Jordan Foils Plot by IS to Bomb Civilian and Military Targets

AMMAN (Reuters) -
Officers of the Jordanian public security department stand guard in the northern city of Irbid, Jordan, March 2, 2016, where a manhunt conducted by Jordanian security forces resulted in the killing of several Islamist militants. REUTERS/ Muhammad Hamed
Officers of the Jordanian public security department stand guard in the northern city of Irbid, Jordan, Wednesday, where a manhunt conducted by Jordanian security forces resulted in the killing of several Islamist terrorists. (Reuters/Muhammad Hamed)

Jordan said on Wednesday it had thwarted a plot by Islamic State terrorists to blow up civilian and military targets in the country.

A statement carried by the state news agency Petra said security forces had located the terrorists, who were carrying suicide belts, in a hideout in the northern city of Irbid near the border with Syria.

Jordanian security forces also killed seven Islamist terrorists overnight in the northern border city of Irbid, a security source said, in one of the country’s largest sweeps in years against hardline sleeper cells.

One Jordanian police officer was also killed in the operation, which two security sources said targeted mainly members of the Islamic State group. At least 30 suspects were rounded up.

Dozens of special forces clashed with terrorists holed up near a Palestinian refugee camp in the center of the city, which is close to the Syrian border, the first source said.

The manhunt began on Tuesday night and ended at dawn, according to officials.

Jordan has tried and sentenced dozens of people, mostly Jordanians, who have returned from Syria, some of whom were recruited by Syria’s al-Qaida offshoot Nusra Front or Islamic State terrorist groups.

In a tighter crackdown on followers of radical Islamist groups since last year, it has also arrested dozens of sympathizers who show support for terrorist groups on social media.

Jordan’s King Abdullah, a U.S. ally who has safeguarded his country’s peace treaty with Israel, has been among the most vocal among regional leaders voicing alarm about the threat from Islamic State, which has taken territory in Syria and Iraq.

Jordan’s military has conducted sorties against Islamic State hideouts in Syria.

Since the civil war erupted in Syria in 2011, hundreds of Jordanians have joined Sunni terrorist groups fighting against President Bashar al-Assad’s rule.

Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have meanwhile fled across the border and are now living in Jordan, some in refugee camps.