In an apparent response to Jordanians who took to the streets to call for its leader to "burn in hell," Al Qaeda in Iraq took the rare step Thursday of trying to justify the triple suicide bombings that killed 56 people, mostly Arabs.
Earlier Thursday, the group posted a Web statement claiming responsibility for Wednesday's attacks. Then a second Al Qaeda statement appeared on the Internet "to explain for Muslims part of the reason holy warriors targeted these dens." That statement appeared after Arab-wide expressions of outrage.
"Let all know that we have struck only after becoming confident that they are centers for launching war on Islam and support the crusaders' presence in Iraq and the Arab peninsula and the presence of the Jews on the land of Palestine," the group said.
The statement said the hotels that were hit were "favorite places for the work of the intelligence organs, especially those of the Americans, the Israelis and some western European countries" for what the group called "invisible battles in the so-called war on terrorism."
The statement also said the hotels, the Grand Hyatt, the Radisson SAS and the Days Inn, were used by NATO as a rear base "from which the convoys of the crusaders and the renegades head back and forth to the land of Iraq where Muslims are killed and their blood is shed."
Striking a moral tone, the Al Qaeda manifesto said the hotels were a "secure place for the filthy Israeli and Western tourists to spread corruption and adultery at the expense and suffering of the Muslims in these countries."
Warning that Wednesday's attacks would pale by comparison, the statement promised "catastrophic" assaults in the future.
"Let everyone know that we will never hesitate in targeting these places wherever they are... . By God, we have never noticed them caring when they shed the blood of Muslims and rape the honor of the decent women," the statement said.
The hotels, frequented by Israelis and Americans among other foreign guests, have long been on Al Qaeda's hit list.
The statements' authenticity could not be independently verified, but they appeared on an Islamic Web site that is a clearinghouse for statements by militant groups.