Jordan has arrested 17 militants linked to the al Qaeda network in Iraq and an affiliated Saudi group who were plotting to attack U.S. military personnel in the kingdom, security sources said on Thursday.
They said interrogations of the suspects revealed six of them had ties to Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, head of the al Qaeda network in Iraq, while the others belonged to an underground Saudi group known as the Brigades of the Holy Shrines.
"They were planning attacks on foreign officers in the kingdom," said one security source, referring to a plot to attack U.S. military personnel who frequent five-star hotels while on leave from duty in neighboring Iraq.
The arrests came after an investigation that used informers to hunt Jordanian militants allied to Zarqawi who help recruit Arab militants to fight against U.S. troops.
"The interrogations revealed their membership of these underground groups. They were recruiting terrorists for al Qaeda in Iraq and collecting donations for the organization," said another security source.
Jordanian intelligence has stepped up its watch after receiving warnings of possible attacks against Western and Israeli targets in the kingdom following recent bomb attacks in London and the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.
A security officer said the latest arrests were linked to heightened risks of attack by al-Qaeda that also included Israeli targets in the kingdom. He did not elaborate.