The current fears involving the Islamic State are given some weight by the fact that the Jordanian Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi, who established and led IS’s ferocious predecessor, Al Qaeda in Iraq, was a fervent advocate of biological weapons until he was killed in a US air strike near Baghdad on 7 June 2006.
On 13 April 2004, Jordanian authorities said they had thwarted a plot by Zarqawi, a one-time street thug and jailbird who was a fierce opponent of the Hashemite monarchy, to obliterate the Dairat al-Mukhabarat, the hilltop headquarters of Jordan’s General Intelligence Directorate (GID), a key US ally and heavily dependent on CIA largesse, on Amman’s outskirts with trucks packed with 20 tons of explosives mixed with chemicals.
Officials claimed these detonations would have created a toxic cloud that could have killed up to 80,000 people.
While that projected death toll, nearly 30 times greater than the 9/11 carnage, was greeted in many quarters with considerable skepticism and considered highly inflated for propaganda purposes,
Jane’s Terrorism and Security Monitor reported in January 2005 that “the intention of the Islamic militants appears to have been to cause as many casualties as possible and to decapitate the Jordanian government in what would have been the world’s first attack on that scale.”
In an audio tape attributed to Zarqawi, he acknowledged his group was behind a plot, but denied plans to use lethal chemicals.
However, there have been repeated claims that the GID tortured the alleged plotters it captured, who were caught with only a small quantity of battery acid, to admit that the plan centered on a massive explosive chemical attack security analysts say would have been the deadliest terrorist attack every mounted, had it been successful.
On 15 February 2006, a Jordanian state security court sentenced Zarqawi to death in absentia – the fourth time he had been condemned to death by the kingdom’s judicial system – along with eight others for plotting the chemical attack.
One of his chief lieutenants was Mohammed Mormou, a Moroccan with Swedish nationality who the US Treasury identified as Zarqawi’s key man on “chemical and biological weapons” in Europe.
Moumou, aka Abu Waswarah, was killed on 5 October 2008 near Mosul in an operation by the Multinational Forces-Iraq.