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Jordan claims to have thwarted al-Qaida inspired terror campaign

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As posted on TheGuardian

Jordanian intelligence has arrested 11 men alleged to have planned bomb and mortar attacks on western diplomats, foreign nationals and shopping centres

Conal Urquhart
guardian.co.uk, Sunday 21 October 2012 15.27 EDT

Jordanian security services have foiled a terrorist campaign aimed at western diplomats, foreign nationals and shopping centres, the state news agency has announced.

Jordan’s intelligence department has arrested 11 men who had allegedly been planning attacks for several months. The men are reported to have identified targets, carried out surveillance and begun recruiting suicide bombers.

The Jordanian government said the men were all Jordanians inspired by the ideology of al-Qaida. Its investigators had watched the men as they developed their plans and tested home-made explosives after receiving instruction via Iraqi websites.

In 2005, the Jordanian capital was hit by three suicide bombs which killed 60 people at three different hotels. Most of the dead were attending a Jordanian-Palestinian wedding. The bombings were ordered by the Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, then leader of al-Qaida in Iraq, who was killed in 2006. The three bombers were Iraqi men. A fourth, the wife of one of the bombers, did not detonate her bomb and escaped before being caught by the police.

The government said the men hoped to emulate the bombings which took place on the ninth of November. Speculation at the time suggested the bombers has chosen the date because of its link to the American notation of 11 September, 9/11.

Government spokesman Sameeh Maaytah said all the suspects are all Jordanian and are in police custody. He said the men had brought in arms from Syria to use them in the alleged plot and had been assisted by al-Qaida operatives based in Iraq in manufacturing home-made explosives.

Jordanian police also seized machine guns and ammunition along with basic material for the manufacture of explosives. Other seized items included computers, cameras and forged documents. The case has been transferred to the Jordanian prosecutor general of the state security court for investigation and further legal proceedings.

The suspected terrorists planned to get more explosives and weapons from Syria before embarking on the attacks. They also posted their bomb-making methods on the internet for others to use.

The Jordanian news agency Petra said the group planned to target diplomats in hotels and public areas followed by the bombing of two major shopping malls, going on to fire mortar shells at the entire neighbourhood of Abdoun, a wealthy district of Amman.

Jordan has so far avoided serious turmoil since the invasion of Iraq and the Arab spring. Many Iraqi refugees moved to Amman but security forces prevented most violence from crossing the border. Jordanian forces have skirmished with Syrian forces on their joint border in recent months as more than 100,000 refugees have fled the fighting.

Abdullah, the king of Jordan, is under pressure from his natural Bedouin supporters and Islamist and secular reformers to allow freer elections but he shows little sign of agreeing.

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