AMMAN, (Reuters) – Jordan”s security forces are questioning the Jordanian relatives of an Iraqi woman who took part in last week”s triple suicide bombings that killed 54 people in Amman hotels, security sources said on Wednesday.
They said several Jordanians were being "interrogated for possible strong links" with the bombers belonging to al Qaeda in Iraq, which is led by Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
They said Sajida al-Rishawi, who confessed on television on Sunday she had tried to blow herself up alongside her husband, had gone to the city of Salt near Amman after the bombings.
"She went to seek Jordanian relatives of a sister who had married a Jordanian militant who died in Iraq and we are now interrogating people who contacted her," one source said.
The source, who asked not to be named, did not say how many people had been detained as suspects in Salt.
Jordanian officials who announced Rishawi”s arrest on Sunday identified her as a sister of Samir Mubarak Atrous al-Rishawi, a former Zarqawi aide who was killed by U.S. forces in Iraq.
The woman bomber”s sister was married to Nidal Arabiyat, a Jordanian militant from Salt who was killed in clashes with U.S. forces in Iraq in 2003, security sources said. They said Arabiyat was an explosives expert who had been with Zarqawi in northern Iraq before the U.S.-led invasion.
Officials have also said the bombers acted on their own and deliberately avoided contact with Jordanians to evade the security services. It was not clear whether those arrested in Salt were now suspected of prior involvement in the plot.
Police have stepped up searches in Salt, a city that has earned a reputation for Islamist militancy over the years after scores of volunteers secretly left to fight against the Soviet army in Afghanistan and U.S.-led forces in Iraq.
Al Qaeda in Iraq has said in a statement that three Iraqi men and the wife of one of them had bombed the hotels.
"This statement was crucial. It gave us leads that helped us capture the woman," said another security source.
Most of those who died were Jordanians attending weddings at the hotels, which are also frequented by diplomats, aid workers, journalists and security contractors working in Iraq.
The Jordanian authorities say all four bombers were from Iraq”s western desert Anbar province, a stronghold of Sunni Arab insurgents that borders Jordan. In her confession, Rishawi said she was a resident of Ramadi, the provincial capital.
Officials have said the team entered Jordan four days before the blasts, rented a flat in a middle-class district of Amman and used belts packed with 5-10 kg (11-22 lbs) of explosives.
Jordan, a close U.S. ally and one of two Arab nations to have a peace treaty with Israel, had previously been spared al Qaeda-linked attacks that have hit other countries.