Monday, April 26, 2004

Chemical weapons plot in Jordan

Old Post: I posted on this over a week ago.

Remember the terrorist plot to attack targets in Jordan with chemical weapons? Well, CNN has finally picked up on it. Most of us knew about it a week ago, but CNN at least has a lot more information about it than we've seen elsewhere:
Officials said there is debate within the CIA and other U.S. agencies over whether the plotters were planning to kill innocent people using toxic chemicals.

At issue is the presence of a large quantity of sulfuric acid among the tons of chemicals seized by Jordanian authorities. Sulfuric acid can be used as a blister agent, but it more commonly can increase the size ofconventional explosions, according to U.S. officials.
...
The plot was within days of being carried out, Jordanian officials said, when security forces broke it up April 20.

In a nighttime raid in Amman, Jordanian security forces moved in on the terrorist cell. After the shooting stopped, four men were dead. Jordanian authorities said. They said at least three others were arrested, including Azmi Jayyousi, the cell's suspected ringleader, whom Jordanian intelligence alleges was responsible for planning and recruiting.

On a confession shown on state-run Jordanian television, Jayyousi said he took orders from Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a suspected terrorist leader who has been linked to al Qaeda and whom U.S. officials have said is behind some attacks in Iraq.
...
Jordanian authorities said the attack would have mixed a combination of 71 lethal chemicals,which they said has never been done before, including blistering agents to cause third-degree burns, nerve gas and choking agents.

A Jordanian government scientist said the plot had been carefully worked out, with just the right amount of explosives to spread the deadly cloud without diminishing the effects of the chemicals. The blast would not burn up the poisonous chemicals but instead produce a toxic cloud, the scientist said, possibly spreading for a mile, maybe more.

The Jordanian intelligence buildings are within a mile of a large medical center, a shopping mall and a residential area.

"And there is no one combination of antidote to treat nerve agent, choking agent and blistering agent," the scientist said.

There are some inconsistencies, as the first reports, like this one from Newsmax, indicated that the trucks were captured earlier, and that some of the arrests were as early at April 1st. I'd guess there were ongoing operations to catch all of these guys for the whole month. I can't say whether or not this is the last of it. I'm not even fully convinced that they've managed to foil the operation completely. I'm not qualified to comment on the chemical weapons, but if it was such a diverse mixture of chemicals, I'm surprised that we're still uncertain as to the nature of the attack. Surely with some of the chemicals we'd be able to say, "Yes, that's a chemical weapon all right," even if there were questions about others. Unless, that is, the Jordanians haven't found all the chemicals allegedly involved yet.

Update: Letters from Babylon also noticed the CNN article. CNN's new information came from the confessions of those captured. I'm not really sure whether CNN got the news first, it's just the first place I saw it, but other news organizations have the same information now. I should point out that as Jordan's ideas about the rights of the accused are very different from the US's, the confessions should be taken with a grain of salt.

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