Jordan Charges Al-Zarqawi for Terror Plot
AMMAN, Jordan – Jordan's military prosecutor indicted Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (search), one of the most wanted insurgents in Iraq, and 12 other alleged Muslim militants Sunday for an alleged Al Qaeda linked plot to attack the U.S. Embassy in Amman and Jordanian government targets with chemical and conventional weapons, government officials said.
The foiled plot was first revealed by Jordan in April.
Lt. Col. Mahmoud Obeidat summoned nine of the 13 terror suspects who are already in custody and read them the charges in the indictment, the officials told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
Four suspects, including al-Zarqawi, are still at large and will be tried in absentia, the officials said. The trial was expected to begin in early to mid November.
Al-Zarqawi and his Tawhid and Jihad (search) group are blamed for a string of bombings and other attacks in Iraq and kidnappings and slayings of foreign hostages, including three Americans who were beheaded.
Security officials have said the militants were plotting to attack the Jordanian prime minister's office, the secret service agency, the U.S. Embassy in Jordan and other sites. Security officials and some of the detainees, in televised confessions, have said the plot was linked to Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda network.
Azmi al-Jayousi (search), the alleged mastermind of the cell who was captured in April, has confessed to military prosecutors the group was planning a chemical attack, the officials said.
The military court is expected to grant a 10-day grace period this week for the four fugitives to surrender — a process which precedes the opening of the trial. In Jordan, charges become formal when read aloud at the opening of the trial.
The charges on seven counts include conspiring to commit terror attacks in Jordan, possessing and manufacturing explosive material and affiliation with a banned group, the officials said.
The group in question has been identified as Kata'eb al-Tawhid, Arabic for the Battalions of Monotheism, a previously unknown cell said to be linked to Al Qaeda (search).
If convicted on all counts, the defendants could be sentenced to death.
Jordan first announced in April it had foiled the terrorist plot blamed on al-Zarqawi. On April 20, four additional suspects were killed in a police shootout and most members of the Jordanian cell were arrested.
Jordanian authorities said then the suspects had plotted to use chemicals and explosives to blow up vital institutions, including Jordan's intelligence department — an attack that could have killed thousands.
Al-Jayousi, the alleged mastermind, and some other detained suspects had said in televised confessions the plot was hatched and financed by al-Zarqawi.
In an audiotape posted on the Internet in May, a man who identified himself as al-Zarqawi acknowledged his group was behind the plot in Jordan but he denied it involved chemical weapons.
U.S. officials have offered a $25 million reward for al-Zarqawi's capture. He is suspected in about a dozen high-profile attacks in Iraq, including last year's bombing of the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad. Moroccan authorities believe he may have helped guide the Madrid train bombings.
His group is believed to be behind the killings and beheadings of foreign hostages in Iraq including three Americans. U.S. and Jordanian authorities say he funded the Oct. 2002 assassination of a U.S. diplomat in Jordan.
Jordan, a key Arab ally of the United States and a peace partner to Israel, has been targeted by Al Qaeda and other terrorists. Twenty-two Islamic extremists were convicted of plotting to attack U.S. and Israeli tourists during the kingdom's millennium celebrations.