Amman Bombings Reflect Zarqawi's Growing Reach

(Washington Post) Craig Whitlock - * Triple suicide bombings in Jordan last week marked a breakthrough for Islamic guerrilla leader Abu Musab Zarqawi in his efforts to expand the Iraqi insurgency into a regional conflict and demonstrated his growing independence from the founders of al-Qaeda, according to Arab and European intelligence officials. * While bin Laden has been on the run for the past four years, largely cut off from the outside world, Zarqawi has attracted hundreds if not thousands of fighters to Iraq and has avoided capture despite the presence of 150,000 U.S. troops. * The Amman bombings were not the first time Zarqawi had launched an attack on Jordan from his base in Iraq. In August, his followers fired Katyusha rockets at U.S. ships in the Red Sea port of Aqaba, but missed. In April 2004, the Jordanian government said it had disrupted a Zarqawi plot to blow up the headquarters of the Jordanian intelligence service. It said the plot involved truckloads of chemical-laced explosives that could have created a gas cloud with the potential to kill 80,000 people. * Unlike bin Laden, Zarqawi has also placed a high priority on fighting Israel and has tried - unsuccessfully - to organize bombings and suicide attacks there, according to Arab intelligence sources. * "The real goal of Zarqawi is to banish Israel from the region, or even annihilate Israel," Ernst Uhrlau, intelligence coordinator for German Chancellor Schroeder, said at a security conference in Berlin on Thursday. Uhrlau characterized the Amman attacks as an attempt by Zarqawi "to demonstrate the ability to act against Israel from inside Jordan." * August Hanning, president of Germany's foreign intelligence service, said there were signs of increased numbers of Islamic extremists going to Iraq from Europe to fight for Zarqawi, not because his network had recruited them directly, but merely because his success inspired them to join.

2005-11-14 00:00:00

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