Militants sentenced to death


IRAQ: The leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and eight other militants were condemned to death by a Jordanian military court yesterday for plotting to kill thousands of people with a cloud of toxic chemicals in a foiled attack in 2004.

Five of the condemned men were in the dock to hear the sentence while the other four are fugitives. The five responded by shouting out their support for al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and calling the three judges pro-Israeli tyrants.

"The Jews are your masters!" yelled the men at the end of the 20-minute hearing.

They went on: "Abu-Musab you are our sheikh, with our blood we sacrifice ourselves to you and we shed our blood for your sake. Bin Laden's organisation is rising and we will be back!" They also turned on one of the acquitted, Syrian Mohammed Salmeh Shaaban, and accused him of being an informer.

"Your blood will be shed," the convicted shouted at him.

Al-Zarqawi and three defendants received their sentences in absentia. It was the third death penalty that Jordanian courts have handed down to al-Zarqawi, who runs the most notorious insurgent group in Iraq.