ISIS claims attack on Jordan military post, dozens arrested

Sunday 03/07/2016
ISIS claimed responsibility six days after assault

AMMAN - The Islamic State (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the brazen attack across the Syrian border on an isolated Jordanian mili­tary facility in another sign of chal­lenge to the pro-US kingdom.
ISIS perhaps wants to drag Jor­dan into the Syrian civil war so as to weaken the country’s home front, allowing jihadists to consoli­date their foothold in the country, a neighbour of Syria and Iraq that also borders other potential targets — Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israel.
While security officials admit there likely are ISIS sleeper cells in Jordan, they insist most have no organisational links to the terror network. Rather, analysts specu­late, they are driven by poverty and joblessness to advocate militant ideology.
“What have you got to lose if you’re so poor, you have no job, no income, no family, no life and noth­ing to look forward to?” asked Am­man political analyst Labib Kam­hawi.
“These elements are similar to Daesh and are as dangerous be­cause they are willing to kill them­selves and harm others out of de­spair but aren’t necessarily part of the militant group,” Kamhawi said, referring to ISIS by its Arabic acro­nym.
ISIS claimed responsibility for the June 21st attack six days after the assault. It posted a video on its Facebook page showing a vehicle kicking up dust as it sped across the desert towards what appeared to be the Jordanian military outpost.
An orange fireball rose into the air, followed by a cloud of thick, black smoke and the sound of an explosion.
An ISIS statement on Islamist militant Web sites claimed a “lone” jihadist carried out the attack. It said the target was an “American- Jordanian base” in a north-eastern border area known as Rukban, where Jordan’s border meets with those of Syria and Iraq.
It was not immediately clear if the outpost hosted US service per­sonnel at the time of the attack. Jor­danian and US officials declined to comment, although it is known that the facility has had American and other Western military experts fre­quently visiting.
Washington spent millions of dollars setting up a viable security system across the 563km border shared with Iraq and Syria. The sys­tem includes radar that can detect movement kilometres away.
The attack, the first on the Syr­ian border, killed seven Jordanian security officials and wounded 13 others.
It specifically hurt Jordan be­cause it targeted a military installa­tion regarded as one of the symbols of sovereignty and national pride.
Jordan has vowed to avenge the attack and sealed the border with Syria, depriving tens of thousands of Syrian refugees stranded in a makeshift tent camp in Syria of food and water. Aid officials said few supplies have reached the refu­gees since the incident.
It was the second time this year that ISIS targeted Jordan. In March, Jordan foiled an ISIS plot planning terror attacks in the country. In a shootout with police in the north­ern city of Irbid, seven jihadists were killed and 13 were arrested. Those arrested are to go on trial in Jordan’s military State Security Court this year.
Jordanian security officials said authorities have cracked down on Islamist suspects around the coun­try, rounding up dozens for ques­tioning since the border incident.
“At least 372 suspects were ques­tioned, with 297 released and more are being brought in,” a security of­ficial said, insisting on anonymity because he is not allowed to com­ment on an issue undergoing inves­tigation.
Although security officials said the attack bore ISIS’s hallmark, some observers said the Syrian re­gime of Bashar Assad could have been behind the assault to avenge Jordan’s anti-Assad positions.
“I would not rule out the possibil­ity that Assad may have dispatched some of the rogue organisations in the area to settle scores with Jor­dan,” Kamhawi said.
He ruled out links between the attack in Jordan with those in Leba­non and Turkey, saying: “These are isolated incidents and we don’t want to create the monster who will scare us.”
The border incident unleashed a domestic debate on what are Jor­dan’s alternatives. Some proposed changing Jordan’s public hands-off approach towards the Syrian crisis by going to war there and others said it was appropriate to postpone parliamentary elections, scheduled for September, and introduce emer­gency laws because the country is in a state of war, fighting terrorism.
However, Jordanian column­ist Oraib al-Rantawi, writing June 25th in al-Dustour newspaper, countered: “ISIS’s defeat can be achieved by clinging to our national plans and agenda and by having elections at their agreed times.”