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Sadler: No evidence of anti-Western animosity

CNN's Brent Sadler



On the Scene
Acts of terror
Brent Sadler

AMMAN, Jordan (CNN) -- Protests and memorials dotted the Jordanian landscape Thursday, the day after three suicide bombers blew themselves up at separate hotels here. Fifty-nine people, including the three attackers, were killed in the blasts and more than 100 were wounded.

CNN's Brent Sadler was on the scene Friday morning (4:35 a.m. local time) at the Radisson SAS hotel, where the first and deadliest of the three explosions took place Wednesday night. He gave's Eliott C. McLaughlin a firsthand account of Thursday's activities and discusses what's in store for the country on Friday.

McLaughlin: What was the scene like at the Radisson yesterday?

Sadler: For several hours, thousands of Jordanians carrying flags and pictures of King Abdullah II were rallying in support of the monarchy and in defiance of the bombers at all three hotels last night, including the Radisson.

Jordanians are very, very angry at the way the bombers could inflict such indiscriminate loss of life on soft targets in this country. For several hours, the main roads leading to the Radisson were blocked by heavy traffic.

All three hotels have been quick to try to clear up the damage, particularly the Radisson hotel. The Radisson never closed its door before, during or after the event. Guests are still staying in the hotel.

Inside the ground-floor banqueting hall, where a wedding party was taking place, staff quickly cleared up the bar area. But the actual point of detonation -- which was a banqueting hall itself, where there was loss of life and many injuries -- that was still a very active crime scene with Jordanian forensic officials combing through the wreckage.

McLaughlin: Is there any sense that the wedding was purposely targeted by the suicide bomber at the Radisson?

Sadler: No, I don't think there's any evidence to point to the fact that the perpetrator of the Radisson attack chose a wedding party to strike. It may well have been a target of opportunity. The point was the bomber got inside and detonated himself. Whether he was an invited guest who somehow got an invitation or whether he just happened to follow the music or follow the noise of all the people to exact maximum death and casualties -- it's speculation at this stage.

McLaughlin: The Radisson didn't shut down, but what about the other hotels?

Sadler: The Days Inn -- there was a suicide bomber who tried to set himself off inside the lobby. It didn't go off, he ran outside and the explosive triggered in the street outside the hotel, causing no serious structural damage. The Days Inn really suffered the least of the bomb attacks.

The lobby of the Grand Hyatt itself was devastated. I'm not sure whether or not that hotel was still open for business. Certainly, it was very difficult to get inside the Grand Hyatt. Easy to get in the Radisson. Easy to get in the Days Inn hotel.

McLaughlin: Was the scene outside the hotels yesterday one of mourning or one of protest?

Sadler: Yesterday, one of protest. The mourning was confined to the forensic institute, where forensic experts were going through the bodies, and the hospitals where relatives were tending to the injured. At the hotels themselves, security cordons still and also protests outside each of the three hotels.

McLaughlin: How has the Jordanian government responded?

Sadler: Inside one of the hospitals, Queen Rania of Jordan paid a visit to victims, including a number of children. The queen was visibly distressed by what she saw. I spoke to her and she told me that she felt there was no other place she could be on such a day of tragedy for Jordan.

She said she felt like these people were very much a part of the Jordanian family -- the Jordanian royal family -- and she was doing what she felt she should be doing on this day, which was supporting the people in this time of great uncertainty in the aftermath of the bombings.

In the hospitals, there were many, many people watching over their loved ones who suffered terrible injuries. At the Institute of Forensic Science in Amman, scores of families were claiming the corpses of their loved ones who were killed at the blast site, as the paint staking process of identification continued for much of the day.

McLaughlin: Does there seem to be any resentment toward the Western influence that al Qaeda allegedly pointed to as the reasons for the attacks?

Sadler: No, there's no evidence of anti-Western animosity, certainly not by those who were taking part in the demonstrations. Those were pro-government, pro-monarchy activists and spontaneous people who felt their country -- not Westerners, but their country, Jordanians -- had been subject to this attack. Let's not forget, most of the casualties were Jordanians.

There is no doubt at all a sentiment within this country, particularly among the Islamic fundamentalist militants who support the al Qaeda ideology of using indiscriminate force by way of suicide bombs and car bombs to attack U.S. forces in Iraq. There are many who support the use of violence by extremist Palestinian groups against Israel.

There are many in Jordan who still oppose vocally the 1994 peace treaty that Jordan signed with Israel. It's up against that backdrop that you see Jordan. In terms of approval rating for U.S. policy in the region, Jordan's one of the lowest countries in terms of supporting U.S. policy in this region. The bottom two countries are Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Jordan -- although its percentage points in terms of approval rating for the U.S. increased recently in an international opinion poll -- many Jordanians disapprove of U.S. policy in the region.

McLaughlin: What is the word on suspects? Have there been any recent announcements?

Sadler: No. The only important element on the investigation front in Jordan is security forces have reportedly picked up a group of Iraqis for questioning. Also, it's understood according to at least one witness that one of the suicide bombers in the Grand Hyatt hotel spoke with an Iraqi accent shortly before detonating a belt packed with explosives.

McLaughlin: I understand government and school buildings were closed yesterday. What does tomorrow hold for Jordan? More mourning, more protests?

Sadler: Well, there was an official day of mourning Thursday. Friday is a Muslim prayer day. That's obviously a holiday in this part of the world. We'll have to hear what the mosques say. Some of the preachers in the mosques, the religious leaders, sometimes have political statements to make; sometimes critical of their own government, sometimes critical of what happened in the region in terms of Western policy. We'll have to see how politicized, if at all, any of the sermons are and what's said about the loss of life and the bomb attacks against soft targets at any of those mosque meetings on Friday.

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