updated 4/20/2004 2:12:19 PM ET 2004-04-20T18:12:19

Police shot and killed three suspected terrorists Tuesday who were believed to have planned to detonate a bomb that would have flattened a large part of Jordan’s capital, security officials said.

Working on a tip, police stormed a hide-out in east Amman where the suspects had been hiding, the police said in a statement carried by the official news agency, Petra.

Police later evacuated people from nearby homes and at least three police snipers took positions on rooftops nearby, security sources said on condition of anonymity.

A security official told The Associated Press on customary condition of anonymity that the three who were killed, two of whom were foreigners, were believed to have had links to a terrorist group that had plotted to attack the prime minister’s office and Jordan’s secret service with a powerful chemical bomb.

About 2½ hours after the shootout, police fired several volleys of tear gas at an apartment building where the suspects had been hiding and at two other buildings in the same predominantly Palestinian district of Hashemi.

An AP photographer at the scene saw police handcuff and beat three men who left the one-story white brick building before taking them away in a police car. It was not immediately clear who they were or whether they were involved in the shootout.

The bomb plot was disclosed earlier this week and was said to have been foiled last month.

Had the bomb exploded, it could have killed at least 20,000 people and wrecked buildings within a half-mile, government officials have told the AP.

The group is also believed to have planned to attack the U.S. Embassy and other diplomatic missions with poison gas, government officials have said. Police uncovered the plot late last month and arrested most of its members in two raids.

Refusal to surrender claimed
In Tuesday’s shootout, police called for the suspects to surrender, but they responded with gunfire, the Petra statement said. The incident took place at 2:20 p.m. in Hashemi, the statement said.

“Information made available to security authorities pointed to the presence of an armed group which had plotted to carry out terror attacks,” the statement added.

It was not immediately clear how many suspects were involved in the shootout and whether any escaped.

The government said that in the earlier sweeps that uncovered the bombing and chemical plots, police arrested an unspecified number of suspects and seized at least three cars filled with explosives and detonators. It said the suspects and their cars entered Jordan from Syria, which denied the allegation.

Several of the terror suspects who were arrested last month confessed that the plots were hatched by Jordanian militant Abu-Musab al-Zarqawi, who is thought to be a close associate of Osama bin Laden, leader of the al-Qaida terror network.

U.S. officials have offered a $10 million reward for al-Zarqawi’s capture, saying he is trying to build a network of foreign militants in neighboring Iraq to work on al-Qaida’s behalf.

Twenty-two Arab men were convicted in a terror plot that targeted U.S. and Israeli tourists in the 2000 millennium celebrations in Jordan.

Jordan, a moderate Arab nation with close ties to the United States and a peace treaty with Israel, has been targeted by bin Laden and other groups.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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