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Jordan: Unprecedented terror attack thwarted
Updated: 2004-04-14 09:06

The arrest of a suspected terror group in Jordan thwarted an unprecedented attack that could have killed thousands of civilians, Jordan's King Abdullah II said.

Jordan's King Abdullah II speaks to the press. [AFP]
The king said the country had "lived through an extremely delicate situation in recent days... but divine protection has thwarted the plans of these criminals and saved the lives of thousands of civilians in what would have been a crime never before seen in the kingdom."

He was speaking in a letter written to the head of Jordan's intelligence services, General Saad Khair, which was made public.

The Jordanian authorities have carried out a series of arrests of suspected terrorists in the past two weeks, and as recently as Monday the government spokeswoman said one suspect was still being sought.

But the king said Tuesday all the members of the group had been arrested, without saying what the suspects were targeting.

He said his assessment of the magnitude of the threat was based on the "quantity of explosives found" in cars that had been seized, as well as the "manner in which the terror operation was to be carried out and the choice of civilian targets."

In a published reply to the king, General Khair said the members of the group "were using religion as a pretext, while they were far from religion."

He added that they wanted to "attack Jordan's national role of defending all Arab issues, particular Arab rights in Palestine."

A government statement last Saturday said the authorities had intercepted "cars loaded with weapons and explosives... and arrested a group of suspects", thwarting several attacks.

A security official also said they had "succeeded in averting terrorist attacks which targeted the security of the state" but that the operation was continuing to ensure there were no loose ends.

"The terrorist operation has been aborted and it can no longer take place because all the information concerning it have been unraveled by the security forces," spokeswoman Asma Khodr said.

She said that further details will be made public "once the investigation is completed".

Last week, the government said suspects who had been arrested had intended to carry out several attacks in the kingdom, including one on the US embassy.

US State Department officials confirmed Jordanian authorities had thwarted a plot by Al-Qaeda members to hit the embassy and said the plot was discovered after the arrests.

News of the plot was made public the day Jordan's state security court sentenced Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi and seven others to death at an in-absentia trial for the 2002 murder of US diplomat Laurence Foley in Amman.

US officials charge that the fugitive Jordanian Islamist is now in Iraq (news - web sites), where he heads Al-Qaeda operations.

In Washington, the State Department reissued Tuesday a security advisory for American citizens in Jordan initially released on April 5, which told them to "maintain a high level of vigilance, take appropriate steps to safeguard their security and increase their security awareness."

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