Al-Qaida attack in Jordan thwarted

Bomb would have targeted intelligence headquarters

April 27, 2004|By AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

AMMAN, Jordan - Jordan has foiled an al-Qaida chemical-bomb plot against its intelligence-services headquarters that would have used trucks packed with 20 tons of explosives and could have killed thousands of people, security officials said yesterday.

Members of the network, who were arrested or killed, also planned attacks on the prime minister's office and the U.S. Embassy in Amman, the officials said on state television. They provided no details about those targets.

Several suspects were shown on television, which aired their confessions. A security official said Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi, who is also being sought by the United States, was in charge of planning the attack.

Jordan's King Abdullah II said April 13 that the security services had dismantled a "terror network," thwarting plans by the group to commit "a crime never before seen in the kingdom" that would have killed thousands.

Shown on television were jerry cans said to contain chemicals, which officials did not identify, and trucks "that the terrorists planned to load with 20 tons of chemical explosives in a suicide attack against the General Intelligence Department."

Six members of the network were arrested and four others were killed in a series of raids, the last of which took place April 20, security officials said.

Zarqawi, a fugitive Islamist sentenced to death in Jordan this month for the October 2002 killing of a U.S. diplomat, "decided that the first target shall be the General Intelligence Department" and recruited the operatives, an official said.

In a taped statement, one of the suspects, Jordanian Azmi al-Jayussi, told of his first encounter with Zarqawi, in Herat, Afghanistan, and another in Iraq. He said he was trained by his mentor in the use of "explosives and strong poisons."

Jayussi appeared calm. His face was swollen, his hair was unkempt, and he was unshaven. The index finger of his left hand was mutilated, and he had a bloody scratch on the other hand.

In Iraq, he said, Zarqawi introduced him to another of his Jordanian followers, Muwafaq Adwan, who was killed in a shootout with police in Amman on April 20.

In Jordan, Jayussi said, he was aided by several Syrians sent by Zarqawi, including Haitham Omar Ibrahim, who he said "arranged safe houses" for the pair and then began to work to collect information on the targets and chemicals for the attacks.

"We managed to buy large quantities. ... We collected around 20 tons of chemicals, enough to carry out all the operations in Jordan," Jayussi said, adding that he then started to build the bombs.

A member of the network also testified that Jayussi told him "the aim was to strike Jordan and the Hashemites [Jordan's ruling family], a war against crusaders and infidels."

Jayussi detailed the plans of the operation, which included moving six vehicles loaded with explosives to an area of west Amman "six or seven minutes" away from the intelligence headquarters.

Jayussi said he received $170,000 from Zarqawi in instalments sent through messengers, mostly from Syria.

An 18-year-old Syrian suspect, Anas Sheikh Amin, said he was trained in Afghanistan and told to go to Jordan to work under Jayussi.

Another suspect, Ahmed Samir, said he was trained in Iraq by a Zarqawi aide and that he worked on explosives for two months in a factory in Ramtha, near the Jordanian-Syrian border.

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