Jordan: Al Qaeda killed U.S. diplomat
Two suspects arrested
AMMAN, Jordan (CNN) -- A U.S. diplomat assassinated in Jordan was not the main target of two arrested al Qaeda operatives planning wider attacks against Jordanian and American targets, Jordanian Information Minister Mohammed al-Adwan said Saturday.
A Jordanian government statement released earlier Saturday announced the arrests of the two men, and said they had confessed to the killing and to being members of al Qaeda.
U.S. diplomat Laurence Foley was gunned down in front of his house in Amman on the morning of October 28 as he was walking to his car.
Al-Adwan said Foley, a senior administrative officer with the U.S. Agency for International Development in Jordan, "was not their main target."
Al-Adwan declined to specify who the "main target" was, but added that the operatives remained in the country after the shooting to carry out further attacks.
Al Qaeda "assigned these two to choose targets, embassies, diplomats, et cetera," al-Adwan said.
"They were scanning for different targets in Jordan and they must have thought that Mr. Foley was an easier target at the time. ... They were planning to do more after Mr. Foley's murder to look for other targets to hit -- this according to their confessions, of course."
Al-Adwan said the two men would be tried in a state security court and would face the death penalty. State security court trials are usually secret. Jordan does not have a formal extradition treaty with the United States.
U.S. State Department spokesman Louis Fintor welcomed the Jordanian announcement.
"We deeply appreciate the excellent support and cooperation the Jordanian government has provided throughout this investigation and we continue to consult closely with them regarding these arrests," he said.
A statement from the Jordanian government said the two men, identified as Salem Sa'ed Salem bin Suweid, a Libyan national, and Yasser Fathi Ibraheem, a Jordanian, confessed to their membership in al Qaeda and that they received their orders from a senior al Qaeda leader.
According to the statement, "bin Suweid and Ibraheem confessed that they are members of Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda organization, and are affiliated with bin Laden's lieutenant, Ahmad Fadeel Nazal Al-Khalayleh, known as Abu Musa'ab Al-Zarqawi."
Zarqawi left Jordan in 1999 and has been convicted in absentia of a plot to bomb tourist hotels in Amman during the millennium celebrations.
Treatment in Iraq
He reportedly fled Afghanistan after U.S. operations began there, going first to Iran, then Iraq, where he was said to have received medical treatment. President Bush referred to him -- without mentioning his name -- during a speech in Cincinnati in October.
"Some al Qaeda leaders who fled Afghanistan went to Iraq," the president said. "These include one very senior al Qaeda leader who received medical treatment in Baghdad this year, and who has been associated with planning for chemical and biological attacks." (Arrests may link al Qaeda, Iraq)
Reports have said that Zarqawi was linked to the planning of gas attacks in Europe.
The Jordanian government said Zarqawi "had devised an operational program for the two perpetrators to carry out terrorist operations against embassies, diplomats, foreigners, security officers and other strategic targets in Jordan."
It also said the men confessed that Zarqawi had provided the men with $18,000 of a planned $50,000 to carry out the operation, along with "machine guns, a pistol with a silencer, hand grenades and tear gas cylinders."
They also confessed, Jordan said, that there were plans -- never carried out -- to smuggle surface to air missiles into Jordan.
Sources also told CNN that in the course of the investigation, authorities uncovered evidence of other al Qaeda sleeper cells elsewhere in the Middle East and that evidence is being pursued by Jordanian and U.S. authorities
According the Jordanian statement, which was also read Saturday on state-run television during the evening news, the arrests were made by the Jordanian General Intelligence Department.
Training in Afghanistan
The statement says bin Suweid "underwent military training in al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan" and that he entered Jordan a few months ago "using a forged Tunisian passport."
The statement describes a chilling scenario on the morning of October 28:
"In the morning of October 28, 2002, bin Suweid and Ibraheem drove the rented car to the area where Foley lived. When they reached his residence at 7:00 a.m., bin Suweid got out of the car and walked to Foley's garden, carrying on him a 7mm gun with a silencer and a tear gas cylinder, wearing anti-bullets vest, a blue jeans and masked with a kaffieh.
"He hid behind Foley's car waiting for him to come out of his house. When Foley came out and intended to open his car's door, bin Suweid fired all the bullets in his gun at Foley and went back to the car, which was waiting for him near the house. Ibraheem, who was driving the car, and bin Suweid fled the area."
CNN Correspondent Jane Arraf in Jordan, National Correspondent Mike Boettcher and Senior Producer Henry Schuster contributed to this story.