Jordan charges 15 with 'terror' plots

Jordan has charged 15 people suspected of belonging to the al-Qaida or Ansar al-Islam groups with planning attacks on US, Jordanian and Israeli targets.

    King Abd Allah of Jordan (L) seeks to cooperate with Iran's President Khatami (R)

    A Jordanian official said on Saturday that only one member of the group, Ahmad Mahmud Salih al-Riyati, who was arrested by US troops in northern Iraq in March, was in custody. The rest - 12 Jordanians and two Iraqis - were being tried in absentia.

    The group includes Mullah Krekar, Kurdish Iraqi founder of Ansar al-Islam, a group accused by the United States of links to al-Qaida. Krekar, who has been living in Norway as a refugee since 1991, is also being sought by Jordan on drugs smuggling charges. He denies both charges.

    State security prosecutor Colonel Mahmud Obeidat filed the indictment about 10 days ago, the official said, adding that no date had yet been set for the trial.

    Living in Iran

    The two groups have agreed to hit American and Israeli targets all over the world and to commit aggression against foreign tourists and security forces in Jordan"

    Prosecution indictment

    Jordanian newspapers said all the suspects - apart from Krekar - were living in Iran.

    "The first suspect (Riyati), and the rest of the suspects belonged to al-Qaida and Ansar al-Islam and members of the two groups have agreed to hit American and Israeli targets all over the world and to commit aggression against foreign tourists and security forces in Jordan," Jordan's al-Rai daily quoted the indictment as saying.

    According to the charge sheet, the group was linked to Ahmad Fadheel Nazal al-Khalayleh, better known as Abu Musab Zarqawi, a suspected associate of bin Ladin and an expert in toxins. He was sentenced to death in absentia by a Jordanian court in September last year for plotting attacks against US and Israeli targets in the kingdom.

    Mastermind

    Jordan's Prime Minister Ali Abu al-Ragheb last December named Zarqawi - who a Saudi official recently said was being held by Iran - as the mastermind behind the murder on 28 October of US diplomat Lawrence Foley on the doorstep of his home in Amman.

    Jordanian media have speculated that King Abd Allah, who this month became the first Jordanian monarch to visit Iran since the 1979 Islamic revolution, was seeking - among other things - to establish broad cooperation and "specific data" on al-Qaida members recently arrested by Iran.

    Iran did not confirm reports that it has Zarqawi in custody.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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