Terror convictions in Jordan

A military court in Jordan Sept. 13 convicted 10 people in two cases involving conspiracies to kill “Americans training Iraqi police” at the Muwaqqar barracks outside Amman. The court said the defendants were found guilty of “conspiring to carry out terrorist acts and of illegal possession of automatic weapons,” in two plots foiled last year.

In one case, the court found four suspects guilty of conspiring to kill Americans who worked at an Iraqi police training centre east of the capital, Amman. In the second, the court convicted six suspects, including two fugitives in absentia, of plotting attacks against Americans staying at luxury hotels and against liquor stores and nightclubs in the capital. Initially, the suspects allegedly sought to spray cyanide on the doorknobs of nightclubs to poison clients, but could not buy the chemical without a license. They switched plans to attack clubs and liquor stores with automatic machine-guns, according to the indictment.

In the first trial, the court sentenced four Jordanians, who were arrested a year ago, to terms ranging between 10 and 20 years, with hard labor. The court initially sentenced three of the four defendants to death by hanging but commuted these sentences, saying it wanted to give the men a chance to repent.

In the second case, the court sentenced the six, mainly young Palestinians, to terms ranging between 10 and 15 years with hard labor. The two fugitives, also Palestinian youths, are believed to be in Lebanon. The indictment said suspect Loai Hashem al-Sharif, from the West Bank, was leader of the previously unknown Khattab Brigades group.

Upon hearing the verdict, the four men shouted “Allahu akbar!” “God won’t ignore tyrants, you criminals and enemies of Allah,” shouted the group’s alleged mastermind, Ma’ath Breizat, 19.

Reports were not clear if the targeted “Americans” were civilian or military. The Jordanian government concluded an agreement with the Iraqi authorities two years ago to train 32,000 Iraqi police. (AlJazeera, DPA, Sept. 13; AP, Sept. 12)

Meanwhile, a preliminary investigation has found that the Sept. 4 attack on tourists on a Roman amphitheater in Amman was a lone act. “He does not have any connections with terrorist organizations,” government spokesman Nasser Jawdeh told reporters. “This is reassuring.” He said the “criminal act” was carried out by Nabil Ahmad Issa Jaaoura, 38, a Jordanian of Palestinian origin arrested after the shooting, which killed one British tourist and wounded five Western vacationers.

Prime Minister Maarouf Bakhit said that Jaaoura, a blacksmith from the home town of the slain former head of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, had a police record but did not elaborate. Security sources told Al-Ghad newspaper that the gunman had been arrested in Israel some years ago on “criminal charges.” The newspaper also reported that the gunman had told investigators he has been “full of hatred” since one of his brothers was killed during the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon.

Last November suicide bombers attacked three luxury hotels in Amman, killing 60 people, including about 10 foreigners. The bombings were claimed by Abu Musaab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian Islamist slain in a US air raid in Iraq in June. At the time, Zarqawi’s group warned of further attacks against Jordan, accusing it of complicity with Israel and the United States.

Jaaoura, who is married with five children, hails from Zarqawi’s home town, Zarqa, in an impoverished district northeast of Amman, where he worked as a blacksmith. (Monday Morning, Lebanon, Sept. 12)

As we have noted, it was an allegedly all-Iraqi al-Qaeda cell, the Ansar Brigades, which took responsibility for the Amman hotel bombings.

See our last post on Jordan.