Amman, Jordan A Syrian linked to an Iraqi-based terrorist group has been arrested as the prime suspect in the rocket attack that barely missed U.S. warships docked in the port of Aqaba, the Jordanian government said Monday.
The government statement, read on state television, said the suspect, Mohammed Hassan Abdullah al-Sihly, plotted and carried out the attack along with two of his sons and an Iraqi.
The statement said the plotters were part of an Iraq-based terrorist group, which was not named.
Al-Sihly, who lives in Amman, had been surveying sites for the Katyusha rocket attack in Aqaba since Aug. 6, the statement said. He was joined by his two sons - Abdullah and Abdul-Rahman - and Mohammed Hamid Hussein, the Iraqi, in "carrying out the heinous crime."
Hussein, also known as Abu Mukhtar, was the leader of the Iraq-based group, the announcement said.
In the Friday attack, assailants fired three rockets from a window at a warehouse in a poor industrial area of Aqaba, a usually quiet Red Sea resort frequented by Western and Israeli tourists. The warehouse was rented to four Egyptians and Iraqis early last week, police said.
One rocket flew across the bow of a U.S. Navy amphibious assault ship and crashed into a warehouse, killing a Jordanian soldier. Two other missiles flew in another direction, toward Israel; one landed near a Jordanian hospital, the other on the outskirts of an Israeli airport.
The attack was the most serious threat against the U.S. Navy since the 2000 al-Qaida bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen. It was also the first attack targeting U.S. personnel in Jordan since the October 2002 killing of Laurence Foley, an aid worker, outside his Amman home - blamed on Iraq's al-Qaida point man, the Jordanian-born Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
An al-Qaida group called the Abdullah Azzam Brigades claimed responsibility for Friday's attack.
The security official said four weapons the attackers left behind at the warehouse were similar to Katyusha rockets used by insurgents against U.S. troops in Iraq.
Authorities believe the unfired rockets were intended for other Aqaba targets. At least one rocket launcher and other unspecified weapons also were found in the warehouse, whose owner has been detained, the security official said.
In recent months, Jordan has received several warnings that Aqaba was a primary al-Qaida target, the official said.
Key sites in the resort city include a beach-front compound of palaces - one a vacation house for Jordan's ruler, King Abdullah II - and a chain of international hotels frequented by American troops and others on leave from Iraq.
Jordan, a key U.S. ally that signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994, has been the target of several failed al-Qaida plots. Thirteen men - including al-Zarqawi and three other fugitives - are on trial in a military court for an alleged al-Qaida-linked plot to attack Jordan with chemicals. The plot was foiled in April 2004.