Jordan Bomber Detained, Released by U.S. Forces in 2004

Safah Mohammed Ali, one of the suspected terrorists who bombed hotels in Amman, Jorday last week, is believed to have been captured by American forces in Fallujah a year ago but released after being deemed not a risk to security.

Bomb Suspect Detained In ’04 (Knight Ridder)

One of the suspected suicide bombers in last week’s deadly attacks on three luxury hotels in Jordan’s capital apparently was detained and released last year by U.S. forces in Iraq who determined that he was not a threat to security, a U.S. military spokesman said yesterday.


The name of another attacker, Safah Mohammed Ali, matches the name of a man who was detained for about two weeks during fierce clashes between insurgents and U.S. Marines in Iraq’s western insurgent stronghold of Fallujah, said the military spokesman, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Insurgent sources in Iraq and one of Ali’s colleagues at a factory in Fallujah said in separate interviews that Ali was detained in November 2004, when he was injured while fighting U.S.-led forces – information that corresponds with the U.S. military’s account. “A detainee by the name of Safah Mohammed Ali was detained for a period of about two weeks at a division holding area in November 2004 as a result of operations in Fallujah,” the spokesman wrote in an e-mail response to Knight Ridder. “A review of the circumstances of his capture by the unit determined there was no compelling evidence that he was a threat to the security of Iraq and he was therefore released.”

The spokesman emphasized that the U.S. military could not be certain that the detainee was the same man who allegedly blew himself up in Amman last week. In Iraq, however, those who knew Ali said they were sure it was the same person. The spiritual leader of the rebel council that ruled Fallujah when it fell under insurgent control said in a phone interview that he remembered Ali as a fighter in the Black Banners Brigade. That Fallujah cell was led by Omar Hadid, a local insurgent who rose to prominence as a close associate of Zarqawi. Hadid later died in clashes with the U.S. military.

The spiritual leader, or mufti, said Ali’s anti-American stance was hardened after he was detained by U.S. forces in the same mosque where a Marine shot to death an unarmed Iraqi man in a controversial incident captured on video by an embedded American TV journalist. The military ruled the shooting justified.

U.S. Had Iraqi With Same Name As Bomber (AP)

American forces detained and later released an Iraqi with the same name as one of the suicide attackers who struck three hotels in Amman, Jordan, last week, the U.S. military said Monday. Jordanian authorities said Safaa Mohammed Ali, 23, was among the suicide attackers who struck last Wednesday at the Grand Hyatt, SAS Radisson and Day’s Inn hotels, killing at least 57 people.

A statement by the U.S. command said someone by that name was detained in November 2004 in connection with the American assault on the insurgent stronghold of Fallujah. The command said it could not confirm whether the person detained was the same man who took part in the Amman attack. “He was detained locally at the division detention facility” but was released two weeks later because there was no “compelling evidence to continue to hold him” as a “threat to the security of Iraq.”


These things happen, of course. At least one of the 9/11 hijackers and a person involved in the Oklahoma City bombing had previously been detained by police and released; U.S. soldiers are less well trained in investigation and the available resources for background checks are much worse. And, of course, there are almost certainly more where Ali came from; someone would have taken his place. Still, not something you like to hear.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. exdem13 says:

    Remember this article the next time you hear some anti-war, anti-government weenie whining that torture is evil, Abu Ghraib was a chamber of horrors, Club Gitmo is too harsh, secret prisons are wrong, the Patriot Act is too harsh, etc, etc and so forth. We had this guy at the site of a big battle against insurgents & terrorists. We let him go. He killed a bunch of people a year later. We’re not gonna win the war against terrorism this way, folks….

  2. Brian says:

    No, it seems we are going to win the war on terror by changing everything about our government that makes the war on terror worth winning.