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Jordan frees Al Qaida operative tied to killing of U.S. envoy

Special to WorldTribune.com

AMMAN — Jordan, regarded as one of the most pro-American states in
the Middle East, has pardoned an Al Qaida operative linked to the
assassination of a U.S. diplomat.

King Abdullah issued a decree that freed six Al Qaida operatives jailed
for plotting attacks on Western and other targets in Iraq and Jordan.

Jordan’s King Abdullah gives a speech in Amman on Oct. 23. /AFP

One of those released was identified as Mohammed Issa Damas, sentenced to 15 years for helping assassinate Laurence Foley, a senior official of the U.S. Agency for International Development in Amman in 2002.

“The king has instructed the government to take the necessary legal
measures to free the six convicts,” the royal palace said.

In a statement on Oct. 31, the palace named the men ordered free by
Abdullah. The palace did not provide details of the convictions or say why they were being released.

The Islamist opposition confirmed the planned release of the six men.
The head of the Al Qaida-aligned Salafist movement, Mohammed Shalabi, said Abdullah’s decree was part of the king’s agreement to free 50 members of the movement. He said a meeting with Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour was scheduled for early November.

“This is a welcome step,” the Salafist movement said.

Three of the detainees were said to have been held without trial. In
addition to Damas, Abdullah pardoned Mohammed Jamil Arabiyat, Mujahed Abu
Harthiya, Ahmed Rayan, Mustafi Siyam and Tareq Zakarneh.

Siyam had been sentenced to life upon conviction of planning to
assassinate a Jordanian intelligence officer in 2002. Others were charged
with recruiting for Al Qaida’s campaign against the U.S. military in
Afghanistan and Iraq.

Jordan was still holding the leader of the Salafist movement, Abu
Maqdisi, sentenced to five years in prison in 2011. In late October 2012,
Maqdisi, convicted of sending money to Al Qaida fighters in Afghanistan,
began a hunger strike.

The release came amid a crackdown on Al Qaida elements within the more
than 200,000 refugees from Syria. On Oct. 30, authorities arrested 61
Syrians found in a convoy in the southern province of Maan. Officials said
the Syrians were suspected of trying to smuggle weapons and equipment for
the Sunni revolt.

“A police patrol in Maan governorate seized today three trucks carrying
61 Syrians, who are now in detention,” Jordan’s Public Security Directorate
said. “The drivers were arrested too. Investigations are under way to find
out more information about them and why they were traveling in these

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