Jordanian protesters hold an Al-Qaeda-affiliated flag during a demonstration in Amman in September 2012
Jordanian protesters hold an Al-Qaeda-affiliated flag during a demonstration against an amateur film mocking Islam near the US embassy in Amman in September 2012. Jordan has foiled a "terrorist plot" and arrested 11 Al-Qaeda suspects who planned to carry out suicide attacks against shopping malls and diplomats, Petra news agency reported on Sunday. © Khalil Mazraawi - AFP/File
Jordanian protesters hold an Al-Qaeda-affiliated flag during a demonstration in Amman in September 2012
AFP
Last updated: October 21, 2012

Jordan foils Qaeda-linked terror plot

Jordan has foiled a "terrorist plot" and arrested 11 Al-Qaeda suspects who planned to carry out suicide attacks against shopping malls, foreigners and diplomatic missions, Petra news agency reported on Sunday.

"The General Intelligence Department has foiled a terrorist plot against national security, by an 11-member terrorist group linked to Al-Qaeda's ideology," it said.

The suspects were planning to launch a wave of attacks targeting shopping malls, diplomatic missions, foreigners, hotels and other key sites using explosives, car bombs, machineguns and mortars, the state news agency said.

They were arrested before they could carry out their plot, it said, adding that the intelligence services had been alerted and were monitoring the suspects' moves.

A judicial source told AFP that the case had been referred to the prosecutor of the state security court -- a military tribunal -- who has begun questioning "11 Jordanian nationals from Salafist movements."

"They will face two charges: conspiracy to carry out terrorist acts and possession of explosives," said the source who declined to be named. The charges carry the death penalty.

Petra also published pictures of the 11 suspects.

Information Minister Samih Maayatah told a news conference, meanwhile, that the 11 suspects had entered Jordan from neighbouring Syria.

"The prisoners came across the border from Syria and were caught red-handed," he said, adding that authorities seized weapons and maps showing the locations of the sites they planned to attack.

Petra said the group had planned "to terrorise the Jordanian people and sow chaos" in the kingdom.

The suspects, it said, consulted through the Internet with Al-Qaeda explosive experts in Iraq.

They scouted possible targets in Amman, experimented with explosives after obtaining the raw materials to make bombs, and began selecting candidates to carry out suicide bombings, the agency said.

Among their initial plans were bids to target two malls as well as carry out a major attack in the upmarket Abdoun neighbourhood in western Amman, home to diplomatic missions, restaurants and cafes and residential areas.

Key US ally Jordan is one of the safest countries in the conflict-riddled Middle East, but it too has seen its share of Al-Qaeda-linked violence.

In 2005, triple suicide bomb attacks at luxury hotels in the capital Amman killed 60 people.

Slain Al-Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi had claimed responsibility for planning those attacks. He had also been sentenced to death by a Jordanian court for the October 2002 murder of a US diplomat in Amman.

Sunday's announcement that attacks have been foiled comes days after several reports that Jordanian authorities have arrested jihadists in recent months who cross into Syria to join the anti-regime armed insurgency there.

And last Thursday a Salafist leader told AFP that two cousins of Zarqawi had been arrested after returning home from Syria.

Jordan-born Zarqawi was killed in an air strike by the US military in Iraq in 2006.

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