Competing Jordanian Jihadists Unite Against Syrian Regime

Jordanian Salafist-Jihadists are divided between two movements; one has renounced violent struggle in Jordan while the other continues to see it as the best way to implement Sharia law, writes Tamer al-Smadi. The two are united, however, over the legitimate struggle against the Syrian regime, in which two militants were recently killed.

al-monitor Girl holds up her fingers painted in the colours of the Syrian opposition flag, during a demonstration against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, in Amman 27/04/2012. Photo by REUTERS/Ali Jarekji.

Topics covered

state institutions, salafists, jihadist movement, jihadist, general intelligence directorate, al-maqdisi document

Apr 28, 2012

In the al-Zawahira neighborhood overlooking the Bayrin prison and the hills of Amman, the Jordanian capital, we met with Munif Samara, one of the leaders of the Jihadist movement. Samara is a doctor who owns and runs a medical center in Amman and provides free services for the poor and Syrian refugees, who escaped to Jordan, fleeing the past year of violence in their country.

Our meeting with Samara was not brief like most of the others we have held with leaders and members of the Jihadist movement. These individuals are all under the surveillance of the General Intelligence Service. Samara, dressed in Afghan garb consisting of a long shirt and shorts, has a beard he can grasp with his hand —as prescribed by Islam, he says. He revealed to us a document which for the first time in the Jihadist movement’s history renounced violent acts in Jordan. He asserted that the document was hand-written by the Jihadists' spiritual guide, Issam al-Barqawi, also known as "Abu Muhammad Al-Maqdisi." Maqdisi is currently detained in Jordanian prison on charges of terrorism.

We spent long hours with Samara, also known as "Abu Khaled." We drove in his black American car across the area between his medical center, his beautiful house overlooking Bayrin and the mosque near his house, where he performs all of his prayers.

It was a sunny spring day. He talked to us about issues related to the reviews of the al-Maqdisi document and the Jihadists stance on the developments underway in Syria.

At the dinner table—prepared by Samara’s French wife, who has repeatedly appeared before the counter-terrorism department in the General Intelligence Directorate (GID) for translating al-Maqdisi's books into French—Samara spoke about the latter's condemnation of the recent acts of violence in Jordan. He said that many Jihadists decided to migrate to the "Syrian lands" to fight alongside "their fellow Sunnis."

Certain amendments made to the al-Maqdisi document were confirmed after Al-Hayat obtained a physical copy of the document. Many Jihadist leaders had already confirmed its validity. In the document, al-Maqdisi denounces "the random physical acts against the Jordanian regime." This was deemed by experts on Jihadist movements as a radical shift in the movement’s leadership, which had long advocated the carrying out of bomb attacks in Jordan.

The document contains key passages, the most important of which is Maqdisi's statement that "Jordan is a critical country surrounded by an inflamed region. It is a country which supports the steadfastness of our brothers in Palestine, so it must be emphasized that our strategy in this country does not include random acts of violence against the regime."

According to the document, Maqdisi refuses to "target the regime's institutions and officers, and stands against any physical acts similar to those which left many young in prison without serving Islam or Muslims, rather costing them the prime of their lives and countless other losses."


The document, which Maqdisi titled "Charter, Approach, Directives or Guidelines" pointed to a need to set out guidelines "to control the [Islamic] call and the young, and to keep these from performing random, violent and chaotic acts." It further warns against "groundless fatwas and infidel acts which lead to losses of blood and money.”

Sources close to the Jordanian decision-makers revealed to Al-Hayat that Maqdisi had sent copies of the document  to the Royal Court and the government through a set of intermediaries. Both of these bodies welcomed it. However, the GID had its reservations about the document's approach to many topics, and called on Maqdisi to retract other statements made in the document.

The security apparatus’ reservations were elucidated by other documents obtained by Al-Hayat, including Maqdisi's extensive explanations about the original, handwritten document. These documents contained handwritten recommendations made by the security apparatus. Some passages were deleted while certain amendments were made.

One of the pages demonstrated the security apparatus'  objection to one passage in which Maqdisi states the need to "let the people know of the blessings that God has bestowed on the Jihadist movement in Jordan." According to the GID, Maqdisi is determined not to "admit the mistakes that the movement has made in the past.”

Where the document "warned" against targeting the regime's institutions, the GID made another recommendation. It called on Maqdisi to stop warning and to start issuing a fatwa to "prohibit any attack on state institutions."

Maqdisi was also called upon to add statements confirming that members of the security services are “our flesh and blood,” and that the amended documents are binding to all jihadist movements in other countries. Maqdisi himself rejected these statements, according to those close to him.

Muhammad Abu Rumman has prepared a lengthy study on the transformations undergone by Salafist Jihadism in Jordan. Abu Rumman was one of the intermediaries who provided the relevant authorities with the Maqdisi document.

“Several parties within the state rejected the peaceful nature of the document. The Salafists issue in Jordan is not based on law, it is rather a political issue, punishable under the movement’s rules as the movement adopts and calls for peaceful work,” he said.

Abu Rumman also explained that “the new generation of Salafist Jihadists believes in the peaceful nature of the [Islamic] call.”

According to Wissam Al-Amoush, a young leader and prominent jihadist who was detained for years at Guantanamo, the security services refuse to accept the Salafist Jihadist movement‘s tendency toward pacific approach. He said that they  consider the movement “their big oil well, which brings them money from abroad to combat so-called terrorism.”

The Salafi Jihadist Dr. Salah Al-Anani supports Maqdisi’s document, saying that his movement “rejects any violent act on Jordanian soil.” He also adds that “the Jihadists’ mission is limited to fighting the Zionists and the occupation in Afghanistan, Iraq and any other countries where Muslims might be subjected to torture and death.”

Despite the wide spectrum of different Salafist-Jihadists, Anani has adopted the peaceful option in Jordan, which is represented by the Abu Muhammad Al-Maqdisi movement. There is also Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi movement, which is a youth-based movement calling for violent struggle.

The movement’s leadership strongly rejects any contact with the media, accusing the army and security institutions of Kufr [apostasy]. The Zarqawi movement’s religious texts legitimize the targeting of the regime’s institutions, particularly its intelligence and security headquarters.

Treason and Conspiracy

On social networking sites and forums, the Zarqawi movement has launched a scathing attack against Maqdisi, accusing him of treason and conspiracy against “Jihad.” Those accusing him have done so under names such as “Abu Qadamah Al-Ordoni,” “Abu Al-Jarah Al-Falestini” and “Al-Mohanad Al-Yaser.”

Al-Hayat interviewed one of the Zarqawi movement’s members who said that “Jordanian Jihadists will not compromise their positions, and the armed Jihad will remain our primary means through which to apply the Sharia.”

In spite of the ongoing heated debate between the two Jihadist streams in Jordan, the Syrian crisis represents a common ground for all factions within the movement.

In this context, Samara, a prominent leader and among the closest to Maqdisi, spoke of the deaths of two Jordanian militants in Syria last week. The dead militants are Abdullah Azzam Al Khalaylah from the city of Zarqa, and Hamza Al-Maani from the southern city of Ma’an. Samara did not hesitate to say that the two men are “martyrs,” who perished in clashes with the Syrian army. Samara expects that many other Jordanian militants will die in Syria.

According to reliable information obtained by Al-Hayat from the Salafi movement, the Jordanian security services have finally managed to arrest Jihadist explosives expert Abdullah Qabba’a along with eight other Salafists near the Syrian-Jordanian border. The Jihadist militants were trying to infiltrate into Syria to fight the regime.

Qabba’a, 40, is from the city of Ma’an. He has been moving back and forth between Afghanistan and Iraq. According to the information received by Al-Hayat, he fought alongside Abu Muasab al-Zarqawi, who died in Baghdad in 2006.

In the northern part of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, in the city of Irbid located a few meters away from Deraa, militant leader Abdul Shahadah, also known as “Abu Muhammad Al-Tahawi,” denied his knowledge of this information. He has called for a defensive Jihad for any helpless country. According to Tahawi, Jihad becomes a necessity when “rulers ignore the blood and honor of Muslims, and when they do not apply the Sharia law.”

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