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August 19, 2005

Aqaba closed after rocket attack on U.S. Navy ship

Following a rocket attack this morning involving two U.S. warships, Gulf Agency Company reports that the Jordanian port of Aqaba is closed. It says "the incident is under investigation and no further information is available."

A statement issued earlier today by the U.S. 5th Fleet Public Affairs Office said that at 8.44 a.m. local time "a suspected mortar rocket flew over the USS ASHLAND's bow and impacted in a warehouse on the pier in the vicinity of the ASHLAND and USS KEARSARGE. The warehouse sustained an approximate 8 foot hole in the roof of the building. No Sailors or Marines were injured in this attack."

Israeli media reports indicate that the rocket was part of a multiple Katyusha rocket attack that also saw a rocket land in the tourist district of Eilat, Israel, leaving a small crater in the road near the airport.

CNN reports that a group calling itself "al Qaeda in Levant and Egypt, the Martyr Abdallah Azzam Brigades" is claiming reponsibility for the attacks in a web posting.

One Israeli report asserts that the attack was carried out by "a Jordanian al Qaeda team controlled by Abu Mussab al Zarqawi" and says that the Jordanian police discovered the rocket launcher on a rooftop.

The report says the attack involved three rockets. It says that one "just missed" the USS ASHLAND, which it says, "was damaged." That rocket struck a warehouse on a nearby pier.

Another rocket exploded on the Emir Haya base parade ground in Jordan, killing one soldier and injuring others, says the report.

The rocket aimed at Eilat "exploded partially and injured one Israeli.

Aqaba and Eilat are about 15 kilometers apart on either side of the Jordan-Israeli border at the northern end of the Red Sea.

Jordan's Petra news agency has issued the following statement (which fails to mention the two U.S. Navy ships:

Three katyusha rockets were fired about 8:30 am Friday 19/8/2005, from a warehouse in Aqaba area where the first hit a warehouse for the Jordan Armed Forces in the port and resulted in martyring the Jordanian soldier Ahmad Jamal Najdawi and wounding another, and the second exploded near the military hospital where the third exploded in Eilat area in Israel

First-hand investigations pointed that the warehouse was rented few days ago by four persons carrying the Iraqi and Egyptian nationalities.

Upon directives from His Majesty King Abdullah II, HRH Prince Hashem Ben Al Hussein the Regent, accompanied by a number of security officials arrived in Aqaba to follow up the incident.

Israel's Haaretz newspaper quotes a security source as saying; "We are looking for a Syrian and two Iraqis who are in Aqaba and used Kuwaiti license plates."

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