AMMAN, Jordan, April 30 (UPI) -- A top al-Qaida leader reportedly accused the Jordanian authorities Friday of lying about a terror plot to use chemical weapons to attack targets in the capital, Amman, but said in an audio tape the organization planned to bomb the Jordanian intelligence department.
The Dubai-based al-Arabiya satellite channel aired excerpts of a tape, saying it was the voice of Fadil Nazzal al-Khalayleh, better known as Abu Musab Zarkawi, in which he said that Jordanian "claims of unimaginable casualties and that thousands of people killed by a chemical and poisonous bomb are pure lies."
He accused the "evil Jordanian services" of "fabricating (the affair) of the chemical bomb."
However, the voice on the tape, carried in full by several Islamist Web sites, acknowledged that the "plan was to completely destroy the building of the intelligence apparatus."
The Jordanian authorities said earlier in the month they aborted a massive terror plot that was masterminded by Zarkawi, arrested suspects, and seized tons of chemical and toxic components that were to be used in the attacks.
State-owned Jordan Television this week broadcast televised "confessions" by the suspects in which they claimed they had orders by al-Qaida's Zarkawi to blow up the intelligence building, the U.S. Embassy in Amman and the prime ministry.
Officials said the suspected militants were planning to use trucks loaded with 20 tons of chemicals that could have killed 80,000 people and injured 160,000 others within an area of two square kilometers.
The purported Zarkawi tape, however, said the "Jordanian security services have lied in claiming to have aborted a plan to kill innocent Muslims." It added: "If we possessed such a bomb -- and we ask God to have such a bomb soon -- we would not have hesitated for a second to strike Israeli cities like Eilat, Tel Aviv and others."
He accused the security forces of torturing the suspects to extract false confessions. Zarkawi, a Jordanian citizen believed to be hiding in Iraq, insisted the attack was targeting the "black source of evil in our homeland," and accused the intelligence services of lying to "protect their Jewish and Christian masters and sponsors."
He charged Jordan with "creating an outcry and presenting the Jordanian people as a victim targeted at the hands of terrorism ... in order to hide the ugly face of the Jordanian intelligence services."
The Jordanian government on Thursday organized a "march against terror" in Amman, in which thousands of people condemned the alleged terror plot.
The tape threatened the government, warning it of a "bitter future, for we have scores to settle with this government."
Zarkawi, the suspected mastermind of al-Qaida operations in Iraq, has a $10 million U.S. bounty for his capture. He was sentenced to death in absentia by Jordan's State Security Court earlier in April for ordering the assassination of USAID employee, Laurence Foley, who was shot and killed in front of his Amman home in October 2002.
Jordanian officials refused to comment on the alleged tape, saying they were not sure if it was authentic.
However, one security official privately refuted that the suspects were "tortured into false confessions," adding that the amounts of chemical material seized would have created massive destruction.
But no one could say how large amounts of chemicals entered the kingdom.
Activists in the Islamic Action Front, the political arm of the powerful Muslim Brotherhood, had earlier accused the authorities of fabricating the plot to detract attention from tax and price hikes.
Analysts observed this was a widely-held belief in the country, saying there was general skepticism over the entire affair of a massive terror plot.
Some skeptics, who refused to be quoted by name, opined the government might have manufactured the details of a possible plot to shift attention away from the deteriorating economic conditions at home, as well as to mobilize support for the government in its fight against terrorism.
Jordan's televised testimonies of the suspected militants, coupled with the government-sponsored "anti-terror" march on Thursday, led by King Abdullah's wife, Queen Rania, have stifled critics and opposition leaders from making further public statements that the affair was staged.
One opposition activist, a leftist, told United Press International that commenting publicly on whether the terrorist plot was fabricated could lead to a direct confrontation with the authorities, the government and the palace, adding that the opposition was not seeking a confrontation.
One Jordanian official insisted the government would "never make up such a serious story that could create mass hysteria or scare off investors. Why would we do that?"
Whether the plot or its details were true or not, analysts said, the tape, if it's authentic, could serve both the government and the skeptical opposition.
They said the government could say that Zarkawi had admitted to planning to carry out a terrorist attack, even if it was without the use of chemical weapons. The skeptics could say the authorities had exaggerated the affair to create a hysteria against terrorism and rally support for the government that had recently hiked taxes and prices.