Jordanian policeman guns down US trainers

Friday 20/11/2015
Fadi (C), brother of Anwar Abu Zaid shouts slogans against US during his brother’s funeral

AMMAN - A police captain smuggled a machinegun and two pistols to his workplace at a US-funded police training facility on the edge of Amman. He prayed at an on-campus mosque, then headed to the canteen where he gunned down five people, including two American po­lice trainers.

A Jordanian investigation into the November 9th shootings concluded that the shooter, Anwar Abu Zaid, 29, acted alone. According to an of­ficial close to the probe, Abu Zaid, who was killed during the attack, re­sented the presence of Americans, whom he saw as “enemies of Islam”.

The attack, which coincided with the tenth anniversary of suicide bombings of three Western hotels in Jordan, raised speculation that it was terror plot, possibly hatched by the Islamic State (ISIS) or other militants targeting Jordan’s stabil­ity. The 2005 Amman hotel attacks, claimed by al-Qaeda in Iraq, killed 57 people.

In either case, Abu Zaid’s crime may have reflected the sentiments that certain sectors of the Jorda­nian population harboured for the United States because of America’s Mideast policies.

“The foreigners are occupying our lands, humiliating us and depriving us of our freedoms to steal Arab oil and for the sake of Israel to thrive and they expect us to stay quiet,” said an ex-Jordanian-Palestinian fighter who slipped back into his country after having fought Ameri­cans in Iraq.

“[US President Barack] Obama must understand that as long as there’s occupation in Palestine, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and any other Muslim land, we’ll not sit idle until our Muslim brethren are free of foreign occupation,” added the man, who declined to be identified for concern of Jordanian police ret­ribution.

The 31-year-old electrician said he fought several battles alongside Ira­qi insurgents against the Americans before he joined al-Qaeda-linked al- Nusra Front in Syria and returned home in 2014.

Over the years, Jordan produced many jihadist militants. At least 500 Jordanians are known to have joined ISIS or al-Nusra Front, fight­ing in Syria and Iraq, according to a Jordanian security official, who in­sisted on anonymity, citing the sen­sitivity of his comment.

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jorda­nian of tribal Bedouin background turned into a terror leader, head­ed al-Qaeda in Iraq before he was killed in a US drone strike in June 2006. He had claimed responsibility for scores of terror attacks against Americans, including the 2005 Am­man hotel bombings.

Omar Mahmoud Othman, better known as Abu Qutadah al-Falastini, was one of the closest confidants of Osama bin Laden, the slain leader of al-Qaeda. Abu Qutadah was bin Laden’s ambassador to Europe, based in Britain for several years, until he was extradited to Jordan in 2013. Humam Khalil Mohammed al- Blaewi, a Jordanian physician, died at the CIA’s Forward Operating Base Chapman in Afghanistan’s south-eastern province of Khost, setting off a bomb that also killed seven top CIA officers and a prominent Jordanian intelligence agent. The double agent had been recruited by Jordanian intelligence to infiltrate al-Qaeda to get information on its commanders.

Jordan is fertile ground for mili­tants. It has a progressive pro-US leadership ruling a highly conserva­tive Muslim society, which, like oth­ers in the region, is critical of US policies, mainly what they see as its “blind bias” towards Israel.

Possibly more than other Arabs, Jordanians resent Israel’s 48-year occupation of the West Bank. Many Jordanians have blood ties with the West Bank, their native home, which they and their descendants were forced to evacuate in a bloody war with Israel.

Poverty and unemployment are rampant, affecting at least 30% of the youth, who make up about 50% of the population of 7.5 million, making some easy prey for militant recruiters.

Jordan is part of the US-led coali­tion fighting ISIS in neighbouring Syria and Iraq. Recently, Jordan agreed to a security pact with Mos­cow that allows it to take part in Russian sorties over ISIS.

The kingdom hosts several hun­dred US trainers, who are part of a military programme to bolster its defences, including the stationing of F-16 jets that use Jordanian air­fields to hit ISIS positions.

But Jordan’s role in the war against ISIS has caused disquiet among some Jordanians worried about instability at their borders and fearing that a stepped-up role in the campaign might lead to Islamist attacks in their country.

Jordan’s King Abdullah II believes fervently that ultra-hardline jihad­ists pose an existentialist threat to his throne.