U.S. praises Jordan special forces for April Al Qaida WMD bust

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

AMMAN -- Jordan has recorded a significant improvement in its special forces.

Officials said Jordan's new special operations command has succeeded in developing a force of several hundred commandos who could quickly respond to an insurgency attack or threat, determine the situation and operate. They said the special operations unit has been trained to respond to a range of insurgency scenarios.

"The Jordanians are good, very good and they're really fighting this war," U.S. Brig. Gen. Gary Harrell, who commands Special Operations Command Central, said.

The Jordanian unit demonstrated its skills in the capture of an Al Qaida-inspired cell in Amman in April, Middle East Newsline reported. Jordan's special operations forces raided three insurgency strongholds in Amman over a 12-hour period to prevent what officials asserted was a plot to stage a chemical weapons attack on the nation's domestic intelligence agency.

Officials agreed to provide details on the April 20 mission as part of an attempt to market Jordan's special operations forces. Jordan has offered to supply Arab and other countries with expertise as well as equipment to organize special forces for the military and police. So far, Jordan has been negotiating with such Gulf Cooperation Council states as Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman.

The operation on April 20 was led by Jordan's special forces. The forces included the counter-insurgency unit, Battalion 71. Officials said four Al Qaida-related insurgents were killed and their leaders captured.

Jordan's special operations unit was summoned after three trucks packed with 20 tons of explosives and chemicals were seized in Irbid, about 90 kilometers from Syria. Jordanian intelligence learned from the truck drivers of the CW plot and of a leading insurgency operative. Soon, intelligence determined that the operative was in Amman planning another attack with help of agents throughout the city.

Officials said special operations troops were ordered to focus on rapid response to prevent one group of insurgents from reporting the military raid to another group. They said the insurgents were believed to be in constant cellular phone contact.

"We get information from here for the next target," Brig. Gen. Ahmed Al Faqeeh, Special Operations Forces commander, said. "We react, and then we get more information and react very quickly. Time was very critical."

Jordanian intelligence traced one insurgency cell to an apartment next to an Amman school and the commandos determined that he was wielding a submachine gun and explosives. Jordanian forces arrived at about 2 a.m. and a police officer demanded that a leading operative, identified as Azmi Jayousi, open the door.

Instead, Jayousi opened fire and a six-man commando team burst into the apartment and captured the occupants as well as seized explosives and detonators.

Officials said Jayousi and his wife confessed to having received training from Al Qaida in Afghanistan. He was quoted as saying that he obtained $170,000 from Syrians close to Abu Mussib Al Zarqawi, regarded as the most lethal insurgent in Iraq, for the planned CW strike.

Despite the raid, the Jordanian special operations force could not find the second cell. Officials said Jayousi acknowledged that members of the cell were required to phone each other every six hours. Jayousi, guarded by special agents, agreed to arrange a meeting with the second cell at 9 a.m. the following morning. The second cell was said to have contained the suicide bomber for the attack on the intelligence headquarters.

Another leading insurgent who arrived to the meeting was captured in the North Hashemi neighborhood of Amman. The insurgent, identified as Ahmad Samir, agreed to identify the cell's safe house. Special operations forces were ordered to capture the site within 15 minutes, when the next call was to take place between insurgency operatives.

Officials said a Jordanian team evacuated the house and cleared the area of civilians. At the same time, a negotiating team urged the insurgents inside the building to surrender. The team gave the insurgents five minutes to surrender.

Three minutes later, insurgents began to fire toward security forces from the basement. Jordanian forces hurled tear gas cannisters into the basement. The insurgents sought frantically to contact Samir, but discovered that he had already been captured.

In the end, three insurgents were killed in the battle. Officials said all three were being prepared to blow themselves up in the attack on the security headquarters.

"They need to do something against our country just to give the impression we are not secure," Al Faqeeh, the special operations forces commander, said. "I would assume that if they did not reach the targets, they would explode the vehicles anywhere just to make a demonstration. It was important for them. We are always proud that we are a secure country and control the security very well, so they want to kill and show that we are not as we say."

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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