Eleven men have been arrested by Jordanian intelligence services, which accuses them of planning a “major terrorist plot” to attack shopping centers, residential buildings and foreigners, including diplomats. Here’s what you should know about the latest thwarted al Qaeda plot.
1. The Planned Attacks Were Dubbed “9/11 the Second” (After Nov. 9 not Sept. 11)
Extremists suggested the planned attacks were set to happen on the seventh anniversary of the last al Qaeda attack in Jordan, when suicide bombs exploded in an Amman hotel November 9, 2005, and the bombings of three hotels in the capital killed 60 people. Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for those attacks, citing its rejection of Jordan’s alliance with the U.S. and its 1994 peace treaty with Israel.
2. Suspects Targeted U.S. and British Diplomats
One planned attack involved firing mortar rockets at a district in the Jordanian capital that houses U.S., British and other diplomatic missions, as well as housing for expatriots and Western diplomats.
3. The Plot Targeted Shopping Centers
Under the alleged attack, the group had planned to set off two “decoy explosions” at two select shopping centers in west Amman to draw the attention of security services before setting off a series of militia attacks and suicide bombers on other civilian and diplomatic targets.
4. The Suspects Have Been Tracked Since June
The General Intelligence Department (Jordan) has been tracking these men since June. There have long been fears that Salafist militants allied to al-Qaeda have joined the Sunni fight against the Alawite-led government in Syria of Bashar al-Assad.
5. The Men Were Well-Armed
The plans included using explosives, booby-trapped cars as well as submachine guns and mortar rockets. The group was able to devise new types of explosives to be used for the first time, and planned to add TNT to increase their destructive power.
6. They Had a Sharp-Dressed Uniform
Ten of the 11 men donned the same dark blue suit with a pinstriped shirt. All are in their 20s and 30s, and most of them sported long beards.
7. Their E-mails Were Hacked
Intercepted emails showed that the cell had received advice from Iraqi al Qaeda explosives experts. Computers and other documents were also confiscated.
8. The Syrian-Jordanian Border is Porous
Security officials say Jordan has nearly “doubled” security forces along its shared border with Syria over the past few weeks to stop a flow of fighters and weapons that “threaten the stability of both countries.” Jordan claims more than 200,000 have crossed into its territory since last year.
9. The Planned Attacks were Connected to Tunisia
Some of the men detained are affiliated with the Jordanian-banned Salafi movement, the ultra-conservative militant group that led the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Tunisia. Since the Syrian conflict erupted in March last year, tens of thousands of Syrians have fled to Jordan.
10. A Jordanian Soldier Was Shot the Day Before
A Jordanian soldier was killed by militants trying to force their way across the border into Syria the day before Amman warned of an al Qaeda plot against the country.