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Country Reports on Terrorism 2021: Jordan

(February 27, 2023)

Overview:  Jordan remained a committed partner on counterterrorism and countering violent extremism in 2021.  As a regional leader in the Defeat-ISIS Global Coalition, Jordan played an important role in coalition successes in degrading the terrorist group’s territorial control and operational reach.  Although Jordan did not experience a successful terrorist attack in 2021, the country faced a continued threat from terrorist groups.  While the Jordanian security forces thwarted plots and apprehended suspected terrorists, the threat of domestic radicalization to violence, especially online, persisted.

2021 Terrorist Incidents:  There were no terrorism incidents in 2021.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security:  There were no significant changes in counterterrorism legislation, law enforcement capacity, or the State Security Court.

The General Intelligence Directorate (GID) is the primary government agency responsible for counterterrorism, although the Public Security Directorate’s (PSD’s) Police Special Operations (PSO) group is the primary responder to an active terrorist incident.  These two organizations operate with support from various elements within the Jordan Armed Forces and PSD’s Gendarmerie.  In 2021, the Jordanian government continued to implement measures and conduct joint exercises to improve interagency coordination among security agencies, although COVID-19 prevented some training.  Enhanced overt security measures continued to be in place across Jordan, most visibly at some hotels and shopping malls.

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.  Jordan also participated in the Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance program focusing on strengthening the security service’s counterterrorism capabilities.

During 2021, Jordanian authorities took legal action against numerous individuals accused of terrorism under Jordanian law, including rulings on previous years’ cases of terrorism.  In an interview published October 5, GID Director Ahmed Husni Hatuqay stated that since he took up his post in May 2019, GID had thwarted 120 operations, including 52 terrorist plots, and arrested 103 persons involved in planning attacks in Jordan.  The GID also contributed to stopping an additional 68 terrorist plots globally.  While Husni Hatuqay did not specify how many operations occurred in 2021, Jordanian media noted the disruption of several terrorist plots, including the following:

  • In March, the GID disrupted a terrorist plot by ISIS supporters to attack a GID facility in the northern city of Irbid with firearms.  The three defendants were previously imprisoned for terrorism-related crimes, and the plot originated while the accused were still inside prison.
  • In July, GID disclosed it had stopped a February plot in which four ISIS supporters planned to kill Israeli border guards.

The United States has emphasized to the Jordanian government the importance of holding Ahlam al-Tamimi accountable in a U.S. court for her admitted role in a 2001 bombing in Jerusalem that included two Americans among the 15 victims. She had been serving a prison sentence in Israel for a terrorism conviction related to the bombing before she was released by Israel as part of a prisoner exchange.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism:  Jordan is a member of MENAFATF, a FATF-style regional body, and a member of the coalition’s Counter-ISIS Finance Group.  Jordan’s financial intelligence unit, the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter Terrorist Financing Unit, has been a member of the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units since 2012.

In October, Jordan was added to the FATF gray list, and subsequently committed to strengthening the effectiveness of its AML/CFT regime.  The Government of Jordan has taken steps to address concerns identified by FATF, including through the September passage of the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism law.  The revised law expanded the powers of the National Committee for Combating Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing, granted the public prosecutor the power to seize assets used in money laundering and terrorism financing crimes, and established an office to manage seized funds and confiscated assets.

Countering Violent Extremism:  Jordan continued to implement a national strategy on preventing violent extremism (PVE), coordinated by an office in the Prime Ministry.  Priority engagement areas include countering violent extremist ideology, building social cohesion among civil society, and assisting law enforcement.  Officials regularly engaged experts on topics such as the role of women and girls in terrorism prevention as well as the monitoring and evaluation of PVE programs.  Civil society organizations have undertaken work across the country to address root causes of violent extremism and offer positive alternatives to youth through activities that build critical thinking skills, encourage civic participation, increase awareness of online safety, and address the needs of returning terrorist fighters to their families.  In September, the Jordanian government hosted a regional conference organized by the Council of Muslim Elders to spread the values of peace and tolerance and confront extremism and hatred.

International and Regional Cooperation:  Jordan is a major non-NATO ally and a member of the GCTF.  Within the GCTF, it co-chairs the Foreign Terrorist Fighters Working Group with the United States.  It is a member of the UN, the League of Arab States, Organization for Islamic Cooperation, the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, and the Proliferation Security Initiative.  Jordan participated in September’s First Global Parliamentary Summit on Counterterrorism, held in Vienna, which stressed the importance of addressing challenges in the Sahel area that affect stability and security, real solutions for a population that has suffered greatly, and support for the victims of terrorism in the region.

In August, Jordanian troops participated in the international military exercise Bright Star in Egypt along with forces from several other states, including the United States, Britain, France, and the UAE.  The exercise aimed to increase cooperation and coordination and strengthen security efforts related to issues of violent extremism and combating terrorism.  In December, Jordan hosted an Aqaba Process meeting in Amman focused on identifying future terrorism threats.  The Aqaba Process is a Jordanian initiative started by King Abdullah in 2015 to counter violent extremism.

Source: Country Reports on Terrorism 2021, U.S. Department of State, (February 27, 2023).