Jordan Tries Suspects in Millennium Bomb Attempt

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:08 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - The trial of 28 suspected terrorists, accused of planning attacks against Americans and Israelis is set to resume Wednesday in Jordan. The suspects are believed to be connected to the Saudi-born militant Osama bin Laden.

In a four-hour hearing Monday, prosecution witness Lieutenant Ziad Hajaya said one of 12 CD-ROMs seized from the suspects contained information on "explosives and manufacturing explosives; toxic and heavy weaponry."

Hajaya, who works for Jordan's Central Intelligence, said the material also included "sketches of forged stamps and aerial views, leaflets on the methods of intelligence and assassinations, and information on military bombs and rockets."

Military prosecutor Lt.-Col. Mahmoud Obeidat said the 28 were facing various charges, including possession of weapons and explosives, and being affiliated with "an outlawed group [involved in a] conspiracy to carry out terrorist attacks" in Jordan.

The indictment includes 12 charges, some of which carry the death penalty.

Sixteen of the 28 are in Jordanian custody, one having been arrested in the kingdom just a week ago. They include fourteen Jordanians of Palestinian origin, an Iraqi and an Algerian.

The remaining 12 are being tried in their absence, and are believed to be in Britain, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Syria.

In earlier hearings, witnesses have testified to finding stockpiles of weapons, ammunition, acid and detonators in the possession of the defendants.

Also found in possession of some of them were drawings of Jordanian tourist hotels and addresses of Jewish diplomats, as well as forged US, French, Dutch, Iraqi and Jordanian passports.

There were also counterfeit Jordanian customs stamps and those of the Syrian interior and foreign ministries.

The suspected terror cell, uncovered in December, was accused of planning to bomb Christian and other sites in Jordan, targeting Americans and Israelis, at the height of millennium celebrations.

The sites included Mt. Nebo, a popular site revered as the spot from which the Bible records Moses viewing the Promised Land, and a location on the east bank of the Jordan River, traditionally associated with Jesus' baptism.

Obeidat has called the cell "the most dangerous terrorist group ever uncovered in Jordan." He told reporters that the defendants were linked to al-Qaida or "the Base" - a terrorist network allegedly headed by bin Laden.

Obeidat alleged that instructions were transmitted to the cell by Zein Al Abiddeen Hassan, an Egyptian national living in Pakistan. He described Hassan as a representative of bin Laden's and a senior official in al-Qaida.

According to the indictment, the cell was funded primarily by Omar Mahmoud Abu Omar, a fundamentalist believed to be living in Britain.

Abu Omar has already been sentenced in absentia for involvement in a series of bomb blasts in Amman in 1998.

Bin Laden, who is hiding out in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, is wanted in the US for conspiracy and murder in the 1998 twin bombings of the US embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, in which 259 people died.

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