Jordan: A Shot Across the Bow

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Is the Iraqi insurgency taking its war across the border into Jordan, whose king, Abdullah II, maintains close security relations with the U.S.? Jordanian officials have long blamed Abu Mussab Zarqawi, the Jordan-born militant directing many terrorist attacks in Iraq, for the 2002 assassination of American diplomat Thomas Foley in the Jordanian capital of Amman. Now Jordanian security officials are investigating a brazen Katyusha rocket attack in the Red Sea port of Aqaba last week that appeared to target two U.S. Navy vessels attached to the U.S. mission in Iraq.

While Jordanian officials kept mum on the identity of the attackers and their motive, U.S. Navy spokesman Lieutenant Commander Charlie Brown told TIME that the attack fit the pattern of the terrorist campaign in Iraq.. "Attacks on coalition forces are not going to result in the withdrawal of coalition forces," Brown said. "We are not going to let terrorists dictate our future actions."

Jordanian sources say authorities are looking for two Iraqis, two Egyptians and a Syrian who had rented a workshop where police discovered a rocket launcher used in the attack. The rocket missed the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge and amphibious landing ship USS Ashland, hitting a warehouse and killing a Jordanian soldier. The ships had been taking part in an exercise with the Jordanian military following the completion of their mission in Operation Iraqi Freedom. The attackers also appeared to have aimed two rockets at nearby Israeli territory, with one projectile hitting near Eilat airport and another falling short on Jordanian ground.

Prime Minister Awni Yirfas refused to provide any information on the perpetrators, but Jordanian analyst Samih Maatay, a columnist for Al-Ghad newspaper in Amman, believes al-Qaeda staged the attack in part to punish the Jordanian government for supporting the U.S. effort in Iraq. Says Maatay: "It's a vendetta."