Country Report on Terrorism 2018 - Chapter 1 - Jordan

Overview:  Jordan remained a committed partner on counterterrorism and CVE in 2018.  As a regional leader in the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, Jordan played an important role in degrading the terrorist group’s territorial control and operational reach.  Jordan continued to face a persistent threat of terrorist activity in 2018, both domestically and along its borders, owing in part to its proximity to regional conflicts in Iraq and Syria and the state’s official rejection of Salafi-jihadi interpretations of Islam. Terrorist entities expressed interest in attacking both hard and soft targets, such as high-profile public events, hotels, and tourist locations. Jordanian security forces thwarted several plots and apprehended numerous terrorists. Prominent terrorist incidents included an ISIS-inspired attack in Fuheis and an ensuing counterterrorism raid in Salt that resulted in the deaths of five members of the Jordanian security forces.  Coordination among Jordan’s security services for terrorism response capabilities and prevention remains a challenge.

Border security remains an overarching priority for the Jordanian government, given fears that violence from the conflict in neighboring Syria will spill over into Jordan.  There were many Jordanian nationals among the FTFs in Iraq and Syria. The threat of domestic radicalization, especially online, remains.  Returning FTFs are an ongoing concern for Jordan’s security services. As a member of the GCTF, Jordan continued to be a committed partner on FTF issues in 2018 as co-chair with the United States of the GCTF FTF Working Group.

2018 Terrorist Incidents:

  • On August 10, ISIS-inspired terrorists detonated an IED beneath a police vehicle outside a music festival in Fuheis, resulting in the deaths of two police officers. Security forces traced the terrorist cell to a residence in nearby Salt and conducted a raid, engaging the terrorists, who opened fire, resulting in a shootout that inadvertently set off additional explosives stockpiled at the building. This confrontation resulted in the deaths of five members of the security forces; 10 others were wounded.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Jordan made no significant changes to its counterterrorism legal framework in 2018.

In November, the State Security Court convicted 10 people for their involvement in the 2016 shooting attacks in Karak in southern Jordan, which left 14 people dead and 34 others injured. Sentences ranged from three years to life in prison with hard labor.

The General Intelligence Directorate is the primary government agency responsible for counterterrorism. It operates with support from various elements within the Jordan Armed Forces, the Public Security Directorate, and the Gendarmerie.  Although Jordan’s civilian and military security agencies are more professional and effective than others in the region, increased terrorist threats continued to strain their incident response capabilities and coordination mechanisms.  The Jordanian government continued to implement measures to improve interagency coordination among security agencies during responses to terrorism-related events.

A U.S. criminal complaint was unsealed in 2017 charging Ahlam Aref Ahmad Al-Tamimi, a Jordanian national in her mid-30s, with conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction against U.S. nationals outside the United States resulting in death. The charge is related to her participation in the August 9, 2001 suicide bomb attack at a restaurant in Jerusalem that killed 15 people, including two U.S. nationals. Four other U.S. nationals were among the approximately 122 others injured in the attack. Also unsealed was a warrant for Al-Tamimi’s arrest and an affidavit in support of the criminal complaint and arrest warrant. In 2018, Jordan continued to cite a court ruling that its constitution forbids the extradition of Jordanian nationals.  The United States regards the extradition treaty as valid.

Jordan continued to reinforce its border defenses and surveillance capabilities in response to terrorist and criminal threats emanating from its 230-mile border with Syria and 112-mile border with Iraq.  The Jordan-Syria border crossing at Jaber/Nassib reopened on October 15.

In early 2018, Royal Jordanian Airlines (the only Jordanian airline with non-stop flights to the United States) and the Queen Alia International Airport implemented heightened security interviews for passengers at check-in and security screenings for powders in luggage, in line with Transportation Security Agency requirements for airlines with non-stop airline service to the United States.  Jordan received training, equipment, and other assistance through the Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance program and concentrated on strengthening the security services’ counterterrorism capabilities, including the inauguration of a regional training center.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism:  Jordan is a member of the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force (MENAFATF) and the Defeat-ISIS Coalition’s Counter-ISIS Finance Group (CIFG). It hosted the ninth CIFG meeting in February.  Jordan’s FIU, the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter Terrorist Financing Unit (AMLU), is a member of the Egmont Group.

AMLU is the national focal point for international coordination in accordance with the UN Security Council ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida sanctions regime. In this capacity, AMLU routinely received and responded to requests for information from counterparts and regularly disseminated the names of UN-designated individuals and entities to financial institutions. Jordan monitored U.S. designations under Executive Order 13224 and shared this information internally.  In preparation for Jordan’s 2018 MENAFATF Mutual Evaluation Review, and with technical assistance from the International Monetary Fund, the Jordanian government adopted a risk-based approach to monitoring exchange houses and non-profit organizations to better target resources where they were most needed. AMLU received 666 suspicious transaction reports through November 2018, compared with 654 in 2017.

Countering Violent Extremism:  Jordan worked with UNDP to develop a holistic National Action Plan on Preventing Violent Extremism to establish roles and responsibilities for government entities and promote the involvement of non-governmental organizations, civil society, youth, and the private sector in CVE initiatives.  The Jordanian government continued to centralize training of imams and messaging for Friday prayers in an effort to forestall what it viewed as radical versions of Islam. Irbid, Karak, and Zarqa are members of the Strong Cities Network and worked to develop capacity in local communities to prevent violence and build community cohesion.

International and Regional Cooperation:  Jordan is a major non-NATO ally, a member of the GCTF, and co-chairs the GCTF FTF Working Group with the United States. It hosted the annual plenary meeting in Amman in April. Jordan is a member of the Arab League, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, and the Proliferation Security Initiative.

Jordan demonstrated its global leadership in counterterrorism by convening multiple senior-level meetings on various security issues as part of the Aqaba Process in 2018, a forum launched by King Abdullah in 2015. Jordan hosted Aqaba Process meetings on security challenges in East Africa and Southeast Asia in 2018. The Aqaba Process aimed to maintain international and regional cooperation in the fight against terrorism with a holistic approach and to discuss security challenges in regions around the world that are dealing with terrorism hotspots.

On March 22, the Department of State and the Government of Jordan jointly inaugurated a regional counterterrorism training facility to increase the training capacity of both Jordanian forces and regional partners. To date, the regional Antiterrorism Assistance facility supported the training of 23 partner nations.

On October 9, the Jordan Armed Forces’ Military Center for Counter Terrorism and Extremism hosted more than 300 security practitioners, academics, and civil society and business leaders from 20 countries at the Amman Forum on Countering Violent Extremism. The event was launched in collaboration with the U.S. Embassy in Amman and U.S. non-profit organization Spirit of America Worldwide.

In coordination with the U.S. government, Jordan continued to host and conduct training for Palestinian Authority Security Forces and Civil Defense, in addition to other police forces from the region.