Jordanians rally to denounce hotel blasts

Angry Jordanians demonstrated Thursday outside three Amman hotels where suicide bombings killed at least 56 people a day earlier.

Angry Jordanians demonstrated Thursday outside three Amman hotels where suicide bombings killed at least 56 people a day earlier.

They shouted "Burn in hell, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi!" in a reference to the Jordanian-born head of the al-Qaeda organization that claimed responsibility for the bloody attacks.

The demonstration by hundreds of protesters was organized by a band of trade unions that usually oppose Jordan's cordial relations with the United States and other Western nations.

Earlier Thursday, a statement from al-Zarqawi's organization Al-Qaeda in Iraq was posted in Arabic on a website that has often acted as a clearing house for militant statements.

The message said that after studying potential targets and choosing the three international hotels, "al-Qaeda soldiers were able to reach their targets and carry out the duties."

The message said Amman was chosen because it was a "backyard garden" for the "crusader army," an apparent reference to the support Jordan has given the United States during the occupation of Iraq.

Bombers targeted wedding reception

In the biggest blast Wednesday night, a bomber blew himself up at the Radisson SAS Hotel at a wedding reception being attended by about 300 people.

The bride escaped uninjured, but the groom was seriously hurt. The explosion killed both their fathers.

The Grand Hyatt and the Days Inn three kilometres away were also hit by the explosions that occurred just before 9 p.m. local time.

Jim Nixon from Shelburne, Ont., was among a group of Canadians staying at the Radisson. After the explosion, he ran downstairs to look for his wife and found her after a panicked search.

"You're just frantic, just completely without hope," he told CBC News.

No Canadians were killed or injured in the attacks, the Department of Foreign Affairs said 1,820 were registered as being in the country.

Cherryl Fisher of St. John's had just finished taking a swim in the Grand Hyatt pool when a bomb ripped through the lobby. She was heading back to her room and was by the front desk when the wall next to her "imploded and crumbled." Fisher wasn't hurt.

Many of the victims were Jordanians, but the dead also included two Palestinian security officials, at least one American, and people from Iraq, China, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia. About 30 of the victims have not yet been identified.

About 115 people were injured in the blasts, some of them critically.

Jordan sealed off its borders for about 12 hours after the attacks. They reopened Thursday morning, but security remained tight throughout the country as a day of mourning was declared.

The country has long expected a militant attack on its soil, and claims to have foiled several plots in the past.

On Thursday, officials ordered DNA tests on human remains found at the scenes of the hotel blasts in an effort to identify the suicide bombers and track down their associates.

World leaders condemn attacks

Jordan's King Abdullah condemned the attacks and announced all government offices and schools would be closed Thursday.

At the White House, U.S. President George W. Bush also expressed his outrage.

"The killings should remind all of us that there is an enemy in this world that is willing to kill innocent people, willing to bomb a wedding celebration in order to advance their cause," he said Thursday.

In a news release, Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin said, "I extend my deepest condolences to the victims and the families."

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, on a tour of the Middle East, cancelled his planned visit to Amman on Thursday.