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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 June 2006, 22:04 GMT 23:04 UK
Ambivalence in Zarqawi hometown
By Martin Patience
BBC News, Zarqa

Children in Zarqa, Jordan, on Thursday
Children near the Zarqawi home pelted journalists with stones
In this dusty, run-down city, family members of Zarqawi initially did not accept the news that their relation had been killed.

At Zarqawi's modest two-storey home - where his wife and four children still live - close friends and relatives traipsed in and out of the family house all morning.

One of Zarqawi's nieces told the BBC that the family refused to believe he was dead until it was confirmed by al-Qaeda.

But outsiders - and particularly the press - were not welcome at the home.

Journalists who tried to get close to the grey breezeblock house were pelted with stones by young boys and teenagers keen to protect the family. Some had their cameras smashed.

Plain-clothed Jordanian intelligence officers also swarmed the area monitoring people's movements.

Silence

There was a menacing pall of silence in this suburb of Jordan's third largest city.

Zarqawi's hometown, Zarqa, reacts to his killing.

A correspondent from the Arabic news channel al-Jazeera was arrested after interviewing a family member.

One of Zarqawi's nephews who recently visited Zarqawi in Iraq agreed to talk to the BBC but backed out of the interview, fearful that he would be arrested by the Jordanian secret police.

But after al-Qaeda announced that Zarqawi was dead, the family began to act.

Eyewitnesses told the BBC News website that men and young boys emerged from the house to clear a dirt-laden pitch of land close to the building of stones and litter.

They then erected a red and white mourning tent on the strip. On the tent they placed a placard that read: "Martyr Abu Zarqawi".

It was an acknowledgement that their father, husband, brother and uncle was dead.

Away from Zarqawi's house, many residents of this heavily industrial city were reluctant to talk about the man that made their city famous. Zarqawi literally means "man from Zarqa".

'Just cause'

But those that did talk, were usually emphatic in their support of a man they viewed as fighting what they saw as America and Britain's occupation of Iraq.

Two women, believed to be sisters of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, enter his home in Zarqa, Jordan, on Thursday
Zarqawi's relatives were staying tight-lipped

"I think he was fighting a just cause," said a medical student from the city.

"American troops are a legitimate target. What business does America have coming to Iraq and killing thousands of citizens? As Arabs we must fight them - and that's what Zarqawi did."

Another man, who would only give his name as Mousa, proclaimed Zarqawi as a "great fighter".

But other residents of the city, a 20km drive from the Jordanian capital of Amman, were less effusive about their famous son.

Last year, Zarqawi claimed responsibility for triple suicide bombings in Amman hotels that killed 60 people.

For many Jordanians, the Zarqawi's bombings and killings were justified in Iraq but not in his homeland.

"Before the bombings in Amman, I respected Zarqawi," said one man.

"But after the attacks I wanted him dead."

The man got his wish.




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