Jordanian intelligence foiled a terrorist plot that targeted Western diplomats and foreign nationals, and authorities arrested 11 members of a group affiliated with al-Qaeda, the Jordanian state news agency reported on Sunday.
The terrorist cell had reportedly built its own explosive devices and planned to smuggle additional munitions into Jordan from Syria. The group also acquired explosives and expertise from members of al-Qaeda in Iraq through terrorist websites.
The would-be attackers allegedly intended to carry out shootings and bombings on civilian targets in the Jordanian capital of Amman, the state news agency reported.
The terrorist group planned to attack two Amman malls to tie down security forces, then assault other targets with car bombs, suicide bombers, and machine guns.
The plot was aimed at causing “chaos and anarchy and spreading fear among the population, setting the stage for further operations to follow,” according to the report, which added that the group’s targets were “shopping centers, residential areas, diplomats and foreign nationals.”
Government spokesman Sameeh Maaytah said the detained suspects are all Jordanian.
Jordanian state television released images of the suspects, whom the country’s General Intelligence Department had been tracking since June. Authorities confiscated submachine guns, electronics, materials for devising explosives, and forged documents. The suspects, all in their 20s and 30s with most of them sporting long beards, were identified as “militants.”
Announcing the foiled plot, Maaytah told an impromptu press conference that the suspects are all Jordanian and are in police custody.
“They were plotting deadly terror attacks on vital institutions, shopping centers and diplomatic missions,” he said.
“They sought to destabilize Jordan,” he said. “They plotted against Jordan’s national security.”
A statement by Jordanian intelligence said an investigation showed that the group “adopts the ideology of al-Qaeda.” Authorities believed that the planned attacks were scheduled to coincide with the anniversary of the November 9, 2005, terrorist attacks in Amman, in which 60 people were killed and 115 injured in multiple hotel bombings. Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the attack, citing its rejection of Jordan’s alliance with the United States and its 1994 peace treaty with Israel.
Jordanian intelligence said that group nicknamed its terror plot “9/11 the second” after the 2005 bombings.
Jordanian officials and Arab diplomats have been voicing concern over stability in the kingdom, which lies at a precarious corner in the Middle East, neighboring hot spots Syria, Iraq and the Palestinian territories.
The officials and diplomats, insisting on anonymity because they are not allowed to make statements to the press, have warned of possible plots to destabilize the kingdom. They say militants seek to use its territory as they consolidate their foothold in Syria — which lies on Jordan’s northern border.