Rocket attack on USS Ashland docked in Jordan; another rocket fired at Israeli town

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Friday, August 19, 2005

USS Ashland

Two Katyusha rockets exploded this morning (8:44 AM UTC+3) in Aqaba, Jordan, near the USS Ashland, which has been docking at the Aqaba port for the last ten days. One Jordanian soldier was killed. Another rocket exploded in Eilat, Israel.

One rocket narrowly missed the USS Ashland and struck a warehouse in the vicinity of the Ashland and the USS Kearsarge, killing a Jordanian soldier, Private Ahmad Alnajdawi, and injuring another. The two amphibious ships had been docking at the Aqaba port for the last ten days. The other missile fell near a Jordanian hospital but caused no injuries.

Commander Jeff Breslau of the U.S. Fifth Fleet told reporters "I can confirm that a rocket flew over the bow of USS Ashland and the rocket impacted in the roof of a warehouse. No sailors or marines were injured. It’s pretty safe to conclude that they were probably trying to hit one or both of the ships".

The rocket that was aimed at Eilat exploded about 15 meters from the Eilat airport, near several hotels. An Israeli taxi driver, Meir Farhan (40), was lightly injured. Farhan told the press "I heard a noise, the car shook, and I kept driving for two more meters. I didn't realize what it was; when I went out of the car I saw a hole in the ground on the asphalt."

A branch of the Al-Qaeda linked terrorist organization Abdullah Azzam Brigades in Egypt has claimed responsibility for the attack. They also claim responsibility for last month's terror attack in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt and for the 2004 attack on Egyptian tourist resorts.

Immediately after the attack, the two US Navy Ships left the Aqaba port. All flights in the Eilat airport were briefly delayed before the explosion site was cleared of debris.

Jordanian security forces have located the launch site on a nearby rooftop. They are searching for three people with connection to the attack, two Syrian nationals and one Iraqi.

Israeli Defense Minister, Shaul Mofaz said that Israeli and Jordanian security forces are cooperating. "We are certain the Jordanians are also acting to thwart such attacks" Mofaz said. "There were no prior warnings regarding this specific case, but we're alert.".

Eilat and Aqaba are both considered international tourist destinations in their respective countries.