Family Severs Ties to Al-Zarqawi

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Family members of Jordanian-born Abu Musab al-Zarqawi renounced the terrorist leader Sunday after his Al Qaeda in Iraq group claimed responsibility for the Nov. 9 attacks on three Amman hotels that killed 59 people.

The family of al-Zarqawi, whose real name is Ahmed Fadheel Nazzal al-Khalayleh, reiterated their strong allegiance to Jordan's King Abdullah II in half-page advertisements in the kingdom's three main newspapers. Al-Zarqawi threatened to kill the king in an audiotape released Friday.

"A Jordanian doesn't stab himself with his own spear," said the statement by 57 members of the al-Khalayleh family, including al-Zarqawi's brother and cousin. "We sever links with him until doomsday."

The statement is a serious blow to al-Zarqawi, who no longer will enjoy the protection of his tribe and whose family members may seek to kill him.

"As we pledge to maintain homage to your throne and to our precious Jordan ... we denounce in the clearest terms all the terrorist actions claimed by the so-called Ahmed Fadheel Nazzal al-Khalayleh, who calls himself Abu Musab al-Zarqawi," the family members said.

"We announce, and all the people are our witnesses, that we — the sons of the al-Khalayleh tribe — are innocent of him and all that emanates from him, whether action, assertion or decision."

The statement said anyone who carried out such violence in the kingdom does not enjoy its protection.

The al-Khalayleh tribe is a branch of the Bani Hassan, one of the area's largest and most prominent Bedouin tribes, which help form the bedrock of support for the royal family's Hashemite dynasty.

Relatives hold senior posts in the army and other government departments.

Al-Zarqawi often boasted of his family's influence when he was jailed in his native Jordan, said Yousef al-Rababaah, an ex-convict who shared al-Zarqawi's cellblock for four years until both were freed under a royal amnesty in 1999.

"Prison wardens and other prisoners feared him because of his family connections and influence," he told The Associated Press recently.

The family statement follows a rally Friday by dozens of angry al-Khalayleh tribe members, who also denounced al-Zarqawi.

The terrorist leader took his name from the city of Zarqa, 17 miles northeast of Amman.

"If my son was a terrorist, I wouldn't hesitate to kill him," family member Mousa al-Khalayleh said during Friday's rally, claiming he spoke on behalf of the tribe. "This is the slogan raised by the tribe as of this moment."

Sunday's message was similar to one sent last year by some members of al-Zarqawi's clan to Abdullah. That message, which contained fewer signatories, severed links with the terrorist for claiming a failed plot in April 2004 that targeted the Amman headquarters of Jordan's intelligence agency, the prime minister's office and the U.S. Embassy.

Officials have said thousands of people would have been killed had the attacks been carried out.

Al-Zarqawi has claimed responsibility for several terrorist attacks in Jordan and was sentenced to death in absentia for planning a conspiracy that led to the 2002 killing of U.S. aid worker Laurence Foley.

He also leads a campaign of bombings and kidnappings in Iraq, and the United States has offered $25 million for information leading to his capture.