Arrests made in Israeli diplomat attack

Jordanian media say "professional terror cell" behind bombing on road from Amman to Allenby Bridge.

Jordanian policeman 248 88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Jordanian policeman 248 88
(photo credit: AP [file])

Jordanian security forces have arrested several suspects in connection with an apparent assassination attempt on Israeli diplomats, the A-Rad newspaper reported Friday.

Israeli and Jordanian security officials were cooperating to pinpoint those responsible for Thursday's attack in which a roadside bomb was detonated as two cars with Israeli diplomatic officials passed on the road from Amman to the Allenby Bridge.

Media outlets in Amman assessed that a "professional terror cell" was behind the attack, and warned that other similar assassination attempts would be made in the near future.

The Al Arabiya and Al Jazeera TV networks, meanwhile, reported that Jordanian authorities had arrested a cab driver on suspicion of planting the bomb.

No organization immediately claimed responsibility for the failed attack.

Former Mossad head Danny Yatom told Army Radio Friday morning that "the situation in the kingdom is not stable and the friction between the government and the terror groups there is growing."

Securing Israeli assets and delegations in Muslim countries in general, and in Jordan specifically, is very difficult, Yatom said. "It's important to change the routine, change the travel routes and the vehicles in which one travels. This is the responsibility of the Foreign Ministry's defense establishment, under the guidance of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency). This activity is very complex because everyone knows exactly where the embassy is located," Yatom explained.

The cars were carrying four Israelis from the embassy in Amman, and two security guards. No one was hurt. Israel's ambassador to Jordan, Daniel Nevo, was not in the vehicle. Israeli Radio reported that Jordan's Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh phoned Nevo after the attack and expressed relief that no one had been injured.

After the bomb was detonated in an obviously well-planned attack some 20 kilometers from the border crossing, the cars reportedly sped to a nearby Jordanian Army base. The Jordanian Army clamped a closure on the area and carried out searches. Al Arabiya reported that one man was arrested.

"An explosive device exploded on the side of the road leading to the Jordan Valley," said Jordanian Information Minister Nabil Sharif. "This happened as some civilian vehicles were passing by, including two Israeli diplomatic cars. There were no injuries, and authorities have launched an investigation."

Two Jordanian security sources said the attack was aimed at a senior Israeli diplomat in Jordan. They said the attackers probably thought they were targeting the ambassador.

The personnel at the well-guarded embassy in Amman, where there are continuous warnings of possible attacks, generally travel back to Israel for the weekends in order to minimize security risks in Jordan. The embassy officials are also not allowed to leave the embassy premises without large security details.

Israeli security services overseas have been on high alert ahead of the second anniversary of the assassination of Hizbullah terror mastermind Imad Mughniyeh in February 2007 in Damascus.

A number of attempts by Hizbullah to avenge Mughniyeh's death have been thwarted, including a plot to bomb Israel's Embassy in Baku, Azerbaijan last year.

As reported recently in The Jerusalem Post, the defense establishment is concerned that Hizbullah would make an effort to strike an Israeli target ahead of the anniversary of Mughniyeh's death.

Security officials are also considering the possibility that the attack may have been carried out by al-Qaida or one of its affiliates, or a Palestinian terrorist group. Last year three Hamas activists were sentenced in Jordan to five years in prison for conducting surveillance of the embassy in Amman.

AP contributed to this report.