Jordanian intelligence has said it foiled a plot by two people to mount attacks against American and Israeli diplomats alongside United States troops deployed at a military base in the south of the country, according to a statement issued by the General Intelligence Directorate (GID) cited by the state-owned al-Rai newspaper.
The GID statement, which was reported on Tuesday, said the suspects had viewed the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) group’s materials online in 2015 and were communicating with each other via messaging apps to discuss their views and support for ISIL’s objectives in the region.
The report cited the GID statement as saying the suspects planned to drive vehicles into their targets and attack them with firearms and knives. It added that the suspects were arrested last July and would stand trial in Jordan‘s state security court.
The court hears “terrorism” and other high-profile criminal cases, but is not part of the country’s civilian justice system. Jordanian legal scholars have questioned the court’s constitutionality.
A former Jordanian intelligence officer, who spoke to Al Jazeera on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media, that: “The timing of the announcement is rather peculiar given the suspects have been in custody for a long time.”
The ex-officer argued that the timing of the announcement “is politically motivated and its intended audience is the American political leaders to show Jordan’s war on terror efforts”.
Hasan Abu Haniyeh, an Amman-based analyst, said it appeared that the GID and the government were trying to send several messages to international and domestic audiences.
“The GID wants to show Jordanian society that it is still relevant and capable of fighting terrorism especially in recent terror-related attacks on targets inside Jordan,” he said.
Abu Haniyeh said Jordan’s landmark role in fighting “terrorism” in the region has diminished in recent years and its value to the US “counterterrorism” establishment appears to have decreased.
“For that reason, the GID is trying to get back into the game,” he added.
Jordanian supporters of ISIL and other armed groups have long targeted the US-allied kingdom, with dozens of them currently serving lengthy prison terms.
Jordan’s King Abdullah, an ally of Western powers, has been among the most vocal leaders in the region in warning of threats posed by armed groups.
Several incidents over the past few years have jolted Jordan, which has been comparatively unscathed by the uprisings that have swept through the Middle East since 2011.
Last year, four members of the security forces were killed in an attack attributed to groups linked to ISIL.
In 2016, a suicide bombing killed seven guards near the border with Syria, which ISIL claimed responsibility for.
Months later, in another ISIL-claimed attack, 10 people were killed in a shooting in the tourist town of Karak.
Jordan last year also said it had foiled an ISIL plot that included plans for a series of attacks on security installations, shopping centres and some religious figures. It arrested the suspects.
Ali Younes contributed to this report