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Top Al-Qaida Operative Denies Planning Massive Chemical Attack in Jordan - 2004-04-30


A top al-Qaida operative is reported to be denying charges that his group planned a massive chemical weapons attack in Jordan. An audiotape attributed to the operative was broadcast Friday on an Islamic web site.

The speaker on the audiotape was identified as senior al-Qaida operative Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi.

The man on the tape says Jordanian officials manufactured lies earlier this week when they broadcast the confessions of al-Qaida suspects linked to the terrorist leader.

In the broadcast, the suspects said they were plotting to carry out al-Qaida's first chemical weapons attack. The suspects said the attack would have been against Jordan's intelligence headquarters in Amman, the prime minister's office and the U.S. embassy.

Jordanian officials said the group was planning a chemical attack that could have killed 80,000 people in a two-square kilometer area.

But, the man on Friday's audiotape said while Jordan's intelligence headquarters was targeted for attack, al-Qaida does not have chemical weapons and would not use such weapons against Arabs.

In recent years, terrorist attacks in several Middle Eastern countries have targeted and killed hundreds of Arab Muslims using conventional explosives.

The expert on terrorism at the al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo, Hala Mustafa, says in her view, anything said by terrorist groups cannot be believed. Ms. Mustafa says one of the main goals of terrorism is to keep people confused and scared.

?We should take into consideration that you are dealing with political and operational leaders of an underground organization with its offshoots from many small groups,? Ms. Mustafa said. ?So, I think I should take any statement with many, many reservations. So, no I think this is a kind of statement which tries to confuse things. So, I would say that I can't believe what they are saying.?

The voice on the audiotape said al-Qaida has disputes to settle with the Jordanian government, and warned of a bitter future for Jordan.

U.S. officials have offered a $10 million reward for the capture of Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi. U.S. military officials in Baghdad said earlier this month they believe he may be directing al-Qaida operations in Iraq from the besieged city of Fallujah.

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