Jordan foils terrorist attempts against US

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The Independent Online

Jordanian security authorities have foiled terrorist plots against US, British, Jordanian and other Arab embassies in Lebanon over the weekend, government officials have said.

The officials declined to say who was behind the attempts, but suggested that it was a group linked to Osama bin Laden, the prime suspect in the Sept. 11 terror attacks in the United States.

Jordanian authorities acted after receiving tips about the terrorist plots against American, British, Jordanian and other Arab embassies in Beirut, the Lebanese capital, said the officials, who spoke on customary condition of anonymity.

They did not say how the attempts were foiled or whether Jordanian authorities were helped by Lebanese authorities.

Other security officials identified the group that was planning the reported attacks as Asbat al–Ansar, which is on a list of terrorist organizations issued by U.S. President George W. Bush after the Sept. 11 attacks. Al–Ansar is an Islamic extremist group believed to be based in a Palestinian refugee camp of Ein el–Hilweh in Lebanon.

However, an official Lebanese security official Tuesday denied the Jordanian reports, saying the security situation in the country was stable and fortified. The official spoke on condition of anonymity.

Another Jordanian government official said Jordan had received warnings that some embassies including Jordanian, British, American and other diplomatic missions were going to be target of terrorism. He did not elaborate.

The reports partly confirmed an article Tuesday in ad–Dustour, Jors of Beirut was closed Friday, but officials said it was because of a communications equipment malfunction that shut down the visa issuing system.

Earlier this week, officials in Washington speaking on condition of anonymity said four bombing attacks had been thwarted since Sept. 11 against U.S. sites in France, Turkey, Yemen and Belgium. No details were provided.

Jordan has been actively gathering information on bin Laden and his terrorist network since the early 1990s, when several Arabs who fought alongside Afghani guerrillas against the former Soviet Union returned to their homes in the Middle East.

Jordan has also been the target of several terror plots linked to bin Laden. The most serious was two years ago, when a group of Arab men plotted to carry out terror attacks against Americans and Israelis in hotels and tourist sites, using poison gas and explosives, during New Year's 2000 celebrations in Jordan. The plot was uncovered and foiled in November 2000.

Months later, bin Laden is said to have sent his terrorists after King Abdullah II and his family as they vacationed on a yacht in the Mediterranean off the coast of an unnamed European country.

Jordanian security evacuated the royal family when they were tipped that a motorboat laden with explosives was to slam into the royal yacht – just like the attack on the USS Cole a year ago, in which 17 U.S. sailors had been killed.