How the building in al-Salt became the site of Saturday’s deadly attack

تصوير شاكر جرّار

Translated from Arabic by Lovis Maj Bartholain

Four months ago, one of the suspects of the al-Fuheis bombing came from Amman to al-Salt to ask Ahmad Abd al-Karim al-Nsour to rent him a flat in the basement of the building he owns, according to relatives of Ahmad.

Ahmad Abd al-Karim agreed, given their family connection, and rented out the flat to the suspect for around 150 dinar per month, according to Ahmad’s son-in-law, Ammar.

On Saturday, this building was raided by a joint security force to arrest the suspects of the bombing which had taken place in the city of al-Fuheis a day earlier, on Friday evening, and led to the killing of gendarmerie agent Ali Adnan Qauqasa.

A heavy shootout took place between security forces and the suspects, who then used explosives to blow up the building, causing a partial collapse and killing four security personnel: Moath al-Hweitat, Hisham al-Aqarbeh, Mohammad al-Azzam and Mohammad al-Hayajneh. Three suspects were also killed and their bodies were retrieved from the rubble on Sunday morning, according a statement by the official spokesperson to the government, Jumana Ghunaimat.

On Sunday morning, the al-Salt Municipality demolished the rest of the building “in order to avoid the danger of a sudden collapse,” according to the government spokesperson. Ahmad Abdel-Karim’s family was not given the chance to take any belongings from the building before its demolition, Ammar said.

While the building was being torn down, Ahmad and his family were at the King Hussein Medical center as ten of them suffered injuries in the explosion, including his wife, two of his sons and their wives and four of his grandchildren. As for Ahmad himself, he suffered a small skull fracture, according to his nephew Ashraf. All are in a stable condition and most of them left the hospital sunday afternoon, with the exception of a four year old granddaughter, Nagham, who stayed in the hospital as she also suffered a skull injury. At the moment, the rest of the family is staying at the house of Ahmad’s brother near Amman, and they still don’t know whether they will receive any sort of compensation for the lost building.

Ahmad Abd al-Karim, 60 years old, worked at the library of the University of Jordan for 30 years before retiring two years ago. He and his two married sons lived on the three top floors, renting out three apartments, two on the first floor and one in the basement, which is the one the suspect lived in during the past four months.

“[The suspect] had the privacy to do what he wanted,” says a neighbour of the family who lives in the adjacent building.

Until Sunday night, the family of the suspect had not been officially informed of what happened to their son, according to a relative whom 7iber met. That is why they refused to talk so far. The family lives in Naqab al-Dabbour in al-Salt, only a few kilometres away from the building where the attack took place, and its members are still in shock, the relative said, adding that some security officers came to their house in the middle of the night for a short visit before leaving again.

The suspect is aged 32 and graduated with a diploma in civil engineering from the Polytechnic College of al-Balqaa University in 2012. He had joined the security forces but was discharged after only a few years, according to Ammar and Ashraf, and later worked in an office recruiting female migrant domestic workers in Amman. He is married, has a son and his wife is in her 9th month of pregnancy. As for his two brothers, one used to work in the military and is now retired.

Ahmad Abd al-Karim’s nephew, Ashraf, who lives next to his uncle’s building, said that on Friday evening, after the bombing in al-Fuhais, they saw a group of female migrant workers brought by the suspect digging in the garden.

The government spokesperson said in a joint press conference on Monday morning that the authorities swiftly raided the building because they had “received intelligence that there were several explosives in some areas that were ready to be detonated by remote control.”

The arrested suspects told investigators about a stash of explosives and weapons buried in an area in Salt, according to the Minister of Interior Samir Mubaideen. “We decided to detonate it on the spot because it was highly dangerous to move them,” the minister said in the press conference.

The government has not yet released the names of those killed or arrested suspects.