Jordan Smashes al Qaeda Ring Poised for Attack

DEBKAfile Intelligence

18 December 2003

DEBKAfile’s counter-terror sources reveal that Jordan has exposed a three-man al Qaeda cell, residents of Zarqa, just as it was poised for such major attacks as the assassinations of senior Jordanian military intelligence officers and shooting-grenade attacks on Western and Israeli tourists visiting the ancient ruins of Jarash, 29 miles north of Amman, and the Ajlun National Forest nearby.

Their primary Jordanian target was Major Ali Bourjak, counter-terror chief in Jordanian intelligence, who is of Circassian origin. In addition to Israeli trippers, the cell intended seeking out Western visitors to the two sites and Amman’s bars, restaurants and cafes that serve alcoholic drinks. Jarash is popular with tourists as the most complete Roman provincial city to survive in the world, while Ajlun forest overlooks the Biblical Land of Gilead.

Al Qaeda’s preparations for attack were well advanced. They had reconnoitered the two sites and concealed weapons and explosives near the targeted locations.

In addition to rounding up the al Qaeda cell, Jordanian security found the source of its weapons – Iraq via Syria – yet further evidence of Syria’s involvement in the terror offensive rampant in the Middle East. The captured terrorists disclosed under questioning that their commander and supplier of weapons and explosives was Osama bin Laden’s Jordanian chief of operations, Musab Zarqawi, who is known to be hiding in Iran. Zarqawi’s instructions were passed on by his nephew Omar Sayel, a member of the Jordanian police force.

Zarqawi has been linked to last month’s wave of bomb blasts at Jewish synagogues and British locations in Istanbul in which 53 people were killed and 750 injured. The US has placed a $15 million price on his head.