ISIS claims attack on Jordan military post, dozens arrested
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.”