The king said on Tuesday 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." 

His words are in a letter to the head of Jordan's intelligence services, General Saad Khair, which has been made public. 

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

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

Quantity of explosives

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." 

US and Jordanian soldiers carry
the coffin of Laurence Foley

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. 

Success

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 Khudr said. 

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

Targeting the US embassy 

"[The group] were using religion as a pretext, while they were far from religion" 

General Saad Khair,
Head of Jordan's
intelligence services

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-Qaida 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 Musab 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 the fugitive Jordanian Islamist is now
in Iraq, where he heads al-Qaida operations