people who may want to attack on U.S. soil.
BLITZER: All right, Kelli. Thank you very much.
Our senior international correspondent Nic Robertson has spent a lot of time in Jordan over the years. He recently was there to profile the man many now suspect in this bombing today in Amman, the Jordanian-born Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Nic is joining us on the phone. Nic, what are you hearing?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTL. CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, two principal things.
One is from Jordan, about the shake-up in the Jordanian intelligence over the last six to eight months, concerns expressed that perhaps the shake-up has caused a weak link within the intelligence services. Until now, the Jordanians have been very effective in watching terror suspects, particularly those from the town where Zarqawi grew up, the town of Zarqa, a poor town just outside the capital of Amman.
But the other big concern is hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees now live in Jordan, a country of a population just over 5 million. Concern there now that perhaps the intelligence service is not able to cope with this massive influx of Iraqis. Perhaps some sleeper -- Zarqawi has got sleeper insurgent cells in amongst those many hundreds of thousands of Iraqis now living in Jordan.
Those are some of the concerns tonight, Wolf.
BLITZER: If there was a shake-up at the top of the intelligence community in Jordan, is that enough to cause what could be a failure in preventing this kind of an assault? ROBERTSON: The shake-up was at the top. The shake-up was also felt lower down the ranks. Seasoned and experienced officers familiar with many of the counterterrorism beat no longer found themselves in those posts. The concern is that having lost that experience, there are weak links.
The Jordanians have been able to keep very good track of people they suspect of terror attacks. Iraq has opened up a new front. There have been many cases where Jordanians have later been found to have gone to Iraq, have committed suicide attacks. The families have found out later.
The concern and the concern in Jordan is these were unknown to the intelligence services before, leading the intelligence services to believe that they are perhaps a whole new generation growing up who don't have the contacts -- perhaps with clerics, perhaps in other underground movements that they are watching.
These are the new stresses that have been put on the intelligence services, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Nic. Nic Robertson reporting for us. Thank you very much.
Up next here in THE SITUATION ROOM, reaction pouring in from around the world to these terror attacks in Jordan. Our Zain Verjee is standing by to show us what world leaders are saying.
Also, Jack Cafferty wants to know what you're saying about the question of the hour. How will the bombings affect relations between the U.S. and Jordan?
Stay with us.
BLITZER: Updating you now with the latest information on today's hotel bombings in Amman, Jordan. We're getting reaction from corporate offices of the three hotel chains targeted.
Let's get some more specifics. Our Zain Verjee joining us, once again from the CNN Center. Zain?
VERJEE: Wolf, each of the three hotels targeted in the bombings, a part of popular and well-known chains -- in fact, some of the largest chains in the world. Not surprisingly, all three really want to reassure guests now, after this.
First, let's talk about the Days Inn. It's owned by Cendant, a 540,000 room hotel conglomerate. It's issued a statement condemning the bombing and saying that it's now focusing on the health and safety of its guests, as well as its staff.
The statement reads, "We understand from the conversations with local management that this hotel's been evacuated and that all guests and employees are accounted for. We've been told that four guests were injured, three seriously, and that no employees were hurt".
Moving on now to the Hyatt. It's an independent hotel chain with 90,000 rooms worldwide. Its statement reads, in part, "the hotel has been completely evacuated and local police have cordoned off the area and assumed control of the hotel. We cannot confirm the number of injuries at this time. The hotel's management team is working to assure the safety and relocation of Hyatt guests who have been evacuated".
And finally, Wolf, the Radisson. It's owned by the Carlson conglomerate. Here's part of its reaction. Its statement reads, "guests have been evacuated and the hotel is working to insure their safety and security. We are saddened by this tragic incident", it says, "and are mobilizing to clarify the facts and assist those who have been impacted".
BLITZER: All right, Zain. Thank you very much. Zain Verjee reporting.
Was it al Qaeda or al Qaeda's man in Iraq, the Jordanian native Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who is behind these attacks in Amman?
Let's turn now to our CNN terrorism analyst, Peter Bergen. He's joining us on the phone from here in Washington. What do you suspect, Peter?
PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Oh, I think the leading candidate, as many people have said already this evening, is al- Zarqawi. He has a group that was specific to Jordan called the Tawhid group, which means the unity of God in Arabic. It was a group that he set up in the late '90s that was designed to attack the Jordanian monarchy, attack Israeli/Jewish targets.
Another possible suspect, which may well be related to al-Zarqawi is the something Abdullah Azzam Brigade. Abdullah Azzam was a Jordanian cleric who had some influence on bin Laden during the '80s. His sons, who live in Amman who say that his father would have nothing to do with the kinds of attacks that are being claimed in his name. But this Abdullah Azzam Brigade has claimed credit for attacks in Jordan and in Egypt in the last year or so and seems to be some kind of real terrorist group, not just somebody who's just picking up a fax and phoning in claims of credit.
BLITZER: Peter, I reread the letter that the number two al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, recently wrote to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian terrorist, looking for any references to Jordan in there.
The closest I came to was this line. Let me read it to you. Ayman al-Zawahiri writing, "extend the Jihad wave to the secular countries neighboring Iraq". I assume Jordan would fit that bill.
BERGEN: Absolutely. Although, he also said in that letter to al- Zarqawi, enough with the beheadings. You are turning -- all these attacks on civilians are turning the masses against us. Clearly, some advice that al-Zarqawi has continued to ignore in his campaign against civilians, which appears to have continued today in Iraq -- in Jordan. One other thing here, you know. We're seeing a wave of attacks against Western brand names and Western hotels across the world since 9/11, Wolf.
We've seen an attack on a Sheraton hotel in Karachi that killed 12 defense contractors in 2002. An attack on a J.W. Marriott in Jakarta, an attack on a Hilton in Taba. Just recently, we had a bomb go off in Bali, not far from the Four Seasons in Bali.
These are significant because they're Western brand names. They're Western tourists that they hope that they will kill. And for these groups, these Western hotels, in areas where they have some strength, are very inviting targets. Particularly since they, the security in these hotels, in Amman, I think in particular, where I was a month ago, there really was no security.
BLITZER: Peter Bergen helping us understand as he always does. Thank you Peter, very much.
Up next here in THE SITUATION ROOM, terror hits downtown Amman. We'll show you just how close the targets are to each other and why they may have been chosen.
And how will the bombings affect relations between the United States and Jordan? It's our question of the hour.
Jack Cafferty's been going through your email. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: We're following developments in Amman, Jordan, scene of three suicide bombings that the deputy prime minister of Jordan says have killed at least 67 people, wounded another 150 at least. They happened at hotels popular with western visitors to Jordan.
CNN's Tom Foreman is here to give us a better idea in THE SITUATION ROOM of the area in central Amman that we're talking about.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are talking about the center part of the city here. It's not a hard city to get around. It's not really that big in some ways. So if you move into the area and look at where these bombings actually took place, this is the Days Inn bombing, right there. This is the Radisson bombing, right there. And this is the Hyatt right next to it. So they are pretty close.
If you move in and you look at the roads that they are on, this is on Hussein Bin Ali Street. This is the Radisson, along this part of it right here. The Hyatt, as you see, is on the same street only about a half mile away. And then, about a mile and a quarter away from that is where the Days Inn is. That's a little bit further across down here, but this is a very old city.
This is right in the middle of it. There are many tourist attractions here that people want to get around to. If you look very quickly, this is the Jordanian Parliament building, which is also, again, not that far. Nothing's that far here. That's the Jordanian Parliament building over there.
This is the first mosque of King Abdullah over here, a popular thing for tourists, particularly in that region, to visit. And, of course, you've got the royal palace, which is not terribly that far off. Not a big sprawling city. It was once called the City of the Seven Hills that was built around seven hills in that region. That's a sense of how big it is and where these bombings occurred.
BLITZER: It's not a big city by any means, but it's a beautiful city, rich in history. Thanks very much, Tom, for that.
Our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton, is joining us with more on the situation online. What are you picking up, Abbi?
ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we are starting to see pictures and accounts appear online from residents of Amman, Jordan. This from Sabri Hakim, a 22-year-old man, a resident of Amman who uploaded these pictures after heading down to the Radisson hotel. You can see, from earlier on this evening, people looking at the aftermath of the bombings, and the security response, the police around that location.
Also in the comments section of this blog, people looking for information. The Radisson was the location where the wedding party was going on. And one commentator is asking, do you know which families were involved, looking for more information there. Sabri just says that he was speechless. He had nothing to say on this subject other than just to take these photos and put them online.
BLITZER: All right, Abbi. Thank you very much.
Still ahead, it's an important question. How might today's bombings in Amman affect the relations between Jordan and the United States? You've been sending our Jack Cafferty your thoughts from around the world. After the break, he will read some of them.
Stay with us.
BLITZER: We're back in THE SITUATION ROOM. Welcome back. Jack Cafferty's been going through your email on his question this hour. Jack's joining us from New York. Jack?
CAFFERTY: The question is, how will today's bombings affect relations between the United States and Jordan?
Hashem in Cambridge, Massachusetts says: "As a Jordanian student studying in the U.S., I hope today's barbaric events will bring the Jordanian and American people closer together in the fight against terrorism. These cowards will only bring the Jordanian closer to each other in the face of adversity and foreign attacks. Alexander in Macomb, Michigan: "I don't think today's bombings in Jordan will affect relations with the U.S. too much. The London and Spain bombings didn't have any effect on the relations with the United States, so why should this one? These acts of terror against allied nations are just something that comes are part of the job when you're supporting other allied nations."
Hosni in Pittsburgh: "I just got back from Jordan a month ago. I'm sure people in Jordan will blame the unjustified war in Iraq that transformed the country into an attraction point for terrorism as much as they'll blame al Qaeda and the world terrorism for it."
Mohammed in Amman, Jordan, wrote to us: "The alliance is heading to an even stronger nature than it is now. As an average citizen of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, I've always been opposed to all terrorist acts around the world, although I'm not very comfortable with international U.S. policies."
And Sherry in Okanagan Falls, Canada: "Really this is just the beginning. These people, if you want to call them people, couldn't care less how many lives they take. Can we stop them? Absolutely not. They have something we don't. They are willing to blow themselves up".
BLITZER: And they are willing also to kill a lot of innocent people. This wedding reception, this party that was going on at the Radisson, there were 300 guests. They were Jordanians, they were Muslims, and many of those killed were attending that wedding. How can you justify anything like that?
CAFFERTY: I don't know. It's absolutely heartbreaking. I suppose these are acts of desperation. I mean, you couldn't describe them as anything else when they get people as young as 10 years old, kids in some cases, to wire their bodies with explosives by filling their head full of a bunch of mishigas and then sending them out to take their own lives and futures away for some cause they probably don't even understand. I don't begin to understand what's going on with those folks.
BLITZER: Jack, thank you very much. To our viewers in the United States and around the world, thanks very much for joining us. We're here in THE SITUATION ROOM weekdays 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. Eastern, also 7:00 Eastern.
PAULA ZAHN NOW starts right now. Paula is in New York. Paula?
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