Friday, April 14, 2017

Jihad in Jordan?

"Suicide attack on Jordan military post near Syria kills 6" by Rana F. Sweis New York Times  June 21, 2016

AMMAN, Jordan — Four Jordanian soldiers, a police officer, and a civil defense officer were killed Tuesday after a suicide attacker detonated a car bomb on the Jordanian border with Syria, according to a statement by the Jordanian armed forces.

The attack took place on the Syrian side of the border around 5:30 a.m. on the sand berm across from a camp for refugees in Rukban, Jordan, where an estimated 60,000 people are living in harsh conditions.

The military said in its statement that the car carrying the explosives had hit a military post in the buffer zone at the border after approaching from the refugee camp and that the Jordanian forces opened fire. The driver blew up the car, the statement said, killing the security personnel and wounding 14 others.

No group claimed responsibility for the attack, which prompted authorities in Jordan to close the northern and northeastern borders with Syria.

On June 6, three officers of the Jordanian intelligence service and two other employees of the service were killed at an intelligence office near Amman, the capital, in what the government said was a terrorist attack.

Related: "There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack on the intelligence office on the edge of the Palestinian refugee camp of Baqaa. Such attacks are relatively rare in Jordan, even though the pro-Western kingdom is on the front line in the military campaign against Islamic State extremists who control large areas of neighboring Syria and Iraq."

Terrorist attacks on Jordan, a crucial US ally in the region, are relatively rare, but the country is on alert because of the threat posed by extremists, notably from the Islamic State.

King Abdullah II of Jordan said in a statement that, “Anyone who assaults or attempts to harm Jordan’s security and unity will be met with an iron fist,” and the military vowed that it would continue to fight terrorists and “their dark minds.”

For more than a year, Syrians have been fleeing the civil war to an area over the berm, which was once known as little more than sand, scorpions, and snakes but is now a populated area vulnerable to traders, smugglers, and drug dealers.

The area is home to a demilitarized zone that prevents people from crossing into Jordan but gives relief agencies a place to provide assistance to refugees. A sprawling informal camp on the Syrian side of the border has grown to house tens of thousands of people who fled areas including Aleppo, Homs, and Palmyra.

Jordan has cited security and economic concerns tied to the refugees, some of whom come from areas controlled by the Islamic State, in refusing to allow them to cross the border.

The country had been allowing 200 to 300 refugees from the border area into the country each day but only after they are subjected to a thorough security screening and after immense pressure from other countries.

Jordan has taken in more than 650,000 Syrian refugees, according to the UN refugee agency. A majority of them live outside refugee camps.

Despite the alarming numbers at the berm, aid agencies and the government have been wary of speaking publicly about the refugee situation on the border because they do not want to anger the Jordanian government.

Ariane Rummery, a spokeswoman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva, said that no staff members had been injured.

“The attack underlines how challenging a relief operation is at the berm,” she said. “We remain concerned about the security situation for those living there and humanitarian agencies working there.”

A recent poll by the International Republican Institute found attitudes in Jordan toward the Islamic State were hardening. Eighty-nine percent of those polled said they considered the Islamic State to be a terrorist group. Support for the international coalition against the militants is also growing — 80 percent backed the intervention to a large or moderate degree


I imagine a refugee problem comes along with it?

"Syrian refugees say water scarce after Jordan seals border" by Sam McNeil Associated Press  June 22, 2016

AMMAN, Jordan — Syrian refugees stranded along the Jordanian border said Wednesday that clean water is getting scarce in their desert tent camp after the area was sealed by Jordan in response to a deadly cross-border attack.

Cellphone footage taken in the Ruqban camp showed refugees chanting, ‘‘We want water.’’ Three Ruqban residents said by phone that people have begun drinking polluted water.

Some 64,000 Syrians live in two encampments along the border, awaiting admission to Jordan. Many have been in the camps for months and depend on daily deliveries of food and water by international aid agencies based in Jordan.

Jordan declared the area a ‘‘closed military zone’’ after a car-bomb attack launched from the Ruqban area killed six Jordanian troops and wounded 14 at dawn Tuesday. There has been no claim of responsibility, but Jordan says it has evidence that militants, including Islamic State fighters, are present in the camps.

King Abdullah II warned after the attack that Jordan will ‘‘respond with an iron fist’’ to anyone harming its borders or security.

Jordan-based international aid officials confirmed Wednesday that the border area was sealed and that they couldn’t send aid there. However, they gave conflicting accounts of whether any water had been delivered to the camps since the attack. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief reporters.

Jordanian government spokesman Mohammed Momani could not be reached for comment.

The United Nations refugee agency said it is working with other aid groups and Jordanian authorities to get water delivered. Agency spokesman Andreas Needham in Geneva said such deliveries are a priority, but would not elaborate.

The London-based rights group Amnesty International said that a total border closure and denial of humanitarian aid ‘‘would inevitably lead to extreme hardship among those unable to find refuge and put their lives at risk.’’

The group said Jordan has a right to protect civilians from armed attacks, but that its security measures ‘‘must not violate its international legal obligations to provide protection and assistance to refugees who are desperately fleeing the very same type of violence.’’

Ahmad al-Masalmeh, a Syrian opposition activist based in the southern border province of Deraa, said that innocent people have started ‘‘paying the price of the explosion.’’


"No food, little water for Syrians stranded on Jordan border" Associated Press  June 27, 2016

AMMAN, Jordan — No food and little water have reached 64,000 Syrian refugees stuck in the desert since Jordan sealed its border last week after a suicide attack, aid officials said Sunday.

The World Food Program understands Jordan’s security concerns, but hopes the border will reopen soon, said Abeer Etefa, a regional spokeswoman for the United Nations agency. An extended closure ‘‘could put the lives of stranded Syrians at risk,’’ she said.

The refugees live in tent camps along an earthen barrier, or berm, that roughly runs along the Syrian-Jordanian border. Many have camped in the area for months, depending on deliveries of food and water from Jordanian territory as they wait for admission to the kingdom.

Since closing the area last week, Jordan has signaled that a quick lifting of the closure appears unlikely. It has said international agencies must find alternative routes for getting the aid to refugees.

‘‘It’s an international and a UN problem, and not a Jordanian one,’’ government spokesman Mohammed Momani said Sunday, referring to aid deliveries to the camps. ‘‘Jordan is willing to help, but the berm is closed.’’

Jordan has suggested aid could be sent from Syria, where a civil war has been raging for more than five years.

Close to 5 million Syrians have fled their homeland since conflict erupted there in 2011. More than 650,000 have found refuge in Jordan, but the kingdom — along with Syria’s other overwhelmed neighbors —has increasingly restricted entry to the displaced.

The number of those stranded at the berm has grown four-fold in just six months as Syrians continue to flee fighting.

Jordan sealed the border last Tuesday, after a suicide attack launched from the area of one of the encampments killed seven Jordanian troops and wounded 13.

Since then, only two water shipments have reached the area, providing less than half the international daily consumption standard to refugees, said an aid official who spoke on condition of anonymity. On Saturday, Jordanian forces turned back a water shipment, he said.

Etefa said no food has reached the camps since the attack.

The WFP had been distributing two weeks’ worth of food at a time, including canned goods, fruits and vegetables. Another agency was handing out bread on a daily basis, she said.

Etefa said the last food distribution reached refugees a week before the closure. ‘‘With us unable to access the area, the food will probably not last a long time,’’ she said.


What is getting in and out rather easily:

"CIA arms for Syrian rebels supplied black market, officials say" by Mark Mazzetti New York Times  June 27, 2016

AMMAN, Jordan — Weapons shipped into Jordan by the CIA and Saudi Arabia intended for Syrian rebels have been systematically stolen by Jordanian intelligence operatives and sold to arms merchants on the black market, according to US and Jordanian officials.

Some of the stolen weapons were used in a November shooting that killed two Americans and three others at a police training facility in Amman, FBI officials believe after months of investigating the attack, according to people familiar with the investigation.

The existence of the weapons theft, which ended only months ago after complaints by the US and Saudi governments, is being reported for the first time after a joint investigation by The New York Times and Al Jazeera.

That's what we are being fed as cover for arming and training terrorists.

The theft, involving millions of dollars of weapons, highlights the messy, unplanned consequences of programs to arm and train rebels — the kind of program the CIA and Pentagon have conducted for decades — even after the Obama administration had hoped to keep the training program in Jordan under tight control.

The Jordanian officers who were part of the scheme reaped a windfall from the weapons sales, using the money to buy expensive SUVs, iPhones, and other luxury items, Jordanian officials said.

The theft and resale of the arms — including Kalashnikov assault rifles, mortars, and rocket-propelled grenades — have led to a flood of new weapons available on the arms black market.

Investigators do not know what became of most of the weapons, but a disparate collection of groups, including criminal networks and rural Jordanian tribes, use the arms bazaars to build their arsenals. Smugglers also buy weapons in the arms bazaars to ship outside the country.

The FBI investigation into the Amman shooting, run by the bureau’s Washington field office, is continuing. But US and Jordanian officials said the investigators think that the weapons a Jordanian police captain, Anwar Abu Zaid, used to gun down two American contractors, two Jordanians, and one South African originally had arrived in Jordan intended for the Syrian rebel-training program.

The officials said this finding had come from tracing the serial numbers of the weapons.

Mohammad al-Momani, Jordan’s minister of state for media affairs, said allegations that Jordanian intelligence officers had been involved in any weapons thefts were “absolutely incorrect.”

“Weapons of our security institutions are concretely tracked, with the highest discipline,” he said. He called the powerful Jordanian intelligence service, known as the General Intelligence Directorate, or GID, “a world-class, reputable institution known for its professional conduct and high degree of cooperation among security agencies.” In Jordan, the head of the GID is considered the second most important man after the king.

Representatives of the CIA and FBI declined to comment.

Who do you believe?

The State Department did not address the allegations directly, but a spokesman said that America’s relationship with Jordan remained solid.

“The United States deeply values the long history of cooperation and friendship with Jordan,” said John Kirby, the spokesman. “We are committed to the security of Jordan and to partnering closely with Jordan to meet common security challenges.”

The training program, which in 2013 began directly arming the rebels under the code name Timber Sycamore, is run by the CIA and several Arab intelligence services and aimed at building up forces opposing President Bashar Assad of Syria.

The United States and Saudi Arabia are the biggest contributors, with the Saudis contributing both weapons and large sums of money, and with CIA paramilitary operatives taking the lead in training the rebels to use Kalashnikovs, mortars, antitank guided missiles, and other weapons.

The existence of the program is classified, as are all details about its budget. US officials say that the CIA has trained thousands of rebels in the past three years.

They admit that the "terrorists" are "us."

The training program is based in Jordan because of the country’s proximity to the Syrian battlefields. From the beginning, the CIA and the Arab intelligence agencies relied on Jordanian security services to transport the weapons, many bought in bulk in the Balkans and elsewhere around Eastern Europe.


Back to the camps(?):

"Aid agencies await Jordan’s final OK to drop supplies into Syrian refugee camps" by Sam McNeil Associated Press  July 25, 2016

AMMAN, Jordan — UN aid agencies have procured cranes to hoist large amounts of food and other supplies over an earthen barrier to tens of thousands of Syrians stranded at Syria’s border with Jordan, but are still waiting for Jordan’s promised go-ahead, an official said Monday.

The cranes are to drop a one-off shipment of 30 days’ worth of food in two large encampments along a remote desert tract on the border — an area known as the berm because of two parallel earthen mounds that roughly mark the frontier.

Jordan agreed to the shipment in mid-July but has failed to give the final go-ahead for the operation, said a senior aid official who spoke on condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to brief reporters.

She said the logistics for the shipment are in place, including the procurement of cranes that are to hoist the heavy packages from Jordanian soil over the berm.

A Jordanian government official confirmed the one-time shipment was approved, adding that logistics will be left to Jordanian agencies in the field.

Jordan sealed the berm area more than a month ago after a cross-border attack by Islamic State extremists killed seven Jordanian troops. That halted what until then had been regular aid deliveries from Jordan’s territory to more than 60,000 Syrians stranded on the other side of the berm.

Jordanian officials have said Islamic State militants have infiltrated the two camps and pose a threat to Jordan’s security.

Since the border closing, only sporadic water deliveries have reached the area, where most residents are women and children. Refugees have described increasingly dire conditions, including extreme heat, lawlessness, flimsy shelters, rising piles of garbage, and a shortage of food and clean water.

The aid official said Monday that ‘‘the situation is really getting worse every day for these people.’’

Close to 5 million Syrians have fled their homeland in five years of civil war. Increasingly, the overburdened refugee host countries Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey have closed their borders, trapping many Syrians in dangerous war zones.

Jordan hosts more than 650,000 refugees.

At the United Nations on Monday, the UN humanitarian chief said weekly 48-hour humanitarian cease-fires are urgently needed in Aleppo, Syria, where fighting has left over a quarter of a million people trapped and in desperate need of aid.

Stephen O'Brien told the Security Council that he could not stress enough ‘‘how critical the situation is’’ in the eastern part of Aleppo, which risks becoming the largest besieged area in the country. Food supplies are expected to run out in mid-August, and many medical facilities continue to be attacked, he said.

‘‘This is medieval and shameful,’’ O'Brien said. ‘‘We must not allow this to happen.’’

Britain’s United Nations ambassador, Matthew Rycroft, said he received an e-mail Monday from a doctor at Aleppo Children’s Hospital saying that ‘‘if nothing is done we are surely facing death.’’

‘‘Eastern Aleppo City is now encircled by the regime,’’ Rycroft said. ‘‘The Castello road, a vital route for food, medicine and supplies, is cut off. . . . Yet another humanitarian catastrophe awaits.’’

Syrian government forces and their allies cut the Castello road, the main link to rebel-held parts of the country, on July 17, laying siege to opposition-held parts of Aleppo. The country’s largest city has been contested since July 2012.

In Iraq on Monday, a suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden car into a checkpoint outside a Shi’ite town north of Baghdad, killing at least 14 people, Iraqi officials said, and a string of bombings in the Iraqi capital killed nine more people.

Monday’s checkpoint bombing took place at one of the busy entrances to the town of Khalis, about 50 miles north of the Iraqi capital, a police officer said. The town is a Shi’ite enclave surrounded by Sunni areas in the restive Diyala province.

Eight police and six civilians were killed and up to 41 people were wounded, the officers said, adding that the explosion also damaged nearly 20 cars lined up at the checkpoint.

Iraq is where the men, material, and chemical weapons are coming from.


"Aid dropped by crane reaches 75,000 Syrians on Jordan border" Associated Press  August 04, 2016

AMMAN, Jordan — Cranes hoisted huge white bags with rice, lentils, and dates from Jordan into tent camps on the Syrian side of a border berm — an unprecedented way of delivering UN aid to tens of thousands of displaced Syrians cut off from outside help for almost two months.

The three-day delivery to two makeshift encampments in a remote desert area ended Thursday, UN aid agencies said.

Relief over getting badly needed aid to the Ruqban and Hadalat camps was muted by concern over deteriorating conditions there.

Some camp residents have dug holes for sleeping after selling flimsy shelters for scarce food and water, said a displaced Syrian, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of repercussions if he were to return home.

Aid agencies have said disease, malnutrition, and dehydration are on the rise.

This week’s shipment of 650 metric tons of food and hygiene kits was a one-off — Jordan has said it would bar future deliveries from its soil on security grounds.

The international community is scrambling for alternatives. Sending supplies from war-ravaged Syria appears risky, while UN officials say aid dropped by planes could end up in the wrong hands.


Time to drop to the dirt:

"Jordanian writer gunned down outside courthouse" by Khetam Malkawi Associated Press   September 25, 2016

AMMAN, Jordan — A prominent and outspoken Jordanian writer on Sunday was shot to death in front of the courthouse where he had been on trial for posting a cartoon deemed offensive to Islam on social media.

A Jordanian security official said the alleged gunman was a former imam at a local mosque who had been motivated by his anger over the cartoon posted to Facebook by writer Nahed Hattar. The shooting was the latest in a string of deadly security lapses in Jordan.

Witnesses and police said Hattar, 56, was preparing to enter the courthouse for a hearing when the gunman shot him at close range.

‘‘He was standing at a short distance of about one yard in front of Nahed on the stairs of the Supreme Court,’’ a witness said on condition of anonymity, fearing repercussions. The official Petra News Agency said Hattar was shot three times.

The witness said the shooter, who was immediately arrested, was wearing a long gray robe and long beard characteristic of conservative Muslims.

Jordanian media, citing anonymous officials, identified the shooter as Riad Abdullah, 49, a former imam in northern Hashmi, a poor neighborhood in Amman.

The security official declined to confirm the suspect’s name. But he said he had confessed to the shooting and claimed he had acted alone. The official said the suspect had been motivated by Hattar’s posting.

The cartoon depicted a bearded man, smoking and in bed with two women, asking God to bring him wine and cashews.

All physical depictions of God or the prophet Mohammed, even respectful ones, are forbidden under mainstream Islamic tradition.


Then he couldn't have done these:

"3 American trainers killed in shootout outside air base in Jordan" Washington Post  November 04, 2016

AMMAN, Jordan — At least three US military trainers in Jordan were fatally shot by security forces Friday when their vehicle failed to stop at the gate of a military base, Jordanian and US officials said.

The US military service members ‘‘came under fire’’ as they approached a Jordanian training facility, said Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook. Few other details about the incident were given. Cook said US and Jordanian authorities were investigating the cause.

Earlier, Jordan’s military said there was ‘‘an exchange of gunfire’’ after the vehicle’s driver ignored demands to stop outside an air base in southern Jordan. A Jordanian officer was injured.

Other details of the incident at the King Faisal Air Base were not immediately clear. Investigators were trying to piece together the events.

Jordan is a close ally of the United States, and military training by US personnel is common. Jordan is also part of the US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State in Syria.

A US diplomat in Amman, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief reporters, said US and Jordanian officials ‘‘do not believe’’ the incident was terrorism-related, but he offered no further details.

The King Faisal, has long been used for joint exercises between Jordan and its allies, including the United States. According to US diplomats and Jordanian officials, there are more than 1,000 US military personnel based in Jordan, the majority serving as advisers to Jordanian forces and Syrian rebels.

That's why we don't get a whole lot of print about them. 


Also seeJordanian police officer kills five at training center, including two Americans

"Jordan shooting ambushes kill 10, including Canadian tourist" by Omar Akour Associated Press  December 19, 2016

KARAK, Jordan — Gunmen ambushed Jordanian police in a series of attacks Sunday, including at a Crusader castle popular with tourists, killing seven officers, two local civilians, and a woman visiting from Canada, officials said.

At least 27 people were wounded in one of the bloodiest attacks in Jordan in recent memory.

The standoff between Jordanian special forces and armed men holed up inside the castle continued after nightfall Sunday, several hours after the first shooting. Government officials declined comment on local news reports that the attackers had taken hostages who were later freed.

Shots could still be heard at the scene on Sunday evening, and security forces fired tear gas to flush out the gunmen.

The shootings were the latest in a series of attacks that have challenged the pro-Western kingdom’s claim to be an oasis of calm in a region threatened by Islamic extremists.

The killing of the Canadian tourist could further hurt Jordan’s embattled tourism sector, which has declined sharply since the Islamic State seized large parts of neighboring Syria and Iraq two years ago.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks in and near the central town of Karak, about 87 miles south of the capital, Amman.

The chain of events began when a police patrol received reports of a house fire in the town of Qatraneh in the Karak district, Jordan’s Public Security Directorate said.

The officers responding to the call came under fire from inside the house, the statement said. Two police officers were wounded and the assailants fled in a car, it said.

In another attack, gunmen fired on a security patrol in Karak, causing no injuries.

Armed men also opened fire on a police station in Karak Castle, a Crusader fort, wounding members of the security forces. Five or six gunmen were believed to be inside the castle.

The castle, dating to the 12th century, is a major tourist attraction and one of the most complete Crusader fortifications in the world.

In all, seven members of the security forces, two local civilians and the tourist from Canada were killed, security officials said. Twenty-seven people were wounded.

Terrorist attacks in Jordan, a crucial ally of the United States in the region, are relatively rare, but the country is constantly on alert because of the threat posed by extremists, particularly from the Islamic State.

Jordan faces homegrown extremism from several groups, with hundreds of Jordanians fighting alongside other Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria and several thousand more supporting the extremist group in the kingdom.

And they have a large Palestinian presence.

Jordan is a member of a US-led coalition fighting ISIS.

Over the past year, gunmen have carried out several attacks on members of the Jordanian security forces and foreign trainers. Earlier this year, Jordanian security forces engaged in a deadly shootout with suspected ISIS sympathizers in a northern Jordanian town.

In the most recent incident, three US military members were killed in a shooting outside an air base in southern Jordan in November.

That's under investigation.


You know where they are coming from, right?

"Jordan commander: Islamic State expands hold in border camp for Syrians" by Khetam Malkawi Associated Press  February 15, 2017

JORDAN-SYRIA BORDER — Islamic State extremists are expanding their influence in a sprawling camp for displaced Syrians on Jordan’s border, posing a growing threat to the kingdom, a senior Jordanian military commander said.

But they aren't included in any of those refugee populations heading your way!

Brigadier General Sami Kafawin, chief of Jordan’s border forces, spoke during a tour of the desert area, near where Jordan, Syria, and Iraq meet.

The Islamic State group seized parts of Syria and Iraq in 2014 and still holds territory there, including areas abutting Jordan, despite recent military setbacks.

A flight in a military helicopter on Tuesday offered a view of the Rukban camp, an expanse of tents and makeshift shelters housing tens of thousands of stranded Syrians.

Conditions in Rukban and the smaller Hadalat camp deteriorated sharply after Jordan sealed its border in June, following a cross-border Islamic State bomb attack that killed seven Jordanian border guards.

The closure disrupted what until then had been fairly regular distributions of food and water by Jordan-based international aid agencies. In recent months, there had been mounting reports of lack of clean water, the rise of malnutrition among children, and the spread of disease.

Late last year, after months of negotiations, United Nations-led aid groups and Jordanian officials worked out a new arrangement for the camps, located between two low miles-long berms that straddle the Syrian-Jordanian border.

A food distribution center was set up several miles west of Rukban, while UN mobile health clinics consisting of several trailers were established on Jordanian territory, near the southern-most berm.

Aid officials said tribal leaders help organize the distributions, despite concerns by aid agencies that this will lead to unfair allotments and black marketeering.

In a joint statement on Wednesday, UN agencies in Jordan said conditions still ‘‘present a survival challenge,’’ while acknowledging the Jordanian military’s efforts to coordinate aid shipments....


"Jordan says guard who killed three U.S. soldiers last November did not follow rules of engagement"
Washington Post   April 13, 2017

After months of publicly defending the actions of a Jordanian guard who opened fire last November on a US military convoy of Army Special Forces soldiers, killing three, Jordanian government officials have admitted that the shooter did not follow the military’s protocol and will face prosecution.

Dana Daoud, a Jordanian Embassy spokeswoman, told The Washington Post that M’aarek Abu Tayeh — a member of the Jordanian king’s elite Hashemite force — will be ‘‘tried in a military court,’’ but she declined to comment on the nature of the charges or when a trial might occur.

Jordanian officials have called the incident a ‘‘tragic misunderstanding.’’ The incident occurred in a country friendly to the United States, hundreds of miles from the nearest war zone. The men were working for a CIA program to train moderate Syrian fighters when they were killed.

A military investigation contradicted Jordanian claims. Jordanian officials said a joint FBI-Jordanian investigation into the shooting is underway, with the Jordanian portion of the probe ‘‘mostly completed.’’


Thought I saw something about U.S. Forces Entering Syria From Jordan, but.... I'm sure it has nothing to do with closing of Incirlik and the new airbases at Kobani and Hasakah.

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