The would-be mass murderer, Hussein Sharif, says “he was acting on the orders of a man believed to be al Qaeda’s chief of operations in Iraq,” according to CBS News. He also revealed that the terrorists were hoping to kill 80,000 people, rather than the meager 20,000 previously reported.
A quote from Tony Blair in October 2001 — back when we still thought the 9/11 death toll was around 7,000 — comes to mind: “They have no moral inhibition on the slaughter of the innocent. If they could have murdered not 7,000 but 70,000, does anyone doubt they would have done so and rejoiced in it?”
CORRECTION & UPDATE: It previously said above that Azmi al-Jayousi is the terrorist whose confession was aired today. In fact, al-Jayousi is the alleged (and still wanted) mastermind of the plot, but it is Hussein Sharif whose confession was aired.
Anyway, CNN’s full article is finally up:
Jordanian authorities said Monday they have broken up an alleged al Qaeda plot that would have unleashed a deadly cloud of chemicals in the heart of Jordan’s capital, Amman.
The plot would have been more deadly than anything al Qaeda has done before, including the September 11 attacks, according to the Jordanian government. …
U.S. intelligence officials expressed caution about whether the chemicals captured by Jordanian authorities were intended to create a “toxic cloud” chemical weapon, but they said the large quantities involved were at a minimum intended to create “massive explosions.” …
At issue is the presence of a large quantity of sulfuric acid among the tons of chemicals seized by Jordanian authorities. Sulfuric acid can be used as a blister agent, but it more commonly can increase the size of conventional explosions, according to U.S. officials.
Nevertheless, U.S. intelligence officials called the capture of tons of chemicals that together could create several large conventional explosions “a big deal.”
Hussein Sharif himself says that the mastermind, al-Zarqawi, “told me that this will be the first chemical attack that al Qaeda will execute.” Of course, one always has to take terrorists’ own statements with a grain of salt.
But according to CNN, “Jordanian authorities said the attack would have mixed a combination of 71 lethal chemicals, which they said has never been done before, including blistering agents to cause third-degree burns, nerve gas and choking agents.”
It strikes me that mixing a whole bunch of chemicals together would actually have rather unpredictable results… wouldn’t it? Might various chemical reactions — catalyzed by the heat of the explosion — change the nature of the “chemical cloud” in ways that the terrorists themselves probably wouldn’t be able to anticipate?
Ah, well, blame it on the “fog of war.” It at least seems clear that the Jordanians believe there was more than sulfuric acid involved here. I wonder what is causing the apparent disconnect between their assessment and ours.
In other WMD-related news, there was some rather suspicious goings-on in Iraq today. A booby-trapped chemical weapons compound, perhaps?