An August 4 report by the Jordanian daily al-Dustour described how intelligence services had arrested a total of 17 terrorists associated with two organizations: the ‘Organization of al-Qaeda in the Land of the Two Rivers (the group led by Jordanian national Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi) and a Saudi group terming itself the Tanzim Kata’ib al-Haramayn (the Organization of the Brigades of the Two Shrines). The detainees, all of them aged in their twenties, were planning to mount attacks on American officers residing in Jordan, as well as on Jordanian intelligence personnel. Some were also engaged in fund-raising activities for al-Qaeda [www.addustour.com].
American military officials in Iraq frequently spend their leave periods in the Jordanian capital Amman. Security concerns for American nationals date from the 2002 killing of U.S. aid worker Laurence Foley, and have remained high since the last wave of arrests announced in January this year, when 16 members of a similar al-Qaeda-affiliated group, the Kata’ib al-Tawhid, (Battalions of Monotheism), were picked up and charged with plotting attacks against the U.S. embassies in Amman and American academics (see Focus, Volume 2, Issue 2).
These latest arrests add to the number of successes scored by Jordanian intelligence against Sunni fundamentalist underground cells. Jordan is also increasing the pressure on Islamist elements outside its borders. Two weeks following the attacks on the London transport network on July 7, Amman struck a preliminary agreement with the United Kingdom aimed at the extradition of “a suspected close ally of Osama bin Laden,” currently living in Britain. This most likely refers to Abu Qatada, a Jordanian citizen of Palestinian origin, referred to as “a right-hand man” for the founder of al-Qaeda and his “European ambassador”. Abu Qatada has been closely linked with the activities of the GIA terrorist group in Algeria, having acted, according to Spain’s top investigating magistrate, Judge Baltasar Garzón, as the “spiritual leader of the mujahideen”. Abu Qatada is the subject of interest not only from several European governments, but also from mujahideen groups themselves, suspicious at his ability at one time to operate at liberty in the United Kingdom. In Jordan, Abu Qatada has already been convicted in absentia of plotting attacks on American and Israeli tourist targets. The author of a fatwa authorizing suicide attacks, he may be the first among the militant clerics to be expelled as part of a tightening of security.