Potential Hot Spots: November 12, 2002


Jordanian special forces troops battled Islamic rebels defending their southern stronghold in a hilly area on the eastern fringe of the desert city Maan. Maan, 155 miles south of the Jordanian capital Amman, has been the scene of pro-Iraq riots in recent years. Five Islamic radicals, led by Mohammad Chalabi (also known as Abu Sayyaf) and his armed supporters were suspected to hiding there. This gang is involved in arms and drug smuggling, killings, assaults, robberies, challenging the government and burning cars belonging to university professors and dormitories housing female students.

This could easily become a nightmare of urban fighting in the town of 40,000, as special forces continued to comb the city in house-to-house searches for weapons. Several thousand regular troops backed by armor reinforced the Jordanian counter-terrorism forces that had stormed Islamic hideouts over the 9-10 November weekend. Police helicopters were seen hovering over the Toa area in the northeastern sector of the city. The area remained under curfew for a third day with offices, schools and communications cut off. 

A police officer who died from gunshot wounds on the 12th became the fifth fatality. They have detained more than 50 people, along with a number of people from unidentified Arab countries. On the 11th, security officials said 10 foreigners were mainly Iraqis and Egyptians. Senior officials said the security sweep would end only when activists who have been labeled a threat were jailed and any illegal weapons held by residents in the city were seized. Possession of arms is a matter of traditional honor, but a hidden rocket launcher and rocket-propelled grenades were confiscated.

The handwriting had been on the wall for over a month. Around 1,400 US special operations forces began their Early Victor '02 exercise in Jordan on 6 October. They were training with British, Jordanian, Omani and Kuwait troops in unconventional warfare techniques. Jordanian cabinet officials stressed over the two weeks of training that the drills were routine and periodical, having nothing to do with developments in the region (a reference to possible US military action against Iraq). Apparently, they were telling the truth. An anonymous security official said the raid was part of a campaign to ``put things in order before the possible war on Iraq.'' - Adam Geibel


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