updated 3/1/2006 7:20:13 AM ET 2006-03-01T12:20:13

Jordan’s top prison official and at least six other police officers were taken hostage Wednesday by rioting prisoners demanding that two convicted al-Qaida killers be transferred to their penitentiary, an official said.

The riots at Juweideh prison broke out when prisoners demanded that at least two inmates, including the al-Qaida-linked killer of an American diplomat, be transferred from the Swaqa prison to theirs, said Maj. Bashir Da’aja, spokesman for the Public Security Department.

Six to eight police officers were taken hostage, though two were later released, he said.

The Deputy Public Security Director, Maj. General Abdul-Salam al-Ja’afreh, told the state-run Jordan Television that the director of the Kingdom’s penitentiaries, Col. Saad al-Ajrami, was among the hostages.

“We will never surrender to these demands,” Da’aja told a news conference. “We are following prison law and we have plans to negotiate with those rioting prisoners until we secure the release our colleagues.”

He declined to say if use of force by police was an option being considered. Da’aja also would not say why the rioting inmates were demanding the transfer of the other prisoners.

He said a police negotiating team went in to meet with the rioting prisoners unarmed. Da’aja denied media reports that shooting broke out.

Many militants incarcerated
Juweideh prison is one of five disciplinary jails where 180 Muslim militants, including a number of al-Qaida members, are incarcerated.

The two main inmates the rioters want transferred are Azmi al-Jayousi, of Jordan, and Salem bin Suweid, of Libya, Da’aja said.

Al-Jayousi was sentenced to death on Feb. 15 for a 2004 plot to carry out chemical attacks against sites in Jordan, including the U.S. Embassy. Jordanian-born terrorist mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was also sentenced to death in absentia for the plot.

The mastermind behind the plot, Al-Jayousi was convicted for conspiring to attack various sites in Jordan by setting off a cloud of toxic chemicals that would have killed thousands of people.

The plot included vehicles driven by suicide bombers and loaded with explosives and chemicals. Its targets included the General Intelligence Department in Amman, the U.S. Embassy and the prime minister’s office,

Suweid was sentenced to death, along with al-Zarqawi, for being the triggerman in the 2002 assassination of U.S. diplomat Lawrence Foley in Amman.

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