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Jordan indicts 12 in terror conspiracy

Jordan indicted 12 alleged militants Sunday, including fugitive Abu-Musab al-Zarqawi, for an al-Qaida linked plot to attack targets in Jordan.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Abu-Musab al-Zarqawi, the most feared terrorist operating in Iraq and the man believed to be shown on several grainy videotapes beheading foreign captives, was indicted Sunday in Jordan, a U.S. ally and an Arab nation supporting the war on terror.

Authorities said al-Zarqawi had planned for suicide bombers to blow up two vehicles filled with chemicals, creating a poisonous cloud that could have killed thousands.

Al-Zarqawi, who has a $25 million American bounty on his head, was indicted along with 11 others on charges including conspiring to commit terrorism, possessing and manufacturing explosives and affiliation with a banned group, according to the 24-page indictment made available to The Associated Press.

Al-Zarqawi and three others will be tried in absentia, and all 12 face the death penalty, though it’s more likely that Al-Zarqawi will be killed or captured in Iraq than end up in Jordanian custody. A 13th suspect faces lesser charges of helping two of the fugitives.

The indictment came as al-Zarqawi’s group Tawhid and Jihad, Iraq’s most feared militant group, declared its allegiance to Osama bin Laden, saying it had agreed with al-Qaida over strategy and the need for unity against “the enemies of Islam.”

The declaration, which could not be independently verified, appeared on a Web site often used as a clearinghouse for statements by militant groups.

The indictment alleged that al-Zarqawi sent more than $118,000 to Jordan in part to buy two vehicles to be driven into the country’s General Intelligence Department by suicide bombers armed with explosives and chemicals, including ammonium, potassium nitrate, nitroglycerin and liquid oxygen.

The indictment said the defendants had collected geographical data indicating thousands of people would be killed in the chemical blast.

It said an experiment conducted under the supervision of the military prosecutor, using small amounts of the hundreds of gallons of chemicals found “led to a strong explosion and a poison cloud which spread over an area of 500 meters.”

Al-Zarqawi was sentenced to death in absentia in Jordan in April for a plot to assassinate a U.S. diplomat.

The indictment identified the 13-member cell — which includes 10 Jordanians and three Syrians — as Kata’eb al-Tawhid, Arabic for “Battalions of Monotheism.” Security officials said the previously unknown group is headed by al-Zarqawi and linked to al-Qaida.

The Jordanian charges will become formal when read aloud at the opening of the trial. No date has been set, but proceedings were expected to begin after a 10-day grace period for the fugitives to surrender, government officials told AP on condition of anonymity.

Al-Zarqawi is believed to be directing anti-U.S. attacks and kidnappings in neighboring Iraq, where he leads the Tawhid and Jihad group blamed for the beheadings of at least six foreign hostages. Some of the beheadings allegedly were carried out by al-Zarqawi himself.

The Jordanian-born militant, who turns 38 on Wednesday, is also suspected of 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 earlier this year.