Overview: Jordan remained a committed partner on counterterrorism and countering violent extremism. As a regional leader in the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, Jordan played an important role in Defeat-ISIS successes by preventing the terrorist group from regaining any territorial control and restricting its operational reach.
Though Jordan experienced a decrease in terrorist activity in 2020 compared with previous years, the country faced a continued threat from terror groups. Border security remained an overarching priority for the Jordanian government, given fears that violence from the conflict in neighboring Syria might spill over into its territory. Jordanian security forces thwarted several terrorist plots and convicted numerous people on charges of plotting terrorist attacks. The threat of domestic radicalization to violence, especially online, persisted.
2020 Terrorist Incidents: There were no reported terrorist incidents in Jordan in 2020.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: There were no significant changes in counterterrorism legislation, law enforcement capacity, or the State Security Court this year.
The General Intelligence Directorate (GID) is the primary government agency responsible for counterterrorism. It operates with support from the Jordan Armed Forces and the Public Security Directorate. The Jordanian government continues to implement measures and conduct joint exercises to improve interagency coordination among its security agencies, although COVID-19 prevented most training in 2020. Jordan participated in the Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance program strengthening law enforcement counterterrorism capabilities. Enhanced overt security measures are in place across Jordan, most visibly at hotels and shopping malls.
Security authorities disrupted terrorist plots, including the following:
- In February the GID foiled a plot to target a liquor store and a church using Molotov cocktails. According to the charges, the perpetrator was a supporter of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, an al-Qa’ida-affiliated terrorist group based in northwest Syria, and an adherent of the group’s terrorist ideology.
- On June 2 the GID reported it thwarted terror attacks against its headquarters in Amman and a GID patrol in Zarqa. Both attacks would have involved the use of explosive material and firearms. The GID noted that the terrorists, who were arrested in late February, were ISIS sympathizers who believed security forces are infidels.
- Also in June the GID announced that it foiled a terror plot in February in which two terrorists planned to target an Irbid police station. The GID arrested the two suspected assailants and a third individual who had knowledge of the plot. The three suspects were ISIS sympathizers who turned to local targets after failing to join the group in Sinai.
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 its 112-mile border with Iraq.
On January 16, Jordan published the API decree in the official gazette. The Jordanian government is adopting an API and PNR departure control system, which will screen inbound and outbound passengers for potential terrorists and criminal actors.
During 2020, Jordanian authorities took legal action against individuals accused of terrorism under Jordanian law, including rulings on terrorism cases from previous years. In at least two cases, the government charged journalists under terrorism laws for their reporting but later released them.
The United States continued to press Jordan to extradite Jordanian citizen Ahlam al-Tamimi for her role in a 2001 suicide bomb attack at a pizzeria in Jerusalem that killed 15, including 2 U.S. citizens.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Jordan is a member of MENAFATF. Its FIU, the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter Terrorist Financing Unit, is a member of the Egmont Group. Jordan is also a member of the Defeat-ISIS Coalition’s CIFG.
The 2019 MENAFATF Mutual Evaluation Report of Jordan identified deficiencies in both effectiveness and technical compliance. For example, Jordan’s national counterterrorism strategy did not include measures to deal with finance risks. MENAFATF also concluded UNSCRs related to terrorism finance, and targeted financial sanctions were not being implemented effectively because of poor coordination between Jordanian authorities. The report identified the lack of clear and sufficient criteria to identify non-profit organizations vulnerable to misuse for terrorism finance purposes. Jordan is addressing the report’s findings and plans to complete a follow-up report with MENAFATF in 2021.
Countering Violent Extremism: Jordan released its national strategy on preventing violent extremism (PVE) and began implementation efforts coordinated by an office within the Prime Ministry. Priority areas for engagement 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 to offer youth positive alternatives through activities that build critical thinking skills, encourage civic participation, increase awareness of online safety, and address the needs of returning terrorist fighters and their families.
International and Regional Cooperation: Jordan is a major non-NATO ally and founding member of the GCTF. It is a member of the United Nations, the Arab League, the Organization for Islamic Cooperation, the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, and the Proliferation Security Initiative. Jordan participated as an observer to Saudi Arabia’s G-20 presidency in 2020. Jordan also participates in the United Nations’ Group of Friends of Preventing Violent Extremism and in the Strong Cities Network through the municipalities of Karak, Irbid, and Zarqa.
On September 2, King Abdullah chaired a new round of the Aqaba Process meetings with participation by senior officials from Asia, Europe, Africa, the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. The meetings covered the security challenges emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic and integrating efforts to counter the threats of terrorism and violent extremism.