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(photo credit: AP)
In a turbulent court hearing, al-Qaida-linked suspects charged with plotting a massive chemical explosion in Jordan shouted insults Sunday at their military judges and threatened to pursue holy war until they topple this kingdom's moderate Muslim Hashemite monarchy.
"Terrorism is a badge of honor on our chests until Judgment Day," shouted defendant Hassan al-Smeik from the dock during a brief half-hour hearing. "In the name of God, we're pursuing the path of Jihad until we uproot you, exterminate your state until the rule of the king vanishes."
Al-Smeik and 12 others, including fugitive al-Qaida in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, are charged with conspiring to commit terrorism in April 2004 with a foiled plot to detonate an explosion at the headquarters of the General Intelligence Department in the capital, Amman.
The government says if the attack had been carried out, it would have sent a cloud of toxic chemicals across Amman, killing thousands.
The case is the first involving the cell since the Nov. 9 triple hotel blasts claimed by al-Zarqawi's group and carried out by three Iraqi suicide bombers. The bombings killed 63 people, including the bombers.
Only nine of the defendants are in custody, while al-Zarqawi and three others are being tried in absentia over the plot and other charges including possessing and manufacturing explosives and affiliation with a banned group, identified as Kata'eb al-Tawhid, Arabic for "Battalions of Monotheism."
The defendants have declined to enter pleas, prompting the court to officially enter innocent pleas for each of them.