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Mike Boettcher: Arrests may link al Qaeda, Iraq

CNN's Mike Boettcher
CNN's Mike Boettcher

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ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- Jordanian authorities said Saturday that they had arrested two confessed members of Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terrorist group who assassinated U.S. diplomat Laurence Foley on October 28 in Amman, Jordan.

CNN correspondent Mike Boettcher has been investigating the al Qaeda network since the attacks of September 11, 2001. He filed this report:

BOETTCHER: Foley was head of the ... USAID, the U.S. Agency for International Development, in Amman.

Salem Sa'ed (Salem) bin Suweid, a Libyan national, and Yasser Fathi Ibraheem, a Jordanian, have confessed to belonging to (al Qaeda), Jordanian authorities have announced.

Suweid, authorities said, had trained at an al Qaeda camp in Afghanistan. They say (Suweid and Ibraheem) received directions from a top al Qaeda operative named Abu Musa'ab Al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian, authorities said.

According to German authorities, Zarqawi -- a chemical weapons expert who is still at large -- is the head of al Qaeda operations in Europe.

German authorities say they believe Zarqawi was planning chemical attacks targeting European subways.

The two suspects arrested by the Jordanians said Zarqawi had ordered them to carry out a campaign of assassination and attacks on embassies, diplomats, security officers and other so-called "soft targets," authorities said.

Thirteen people and the three bombers died November 28 in the Kenya hotel attack.
Thirteen people and the three bombers died November 28 in the Kenya hotel attack.

President Bush -- earlier this year -- when he was trying to tie al Qaeda with Iraq, said a top al Qaeda operative had received safe haven and medical treatment in Baghdad. Now, that is Zarqawi.

During a speech delivered October 7 in Cincinnati, Ohio, Bush referred to "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."

There is no other direct link between Iraq and Zarqawi that we know about, but that will be looked at very closely.

In a more alarming indication of what they had planned, Jordanian intelligence officials and authorities said that the two men were trying to obtain surface-to-air missiles to attack targets in the Middle East.

Remember, we had an unsuccessful SAM attack on November 28 in Mombasa, Kenya, on an Israeli charter jet, and a suicide bombing at an Israeli-owned hotel there that killed 13 people and the three attackers.

Responsibility for the Kenya attacks was initially claimed by the previously unknown Army of Palestine, but within days, al Qaeda claimed responsibility on an Islamic Web site.

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