Information from a recent court case in Jordan illustrates the vulnerability of U.S. personnel in the country, irrespective of any connections with military or diplomatic functions. On January 9 a total of 16 Jordanians were charged with plotting attacks against the U.S. and Israeli embassies in Amman, and a hotel housing Israeli tourists in Irbid. The accused had also allegedly planned attacks on the director of a culture and arts festival at Jerash and on Americans scheduled to perform there. Also in the first week of January, according to the Jordanian daily Al-Sabil (www.assabeel.net) military prosecutors charged two Jordanians with a plot to kill four American archaeologists working in the town of Hartha, north of Amman. The accused were said to be members of Kata’ib al-Tawhid, or ‘Battalions of Monotheism’, a group believed to be led by Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi and linked to al-Qaeda. They are believed to have been recruited at a mosque in Irbid. One of the suspects in the plots remains at large.
Although the accused were detained between the months of August and September, specific details about the activities with which they are charged have only just emerged. The uncovering of this series of anti-U.S. plots, following the 2002 killing of U.S. aid worker Laurence Foley, has underscored the continuing threat posed by Zarqawi’s group in Jordan, and has revealed a new randomness in target selection. Sympathy for al-Qaeda’s aims and strong anti-American sentiments persist in the country and the threat of a future attack remains strong, not least due to the large number of Jordanian veterans from the Taliban era in Afghanistan which have merged back untracked into the population.