King of Jordan vows to hunt down militants who killed six officers

Bomb was detonated under a police car and four security men were killed in shoot-out

Jordanian emergency services and security forces at a damaged building during a police raid on a house sheltering terrorists suspected of detonating  a bomb under a police van. Photograph:  Getty Images

Jordanian emergency services and security forces at a damaged building during a police raid on a house sheltering terrorists suspected of detonating a bomb under a police van. Photograph: Getty Images

 

Jordan’s King Abdullah has vowed to hunt down and hold to account perpetrators of two violent incidents that killed six security officers and wounded two dozen people last weekend.

Jordanian prime minister Omar Razzaz has formed a crisis cell with the aim of hunting down militants, particularly fighters belonging to Islamic State, also known as Isis, which is accused of mounting these attacks.

On Friday, jihadis detonated a bomb under a police car, killing an officer and wounding six, during a music festival in the largely Christian town of Fuhais. The militants were traced to a block of flats in a residential quarter of the hill town of Salt, southwest of the capital. A shoot-out late on Saturday killed four security men.

Three militants died when they set off explosives collapsing the building and five militants – all Jordanians – were arrested and will join scores serving long terms in Jordanian prisons.

Since the Syrian conflict erupted in 2011, Jordan has been drawn into western-Arab efforts to overthrow the Syrian government. The kingdom has hosted US training camps for “moderate” fighters as well as a command centre for military co-ordination in Syria. Jordan permitted western powers to funnel weapons, munitions and vehicles to Syrian Southern Front insurgents who have recently been defeated by the Syrian army.

Bombing raids

After Isis seized Iraq’s second city Mosul in 2014, Jordan joined the US-led coalition fighting Isis, deploying its air force in bombing raids. In January 2015, Jordanians were shocked and horrified when a Jordanian pilot, Muath al-Kasassbeh, was burnt alive by Isis after his plane was shot down near the Syrian city of Raqqa, the Isis capital. Jordan responded with heavy air strikes and continued to fly missions against Isis until last year.

A country with few resources, which hosts 2.5 million Iraqi and Syrian refugees as well as two million Palestinian refugees, Jordan had no option but to accept this role as the kingdom depends heavily on financial aid from the US and the Gulf states. US aid stands at $1.3 billion (€1.14 billion) a year. A 2012-17 injection of $3.6 billion in Gulf aid has recently been topped up with another $2.5 billion.

After Russia intervened in the conflict in September 2015, Amman withdrew its support for the western-Arab campaign and has concluded Syria can stabilise only if the government wins the war.

The policy of going along with the West and its Arab allies has put Jordan in jeopardy. There has been substantial popular support for jihadis in the kingdom and 1,500-2,000 Jordanians were recruited by al-Qaeda and Isis to fight in Syria and Iraq. Since the fall of these groups, an unknown number of experienced Jordanian fighters are believed to have returned home.

Although Jordan’s tribesmen, key pillars of the monarchy, remain loyal and the kingdom’s security forces are among the most efficient in the region, militants are bred by resentments over economic inequalities, poor education, unemployment and corruption.

Jordan has faced relatively few major terrorist incidents since al-Qaeda in Iraq – the parent of Isis and Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra) – was established by Jordanian jihadi Abu Musab al-Zarqawi following the 2003 US occupation of Iraq. The most devastating attack in Jordan was staged by Iraqi suicide bombers in 2005 when 60 people were killed and 115 wounded at three luxury hotels in Amman.

In 2016, Jordan suffered from a series of home-grown Isis operations, including a shooting attack that killed 10, among them a Canadian visitor at the tourist town of Karak.

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