AMMAN -- A Jordanian court on Wednesday (January 13) handed heavy prison terms to 11 people convicted of joining the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) and of planning attacks against churches and security personnel in the kingdom.
Three of the defendants were sentenced in absentia after travelling to Afghanistan in 2019 to join ISIS in its fight against US forces and the Taliban.
The three defendants in Afghanistan had stayed in touch with the other eight, who were arrested ahead of planned attacks in Jordan under the banner of ISIS.
The intended targets of the Jordan attacks included security forces and churches in the kingdom's Mafraq and Zarqa provinces, according to a charge sheet.
Zarqa was home to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian militant who joined al-Qaeda in 2004 and pledged allegiance to Osama bin Laden, later becoming the first emir of al-Qaeda in Iraq -- the predecessor to ISIS.
Al-Zarqawi was killed by a US airstrike in 2006.
The eight defendants present in Jordan's State Security Court (SSC) on Wednesday were sentenced to between five and 15 years, while those who were in Afghanistan were handed terms of nine years.
The eight had been found guilty on charges including "plotting to carry out terrorist acts" and "attempting to join armed groups and terrorist organisations".
All the defendants were suspected of supporting ISIS.
The Jordanian intelligence services discovered the militants' plans and arrested them in 2019, according to the charge sheet.
There is no right of appeal against the decisions of the SSC.
Extremist plots, attacks
Jordan, a member of the international coalition against ISIS in Syria and Iraq, has suffered a number of deadly extremist attacks, including one in December 2016 which left 10 people dead, mostly security personnel.
On Tuesday, the SSC sentenced a man to death for the 2019 stabbing of eight people, four of them foreign tourists, at one of the kingdom's ancient sites.
The victims, who included one Swiss and three Mexican tourists, all survived the November 2019 knife attack in the ruins of the ancient Roman city of Jerash.
Mustafa Abu Ruwais, 24, was arrested immediately after the attacks and charged with terrorism offenses in January 2020. He was sentenced to "death by hanging for the terrorist knife attack on tourists", the court said.
The charge sheet alleged Abu Ruwais "follows the ideology" of ISIS, and had been "in contact with one of the members of this organisation in Syria" who gave the green light for the attack.
Meanwhile, Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security (NDS) on Tuesday said it had foiled an ISIS plot to assassinate the top US envoy in Kabul.
Afghan intelligence officers dismantled a four-member ISIS cell in Nangarhar Province that had plotted to murder US Charge d'Affaires Ross Wilson, as well as a number of Afghan officials, according to the NDS.