Jordanian policeman guns down US trainers
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.