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Jordan Airs Confessions of Suspected Terrorists

State television aired a videotape of four men admitting they were part of an Al Qaeda (searchplot to attack the U.S. Embassy and other targets in Jordan using a combination of conventional and chemical weapons (search).

A commentator on the tape aired Monday said the suspects had prepared enough explosives to kill 80,000 people.

One of the alleged conspirators, Azmi Al-Jayousi, said that he was acting on the orders of Abu-Musab al-Zarqawi (search), a Jordanian wanted by the United States for allegedly organizing terrorists to fight U.S. troops in Iraq on behalf of Al Qaeda. U.S. officials have offered a $10 million reward for his capture.

Jordan disclosed the plot earlier this month and said it had arrested several suspects. Four other terror suspects believed linked to the conspiracy died in a shootout with police in Amman last week.

Al-Jayousi, identified as the head of a Jordanian terror cell, said he first met al-Zarqawi in Afghanistan, where al-Jayousi said he studied explosives, "before Afghanistan fell."

He said he later met al-Zarqawi in neighboring Iraq to plan the attacks, but was not specific about when.

"I have pledged loyalty to Abu-Musab to fully be obedient and listen to him without discussion," al-Jayousi said in the 20-minute videotape.

The commentator on the tape, who wasn't further identified, said the plotters targeted Jordan's secret service, its prime minister's office and the U.S. Embassy.

"At least 80,000 people would have been killed," the commentator said. Al-Zarqawi "is the terrorist" who plotted this operation."

A Web site known for publicizing messages from Muslim extremists on Monday carried a purported claim of responsibility from al-Zarqawi for suicide boat attacks against Gulf oil terminals Saturday that killed three Americans and disabled Iraq's biggest terminal for more than 24 hours.

The Jordanian television segment showed still photographs of al-Jayousi and nine other suspects, including the four killed in last week's clashes with security forces. Three of the slain men were identified as Syrians.

Jordanian officials have said the plotters entered the country from neighboring Syria in at least three vehicles filled with explosives, detonators and raw material to be used in bomb-making. Syria has denied the claims. In the videotape, however, the militants said they acquired the vehicles in Jordan.

Another Jordanian suspect, car mechanic Hussein Sharif Hussein, was shown saying al-Jayousi asked him to buy vehicles and modify them so that they could crash through gates and walls.

The bearded Hussein, looking anxious, said al-Jayousi told him the aim was "carrying out the first suicide attack to be launched by Al Qaeda using chemicals ... striking at Jordan, its Hashemite (royal family) and launching war on the Crusaders and nonbelievers."

Al-Jayousi said he received about $170,000 from al-Zarqawi to finance the plot and used part of it to buy 20 tons of chemicals. He did not identify the chemicals, but said they "were enough for all the operations in the Jordanian arena."

Images of what the commentator said were vans filled with blue jugs of chemical explosives were included in the broadcast.

Hussein, the car mechanic, said he met al-Jayousi in 1999 but did not clearly say when the terror plans were laid out.

Al-Jayousi said he began making the explosives in a laboratory in Irbid, 55 miles north of Amman. Later he moved the explosives to locations in at least two nearby towns.

Another detained terror suspect, Ahmad Samir, said he worked in one of the labs for two months. "I never had the chance to leave it at all ... for the protection of the operation."

Citing unidentified technical experts, the commentator said the suspects had made enough explosives to cause "two explosions — conventional and chemical — which were to have directly affected an area within a one-mile radius."

Al-Jayousi said he and Hussein bought five vehicles, including a truck which was to be filled with explosives and used to attack the intelligence department.

No trial date has been set in the case.

Airing suspects' confessions before their trial is unusual in Jordan. In 1998, six men accused of affiliation with a militant group confessed on television to planting a bomb that exploded outside an Amman hotel. Five years later, a court found them innocent.

The unusual move may be an attempt to answer critics who claim the government has exaggerated the terror danger to justify tightening security. Officials in Jordan, a moderate Arab nation with close ties to the United States and a peace treaty with Israel, say the kingdom has been repeatedly targeted by Al Qaeda and other militant groups.