AMMAN — Jordanian authorities unveiled on Sunday a foiled Al Qaeda terror plot to carry out attacks on diplomatic and civilian targets across Amman using weapons from Syria.
According to the General Intelligence Department (GID), security services have arrested 11 Jordanian nationals charged with plotting to carry out a series of attacks on shopping centres, cafés and diplomatic missions, using explosives and mortar rockets.
The 11 suspects, who allegedly have active ties with Al Qaeda in Iraq, began plotting the attack in June and smuggled explosives and mortar rockets from Syria to carry out the attacks, officials said.
“These 11 terrorists were Jordanian nationals with clear ties to Al Qaeda targeting the security and stability of Jordan,” Minister of State for Media Affairs and Communications Samih Maaytah said during a press conference on Sunday detailing the foiled plot.
According to Maaytah, who is also government spokesperson, the group, which had allegedly consulted with Al Qaeda in Iraq weapons experts via the Internet, had travelled to Syria and returned with explosives and mortar rockets to carry out the attack.
“These attacks have no link to the Syrian crisis or the inflow of Syrian refugees whatsoever,” Maaytah said.
According to the GID, the 11 suspects had prepared an “intricate plot” targeting a series of civilian and diplomatic targets in the west Amman neighbourhood of Abdoun using car bombs, suicide bombers, mortar rockets and guerilla-style militia attacks.
Under the alleged attack, the group had planned to set off two “decoy explosions” at two select shopping centres in west Amman to draw the attention of security services before setting off a series of militia attacks and suicide bombers on other civilian and diplomatic targets.
In the final phase of the terror plot, the alleged Islamist militants were to target diplomatic missions with mortar rockets, the GID said in a press statement, posted on its website and handed out during the press conference.
Maaytah refused to identify the commercial outlets or diplomatic missions targeted in the plot.
According to a second security source, the US and British embassies were among the diplomatic missions targeted by the group, which chose to focus on the Abdoun neighbourhood due to the high concentration of shopping centres and cafés frequented by expatriates and diplomatic staff.
Maaytah and the GID linked the group to Al Qaeda fringe branch formerly led by Abu Mussab Zarqawi that masterminded the deadly 2005 Amman hotel bombings, which claimed the lives of over 65 people and injured some 120 others.
Despite the links to Syria, Maaytah said Amman has had no communication or cooperation with Damascus in its investigation, stressing that Jordan is handling the case as a “domestic security issue”.
The foiled plot will have no impact on ties between Amman and Damascus, Maaytah stressed, adding that the country’s “approach to the Syrian crisis remains unchanged”.
The spokesperson stressed that the uncovering of the plot provides “confidence boost in Jordan’s security and stability” and officials’ ability to “overcome any threats to the country’s stability”.
Authorities referred the 11 men to the State Security Court, where they will face several charges related to undermining Jordan’s national security, Maaytah added.
Sunday’s revelation comes amid rising concerns over emerging security threats posed by the Syrian crisis, with Jordan foiling several attempts to smuggle Islamist fighters and weapons into Syria over the past two months.
Last week, security services arrested three Jordanian jihadists shortly after they illegally entered Jordan from Syria after spending weeks carrying out military actions against Syrian government forces.
Security officials say Jordan has nearly “doubled” security forces along its shared border with Syria over the past few weeks to stop a flow of fighters and weapons that “threaten the stability of both countries”.