Jordan begins trial of Zarqawi-tied cell for WMD plot

Friday, December 17, 2004

AMMAN Jordan has begun the trial of operatives of an Al Qaida-aligned insurgency cell that allegedly plotted a chemical weapons attack in the Hashemite kingdom.

Officials said 13 defendants have been indicted on seven charges connected to a plot to attack Jordan's intelligence headquarters in April 2004. They said the group also planned to strike the U.S. embassy in Amman as well as the office of Jordan's prime minister in Amman.

The defendants, on trial in State Security Court in Amman, were said to be members of the so-called Unification Brigades. The alleged members include three Saudi and three Syrian nationals, Middle East Newsline reported.

Officials said the insurgency cell was led by Azmi Jayussi. Jayussi was said to have directed the alleged plot to destroy Jordan's intelligence headquarters outside Amman with chemical weapons. They said Jayussi and his network were aligned with Abu Mussib Al Zarqawi. One of the defendants was identified as Saud Mohammed Khalayleh, a cousin of Al Zarqawi.

[On Thursday, the London-based A-Sharq Al Awsat reported that Jordan has arrested two Israeli nationals accused of seeking to buy weapons for rebels in the Sudanese province of Darfour. The newspaper, which quoted both Arab and Jordanian sources, said the Israelis also trained Darfour rebels in Israel. Israel has not yet responded to the report.]

The three Saudi nationals were tried in absentia in proceedings that began on Dec. 7. Officials said the Saudis and the Jordanians were trained to combat the U.S. military in Afghanistan in late 2001.

"But, after they found that their mission was impossible, they replaced it with carrying terror attacks on American targets in Jordan including the U.S. embassy," a Jordanian statement said.

The case has been adjourned until Dec. 22 after nine defendants refused to cooperate. They cited their conditions of detention.

In April 2004, Zarqawi was sentenced to death by a Jordanian military court for the October 2002 murder of a U.S. diplomat in Amman. Zarqawi has been charged in another case that began on Dec. 13 and included charges of plotting to destroy the Jordanian embassy in Baghdad =

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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