debkafile Exclusive: Jordanian intelligence aborts new al Qaeda network, points US attention to menace of Sinai and Gaza cells
Osama bin Laden’s cells were planned for Jordan’s main cities, structured on the same lines as the Iraq and Gaza networks. The Jordanian group had a name: Al Qaeda in the Land of Crossed Rivers, just as the Iraq branch calls itself Land of the Two Rivers and the Palestinian branch, the Army of Islam or Brigades of the Islamic Sword.
debkafile‘s counter-terror sources report that Jordanian intelligence stumbled on the conspiracy by chance when a group of former contacts of Abu Musab al Zarqawi attempting to cross the Jordanian border to Syria were detained for questioning.
They confessed they were heading for an Al Qaeda training camp on the outskirts of Damascus to prepare for a fresh round of attacks in Jordan and to set up a logistic rear command for pumping money, arms, explosives and fighting strength from Syria into Jordan.
It also transpired that the al Qaeda group awaiting them on the other side of the border was the cell which planned and carried out the Sept. 9, 2005 suicide attacks on three American-owned hotels in Amman, killing 60 people. That cell had functioned in Jordan in the time of the Iraqi al Qaeda commander Abu Musab al Zarqawi. The Jordanians had hoped his death in June 2006 would put an end to the jihadist terror looming over the kingdom. Now they see it hasn’t.
Jordan holds US intelligence policy partly responsible for this by failing to pursue al Qaeda in two key arenas: Iraq and the Palestinian Authority.
In Iraq, they persistently publicize Abu Ayub al-Masri as Zarqawi’s successor, when every al Qaeda adherent in Iraq and elsewhere know he is not the man. Jordanian anti-terror agencies do not accept the American argument that they are sowing confusion in al Qaeda’s ranks to make them feel leaderless.
Shortly after Zarqawi’s death, al Qaeda proclaimed Abu Omar al-Baghdadi “Emir of the Believers” in the provinces of Baghdad, Nineveh Salah al-Din, Kirkuk, Diyala, Anbar and parts of Babel and Wasit.
The Jordanians are also worried by the way the Americans and Israelis make light of al Qaeda’s incursions into Sinai and among the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. At the US-Arab intelligence conference US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice and American intelligence officials attended in Amman Tuesday, Feb. 20, Jordanian security chiefs said their inaction was encouraging al Qaeda cells there to be increasingly brazen.
Sunday, Feb. 18, Zakariya Durmush, head of the Army of Islam, al Qaeda’s Palestinian cell in Gaza, sounded off in the tones and rhetorical style of al Qaeda’s No. 2 Ayman Zuwahiri. He denounced the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation agreement signed in Mecca this month as heresies and its signatories Mahmoud Abbas and Ismail Haniya as violators of Sharia laws. He then asked: What is now to prevent these Hamas leaders from embracing the sinful laws of the Palestinian Authority and then the laws of other satanic forces, the Americans and the Europeans?
Jordan has warned US counter-terror authorities that their failure to address this rising menace will place any future accords and security arrangements in the region in grave jeopardy.