Profile: Sajida al-Rishawi

Profile: Sajida al-Rishawi
Jordan said Wednesday that it will swap Sajida al-Rishawi an Iraqi woman prisoner involved in deadly 2005 hotel bombings for a Jordanian pilot captured in December by extremists from so called Islamic State group. So who is she?
2 min read
28 January, 2015
Jordanian television aired Sajida al-Rishawi's confession in 2005 (Getty)

Jordan offered Wednesday to free an Iraqi woman prisoner in exchange for Moaz al-Kasasba, the Jordanian pilot captured by the extremist Islamic State group when his plane crashed in Syria in December, which is threatening to kill the airman and a Japanese journalist.

Jordan's move came after the parents of the hostages made last-ditch pleas for their lives as a deadline set by IS for the release of the would-be suicide bomber approached.  

"Jordan is ready to release the prisoner Sajida al-Rishawi if the Jordanian pilot is freed unharmed," Jordanian state television quoted a government spokesman as saying. 

Sajida al-Rishawi has been on death row since 2006 for her part in triple hotel bombings in Amman that killed 60 people. 

Jordanian state television quoted a government spokesmen as saying that Rishawi would be released “if the Jordanian pilot is freed unharmed”. 

The release of the would-be bomber was demanded by IS in a video disseminated on Tuesday.

The 44-year old Iraqi has been on death row for her involvement in the November 9, 2005 Amman hotel bombings, which killed 60 people, including the three bombers: her husband, Ali Hussein al-Shumari, and two of her brothers.  

Rishawi was meant to be the fourth bomber.

However, in a twist of fate, she could not get her bomb to detonate in the wedding hall of the Radisson SAS hotel. Seeing her struggle, Shumari ordered her out of the hall before detonating his bomb, killing dozens of people attending a wedding, including the fathers of the bride and the groom.

Rishawi fled the hotel to her sister's home in Salt, a town just outside Amman, but was captured by Jordanian security forces three days after the attack.  

Showing no remorse, she was paraded on television wearing a suicide vest, and delivered a confession explaining that she had been sent from Fallujah and had been a willing participant in the plot.   

Rishawi's links with militant groups abound, a possible reason for the importance placed on her release by IS. 

One of her brothers, Mubarak Atrous al-Rishawi, was a senior aide to the founder of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. He himself was killed by US Marines in April 2004 in Fallujah. Two other brothers were killed fighting the US, as well as her sister's Jordanian husband.

“Either they execute me or they send me back to my family in Iraq,” Rishawi is said to have said upon learning that execution was a possibility. She may be about to get her wish.