Jordan said it uncovered a plot to destabilise the kingdom that involved King Abdullah II’s half-brother and extended beyond the country’s borders.
The sibling, former Crown Prince Hamza Bin Hussein (pictured), worked in concert with foreign entities, Deputy Prime Minister Ayman Safadi said on Sunday, in a first official explanation of a string of arrests a day earlier. More than 16 people, including at least one other royal, were taken into custody, he said at a news conference in the capital, Amman.
“There was an effort to target Jordan’s security and stability, this effort was foiled,” he said, giving no evidence to back up his claims. He declined to say whether the unidentified foreign entities were people or governments, and if any money was paid to those involved in the “plot”.
The crackdown comes as Jordan struggles with a worsening squeeze on its finances and a resurgence of Covid-19 cases that has prompted the government to renew restrictions on movement. The U.S. most recently provided the Middle East kingdom with $700 million in August.
“We are closely following the reports and in touch with Jordanian officials,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement. “King Abdullah is a key partner of the United States, and he has our full support.”
Jordan’s stability is crucial to the region as it sits at the crossroads of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It’s home to as many as 2 million Palestinian refugees and their descendants, and chaos there could endanger the security of Israel, with which it shares a frontier and made peace in 1994. Bordering both Syria and Iraq, the kingdom has also fashioned itself as a force for moderation in a turbulent neighbourhood.
Security personnel and armoured vehicles were seen parked outside royal palaces and patrolling the Dabouq neighborhood of the capital, Amman, on Saturday. The Washington Post said earlier that Hamza, the eldest son of the late King Hussein and his fourth wife Queen Noor, was under house arrest at his palace in Amman. It cited a senior West Asia intelligence official briefed on the events as saying there was an ongoing investigation into an alleged plot to unseat King Abdullah, Hamza’s older half-brother.
Hamza was the crown prince for four years before the title was transferred in 2004 to the current king’s eldest son, Hussein.