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Trial of al-Qaida plot suspects begins in Jordan

Feb. 14, 2013 4:46 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 15, 2013 12:43 P.M.)
AMMAN (Reuters) -- Eleven men went on trial on Thursday in a Jordanian military court accused of plotting to carry out suicide attacks in the capital, including on shopping malls and the US Embassy, judicial sources said.

The Jordanian defendants, all suspected supporters of al-Qaida, pleaded not guilty to charges of "possession of explosives and plotting to undertake terror attacks and infiltration across borders," the sources said.

The prosecution said the cell had targeted major shopping malls in the capital and was planning a bombing campaign in the capital's affluent Abdoun neighborhood, where many foreign embassies are located.

The indictment said the group planned to attack the embassy with mortar rounds and then blast its way inside with suicide bombs, but gave no further details.

Security officials initially said when they announced they foiled the plot in October that the members of the militant group had spent some time in Syria, without saying when they had returned to Jordan.

Jordanian authorities have arrested scores of hardline Islamists in recent months along its northern border with Syria as they were about to cross the frontier to join jihadist groups fighting to overthrow Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Jordan regularly arrests Islamist suspects and puts them on trial in military courts that human rights groups say are illegal and lack proper legal safeguards. Many civil society groups say many of the Islamist cases are politically motivated.

In 2005, al-Qaida claimed responsibility for three suicide bombings that ripped through luxury hotels in Jordan's capital, killing dozens of people.
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