8/27/2005

Wolf Blitzer on Jordan's WMD attack (foiled) planned by Zarqawi

CNN WOLF BLITZER REPORTS

U.S. Marines Prepare for Battle for Fallujah; Jordanian Authorities Uncover al Qaeda Plot

Aired April 26, 2004

BLITZER: Alleged terrorists reveal a plot to destroy much of Amman, Jordan, including the United States embassy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Azme told me that this would be the first chemical suicide attack that al Qaeda would execute.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: A raid netting big arrests and confessions of a bold plan, potentially perhaps even more deadly than 9/11.

BLITZER: The government of Jordan says it could have been one of the deadliest terrorist attacks ever. Suspected al Qaeda operatives allegedly planned an assault on the heart of the Jordanian capital. In a series of raids one week ago, security forces say they broke up the plot, killing three suspects and arresting several more.

Now, as CNN's John Vause reports from Amman, some of those in custody are talking. In extraordinary taped confessions made available to CNN by the Jordanian government, the alleged al Qaeda operatives describe the plot and talk about its alleged mastermind.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Jordanian special forces raiding an apartment house in Amman in the hunt for an al Qaeda cell. Some of the suspects are killed, others arrested, ending what Jordanian intelligence says was a bold plan to use chemical weapons and truck bombs in their capital; targets including Jordanian intelligence headquarters, the prime minister's office and the U.S. embassy. The Jordanian government fears the death toll could have run into the thousands, more deadly even than 9/11.

For the first time the alleged plotters were interviewed on videotape, aired on Jordanian TV. CNN obtained copies of the tapes from the Jordanians. This man revealing his orders came from a man named Azme Jayoussi, the cell's alleged ringleader.

HUSSEIN SHARIF, ACCUSED PLOTTER (through translator): The aim of this operation was to strike Jordan and the Hashemite royal family, a war against the crusaders and infidels. Azme told me that this would be the first chemical suicide attack that al Qaeda would execute.

VAUSE: Also appearing on the tape, Azme Jayoussi, who says his orders came from this man, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the same man the U.S. says is behind many of the violent attacks in Iraq.

AZME JAYOUSSI, ACCUSED PLOTTER (through translator): I took advanced explosives course, poisons, high level, then I pledged allegiance to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, to obey him without any questioning, and to be on his side. After this, Afghanistan fell. I met Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq.

VAUSE: Al Jayoussi was only shown in profile. He had marks on his hand, neck and face. The Jordanians, who taped the confessions, say the suspect suffered the injuries during the arrest. CNN was not allowed access to any of those arrested. The Jordanian government says this plot is only the latest attempt by al Qaeda to destabilize this country.

ASMA KHADER, JORDANIAN MINISTER OF STATE: Jordan was fighting this type of plans years now, and the security forces were able to confront them.

VAUSE (on camera): The Jordanians say the alleged terrorist plot was just days away from execution. If successful, Jordan's King Abdullah told a U.S. newspaper it could have decapitated his government.

John Vause, CNN, Amman, Jordan.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: There's some debate among U.S. intelligence officials over the exact nature of the plot. But they are calling it a big deal. Our national security correspondent David Ensor is joining us now with more. David, what are you hearing here in Washington?

DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as you say, they are calling it a big deal. The capture of these plotters and the chemicals by Jordanian authorities. But they are expressing caution, also, about whether the chemicals captured by the Jordanian authorities were really intended to create a toxic cloud chemical weapon. More likely, some U.S. officials are saying, the massive quantities of chemicals involved were intended to create large conventional explosions.

At issue is the presence of a large quantity of sulfuric acid among the tons of chemicals seized by the authorities. Sulfuric acid can be used as a blister agent. But U.S. government scientists say it's more commonly used in conventional explosions, to greatly increase the explosive power. So that is why there is some caution here, Wolf, between different U.S. officials, they are not quite clear on whether this was really a chemical attack, a toxic cloud type of attack, or whether it was just intended to be a massive explosion.

But one thing they are doing is congratulating the Jordanians on a counterterrorism job very well done. This could have been very serious.

BLITZER: All right, David Ensor, thanks very much for that.

And this note to our viewers: We'll have much more on this note. You can learn more about this alleged al Qaeda terror plot on "NEWSNIGHT" with Aaron Brown. That airs tonight, 10:00 p.m. Eastern, 7:00 Pacific

CNN.com - Transcripts

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