AMMAN, Jordan (AP) – Three more militants have been arrested since April in connection with an al-Qaida-linked plot to attack the U.S. Embassy and Jordanian government offices with chemical and conventional weapons, officials said Sunday.

The arrests announced Sunday bring to nine the number detained in the alleged plot. Four others were killed in a police shootout on April 20, while another four remain at large, including Jordanian militant Abu-Musab al-Zarqawi, thought to be directing anti-U.S. attacks in neighboring Iraq and to be a close associate of al-Qaida boss Osama bin Laden, the officials told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. They said the 17 militants were all affiliated with a previously unknown group called Kata’eb al-Tawhid, Arabic for the Battalions of Monotheism, which is linked to the al-Qaida terror organization.

Azmi al-Jayousi, the alleged mastermind of the Jordan-based terror cell who was captured in April, has confessed to military prosecutors about what would have been al-Qaida’s first chemical attack, the officials added. Jordanian officials say the plot targeted the Jordanian prime minister’s office, the secret service agency, the U.S. Embassy in Jordan and other sites.

In April, Jordan announced it had foiled a terrorist plot blamed on al-Zarqawi. Jordanian authorities said then the suspects plotted to use chemicals and explosives to blow up vital institutions, including Jordan’s intelligence department – an attack officials say would have killed thousands of people.

Al-Jayousi and some other suspects in detention had said in televised confessions that their terror plot was hatched and financed by al-Zarqawi.

In the audiotape posted on the Internet in May, a man who identified himself al-Zarqawi acknowledged that his group was behind the plot targeting, but denied chemical weapons were to be used.

U.S. officials have offered a $25 million reward for al-Zarqawi’s capture. He is suspected in about a dozen high-profile attacks in Iraq, including the killing of three foreign hostages. U.S. and Jordanian law enforcement say he funded the Oct. 2002 assassination of a U.S. diplomat in Jordan.

Jordan, a key Arab ally to the United States and a peace partner to Israel, has been targeted by al-Qaida and other terrorists. Twenty-two Islamic extremists were convicted of plotting to attack U.S. and Israeli tourists during the kingdom’s millennium celebrations.

AP-ES-08-01-04 0911EDT

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