Jordan cracks down on local jihadists

Jordan is arresting jihadists who are helping al-Qaeda and participating in the fight in Syria.

al-monitor Raed Hijazi, a Jordanian who holds a US passport, shouts from his dock at the military court, Amman, Nov. 26, 2001. A Jordanian state security court sentenced Hijazi to death in 2002 for his role in a terrorist plot against the United States and Israel at the turn of the century, but was then released in 2011. He was arrested again on Nov. 20, 2013 in Jordan. Photo by REUTERS/Ali Jarekji.

Topics covered

terrorism, syrian civil war, jordan, jihadists, al-qaeda

Dec 4, 2013

Jordan recently launched an arrest campaign against the Salafist jihadist movement, which is close to the al-Qaeda organization, on charges that many of its supporters have gone to Syria.

Meanwhile, Jordan’s general intelligence services have arrested the prominent jihadist Raed Hijazi, also known as Abu Ahmed al-Ameriki, who is of Palestinian origin and a dual US-Jordanian national. Jordanian authorities accused him of being one of the most dangerous people who work for al-Qaeda’s benefit.

While the authorities have remained quiet on Hijazi’s arrest and its reasons, yesterday evening [Dec. 3], Tayseer Diab — the attorney for the al-Qaeda figure in Europe Omar Othman, also known as Abu Qatada — said that the State Security Military Court will begin trying the latter on terrorism-related charges next Tuesday [Dec. 10], months after he was extradited from London. The lawyer said that the first court hearing “will be an opening. And it is supposed to be public, too. Abu Qatada is expected to be questioned about whether he is guilty.”

A senior Jordanian official told Al-Hayat that there is an intensive crackdown aimed at arresting those who break the law by trying to infiltrate a neighboring country (Syria). Meanwhile, a prominent Jordanian Salafist figure told Al-Hayat that the crackdown is broad and covers various regions of the kingdom, stressing that more than a thousand jihadists have crossed into Syrian territory in the past months.

A Salafist figure in south Jordan, Mohammed al-Shalabi, also known as Abu Sayyaf, told Al-Hayat that the intelligence services “arrested Hijazi as he left his home in al-Salt, without knowing the reasons.” He added that Hijazi “was released two years ago after serving nearly 12 years in Jordanian prisons” for terrorism-related charges. Shalabi added, “Hijazi had no activities on the jihadist scene since his release from prison, and there is no legitimate reason for his arrest.”

Ahmad, Hijazi’s son, recounted the details of his father’s arrest. “We were arrested by a police patrol when we were on our way from al-Salt to Amman. They broke into the car and arrested my father. They put him into a car and left the place.”

The Jordanian authorities arrested Hijazi after receiving him from the Syrian government in 2000. He was charged with several acts, including bombing the USS Cole in the Gulf of Aden and planning for the bombings in the heart of Amman in 2000, in addition to recruiting jihadists from the Yarmouk Palestinian [refugee] camp in Syria to fight in Iraq.

Hassan Abu Haniyeh, an expert on jihadist movements, told Al-Hayat in a statement, “Hijazi is a mysterious and perplexing figure. Many in the jihadist Salafist movement in Jordan know nothing about him because he does not engage in media activities nor does he have a relationship with Jordanian jihadists. But some believe that he has foreign contacts. ... The Jordanian authorities look at Hijazi, who spent many years in the United States and obtained US citizenship, with suspicion. ... He is one of the most dangerous figures who work for al-Qaeda’s benefit. His name was previously put on a Jordanian list, which is considered to include the most dangerous individuals and jihadist figures from around the world, including, for example, Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi and Palestinian Abu Qatada. Hijazi is considered one of al-Qaeda’s main operational coordinators. He is as important as the Jordanian Abu Zubaydah. The latter is also accused of being one of the most dangerous operational figures in al-Qaeda. He is currently being held in Guantanamo Bay.”

Jordanian officials say that the army and the security forces are doing their best to control the Jordanian-Syrian border, which is very porous.

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