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8 sentenced to death in Jordan in slaying of American

AMMAN -- Eight Al Qaeda-linked militants were convicted and sentenced to death yesterday in the murder of a US aid employee in 2002, but six of them -- including a suspected Jordanian terror chief -- remain at large.

The slaying of Laurence Foley in 2002 stunned Jordan, a close US ally and peace partner with Israel. A subsequent police crackdown exposed a terrorist cell that had allegedly planned Foley's assassination as the first of several attacks inside the Arab country.

The verdicts were announced as the US Embassy disclosed that it was the target of a terror plot. Embassy spokesman Justin Siberell said that while interrogating several suspects arrested a week ago, police discovered that the facility was among the possible targets.

Foley, a 60-year-old Amman-based administrator for the US Agency for International Development, grew up in Boston. He was gunned down outside his Amman home on Oct. 28, 2002.

Military court president Colonel Fawaz Buqour sentenced Abu Musab al-Zarqawi -- also known as Ahmed al-Khalayleh -- and seven other Arabs to death for conspiring to murder Foley.

Zarqawi is believed to be a close associate of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. He and five others remain at large.

The Libyan man accused of pulling the trigger, Salem bin Suweid, and the driver of the getaway car, Yasser Freihat of Jordan, were in court.

So were three other Jordanians charged with conspiracy. Mohammed Amin Abu-Saeed and Mohammed De'mes received terms of six and 15 years respectively, while Numan al-Hirsh was acquitted after the court found there was no evidence implicating him in the conspiracy.

Standing in the dock wearing dark blue prison uniforms, the five men shouted "Allah Akbar," or "God is great," and "this verdict is unfair" as Buqour read it out. A military helicopter hovered above the courthouse. The men had pleaded not guilty and told the court their confessions had been extracted under duress. Sameeh Khreis, lawyer for the defendants, said the four men sentenced yesterday will appeal the verdicts.

US officials have offered a $10 million reward for the capture of Zarqawi, who is believed to be trying to build a network of foreign militants in neighboring Iraq working on behalf of Al Qaeda.

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