Jordan wary about jihadists wishing to return home

Sunday 23/04/2017
On alert. A 2016 file picture shows Jordanian security forces standing guard near the Crusader Castle following an Islamic State attack that killed ten people. (AFP)

London - The fate of Jordanian fight­ers wishing to return home after fighting in Syria and Iraq is back in the spot­light.

There were two main reasons why Jordanians could be returning, ob­servers said: Disillusionment with the Islamic State (ISIS) and the mili­tants’ expected loss of the strong­holds of Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria.

Jordan said it was taking security measures ahead of their expected return. “The returnees will be dealt in accordance with the law and by trials where their individual cases would be assessed,” Jordanian In­formation Minister Mohammad al- Momani told the Emirati newspaper al-Bayan.

No foreign fighter has returned to Jordan since 2013, Hasan Abu Han­ya, an expert on extremist groups, told al-Bayan. From 2011 to 2013, 250 fighters returned to Jordan but, because they were put in prison, additional returnees were unlikely, added Abu Hanya.

There are no accurate numbers for Jordanians who joined the ranks of ISIS or al-Qaeda. A report released in January by the US Congressional Re­search Service said nearly 4,000 Jor­danians had joined ISIS since 2011. However, some researchers cast doubt on the accuracy of the report.

Aron Lund, a fellow at the Century Foundation, a US-based think-tank, traced the 4,000 figure to a report in February 2016 by the Firil Centre for Studies, which he branded a “pro- Assad website run by a Syrian expat in Germany.”

“The report is easily identifiable as propagandistic bogus, being full of made-up figures and overstating the real number of foreign fighters [in Syria] by approximately a factor of ten,” Lund said on Twitter.

The Firil report was cited by al Ghad, a Jordanian newspaper, in August 2016, which in turn was cited by the Lawfare website — and published in cooperation with the Brookings Institution — mistakenly branding the findings as “new data,” Lund said.

Lawfare’s figures were included in the Congressional Research Service report, which was itself reported by al Ghad with “shock and dismay” as a new study, added Lund.

Analysts have pointed out a num­ber of factors that help in the spread of extremism, from poverty to pro­moting radical ideology via social media, among others.

“Nearly every expert asked about the drivers of violent extremism in Jordan mentioned injustice and cor­ruption,” wrote Anne Speckhard in a report on the causes of radicalisa­tion in Jordan published by the In­ternational Centre for the Study of Violent Extremism.