Raid of Jordanain Special Forces Reveal Close Link Between Arafat and Saddam
November 12, 2002
For Yasser Arafat, suicide attacks in Kibbutz Metzer, at the Karkur Junction or on Jerusalems Jaffa Street are not enough. In the last few hours, reports have reached DEBKAfiles military and intelligence sources that the three thousands Jordanian special forces and police, after sealing off the southern towns of Maan and Kerak for three days and battling local Islamic zealots, are closing in on their quarry: the assassins who shot dead the senior American diplomat, Lawrence Foley, on his doorstep in Amman on October 28, and their dispatchers. The wanted men include Iraqi military intelligence agents and Palestinian members of the Arab Liberation Front, whose leader, Abul Abbas, has his headquarters in Baghdad.
The diplomat, a senior USAID administrator, was shot dead by a professional marksman who fired 8 bullets from a silenced weapon.
Jordanian intelligence and CIA officers in Amman have homed in on two likely paths of inquiry: One is al Qaeda, which maintains secret cells and operational rings among the Muslim fundamentalist Bedouin tribes of southern Jordan. Osama Bin Laden, his family and operational command found refuge there in 1996 when Sudan was compelled by Washington make him leave the country. He spent several months in the Maan region before relocating in Afghanistan.
There are still rumors that Bin Laden and some of his top lieutenants took Jordanian wives during their brief stay. Even if no such kinship ties were established, neighboring Saudi tribes who do not hide their enthusiasm for bin Laden and al Qaeda have a strong influence in the region and agitate continuously against the Hashemite throne, especially since American troops arrived in the kingdom.
The most wanted man in Jordan today is Muhammad Shalabi, also known as Abu Sayyaf, with his three top aides.
The second path, as DEBKAfile reported immediately after the murder, has led to Palestinian terror cells in Jordan controlled by Iraqi military intelligence agents. For Saddam, the Palestinian terrorists were convenient surrogates for a mission Iraqi intelligence could not afford to execute directly lest the American be presented with the very pretext they need to overcome international objections to military action. To keep their hands clear, the Iraqi agents swarming in Jordan operate through Palestinian cells set up in the large Palestinian population and controlled by the Baghdad-based Arab Liberation Front. This group performs a dual role; it is the Palestinian operational arm of Iraqi intelligence in Jordan and also the connecting link between Yasser Arafat and Saddam Hussein, that is Baghdad and the al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.
As DEBKAfile has reported before, the al Aqsa commander, Tawfiq Tirawi, who has been holed up in Arafats Ramallah offices for months, and Abul Abbas were born in the same village of Tirah, north of Ramallah, and went to the same school. This friendship has deepened over the years as their operational ties intensified Saddam benefiting by acquiring a conduit through which to plant his agents in Jordan and the West Bank, and Arafat, by gaining Iraqi military intelligence financial and logistical backing for his al Aqsa Brigades.
Arafat had his own reason for disposing of Foley. USAID was the instrument assigned by the Bush administration to midwife the Palestinian reform program. Arafat is dead set against any democratic reforms or measures for making Palestinian Authority finances transparent. He is determined not to let USAID set foot in his jurisdiction.
Last week, when King Abdullah II learned that Lawrence Foleys killers were sheltering in the Maan district, he summoned local tribal leaders and made them an offer; turn over the wanted men voluntarily or else Jordanian security troops would go in and get them. They turned him down. On Saturday, November 9, therefore, royal army troops arrived and clamped a curfew down on Maan and Keraq, their 80,000 inhabitants and the 100,000 Bedouin nomads who roam the region around five percent of Jordans total population. Fixed telephone and electricity wires were disconnected and the water supply switched on only part of the day. Jordanian troops and security men hunted for the fugitives in house to house, tent to tent, cave to cave, searches amid clashes.
Monday, November 11, the Jordanian authorities announced a number of foreigners had been taken in.
DEBKAfiles military and intelligence sources report the detained foreigners fall into three main groups:
Egyptians: Members of the extremist al Takfir Al Hijra, the roof organization of the Egyptian Jihad Islami whose leader, Ayman Zuwahri, is Osama bin Ladens chief lieutenant and operations officer of al Qaeda;
Saudi Wahhabists from two tribes, the Rashid and the Uteibi, who are zealous followers of bin Laden;
Iraqi military intelligence agents, including Palestinian operatives, members of Abul Abbass group who were smuggled into Jordan from Baghdad.
In the early stage of the investigation it turned out that the Iraqis and Palestinians in custody were connected with the murder of Foley. Investigators also came to realize how deep were the collaborative relations binding the Arab Liberation Front, Arafats Al Aqsa Brigades and Iraqi military intelligence. The questioning also exposed the dense net of Iraqi and Palestinian agents thrown over the southern half of Jordan, from Aqaba port in the south, through the southern towns of Maan, Kerak and Madabah, up to the southern outskirts of Amman, where the assassin hid out.
It further transpired that all these agents had been given tasks for execution immediately upon the launch of the American offensive against Iraq. They were to sabotage Aqaba harbor installations to render the port unusable for taking delivery of reinforcements and supplies destined for the Americans and Jordanians fighting on the western front; to blow up key transport junctions, roads and bridges going north out of Aqaba and to stir up popular riots, if possible rebellion.
Most of all, the picture unfolding from data garnered from the men rounded up in Maan is one of deep mutual commitment and a steady flow of operational exchanges between Saddams palatial bunker in Tikrit and Arafats ravaged headquarters in Ramallah