The Royal Jordanian Air force strike Wednesday, April 16, against a combat vehicle convoy from Syria destroyed an Al Qaeda raider force on its way to attack US military targets in the kingdom, DEBKAfile’s military sources reveal. Jordan’s first assault on a target outside the country took place on the Syrian side of the border opposite the eastern town of Ruwaished.
This episode brought to the fore how dramatically the threat al Qaeda-Iraq poses to Jordan, the US forces based their and Israel has escalated.
Amman has not disclosed where the air strike took place, who rode in the destroyed armored vehicles and where they came from.
According to DEBKAfile’s counterterrorism sources, they were driven by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) fighters, coming from the western Iraqi province of Anbar. To avoid running into Jordanian military formations around Ruwaished, the group moved through Syria in the Abu Kemal region and, after refueling and collecting extra fighters and arms, turned south and aimed for the Jordanian border, where their expedition was abruptly brought to a close.
Our intelligence sources report that their target was a secret US-Jordanian training facility situated west of Ruwaished, where Iraqi army troops are being instructed in advanced counter terror combat tactics. At the end of these courses, the graduates return to their units, better able to put up a fight against the al Qaeda forces continuing to overrun large swathes of their country, and posing a real danger to Baghdad.
This episode broke new ground in more than one area.
It was the first ISIS operation directed against the American military presence in Jordan, and also the first time the jihadists used stealth to creep through a crack between the Jordanian, Iraqi and Syrian borders.
ISIS planners were well aware of the two full divisions the Jordanian army had strung out along its borders with Syria and Iraq, to seal the kingdom off from Islamist terrorist incursions. Those planners were crafty enough to find away around this barrier.
However, many Jordanians have joined up with the Al Qaeda branches of Iraq and Syria. It is thought to be only a matter of time before they return to home ground fired up with the jihadist doctrine of terror.
The Jordanians don’t say how they knew the ISIS vehicle convoy was heading their way. It stands to reason that US or Jordanian surveillance aircraft detected the vehicles on the move. Since there was no time to drop Jordanian commandos to apprehend the terrorists in Syria before they crossed the border, it was decided in a hurried conference between Amman and Washington to send the Jordanian air force into action. The commanders likely used the US Command and Control Headquarters established near Amman a year ago to maintain close US-Jordanian military coordination.