Did Jordanian Intelligence Kill Abdallah Azzam?

Posted: 28th February 2010 by Thomas Hegghammer in Jordan

Of the many fascinating details in the Sahab interview with Abu Dujana al-Khurasani, one made my jaw drop and break my self-imposed blogging ban. Abu Dujana says his Jordanian handler named another Jordanian intelligence official as the person responsible for the assassination of Abdallah Azzam in Peshawar in November 1989:

“This idiot confessed to me and told me, ‘if you go and kill any leader of the mujahidin, you’ll become a top man in Jordan, like my chief, Ali Burjaq’. According to Abu Zayd [Abu Dujana’s handler], Ali Burjaq, Director of Jordanian counterterrorism, is the man responsible for the murder of the shahid, as we reckon him, shaykh Abdullah Azzam in Peshawar 20 years ago.”   (translation by Adam Gadahn)

As you know, Azzam’s assassins have never been identified, and numerous theories have been suggested (CIA, Mossad, Usama bin Ladin, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Khad, KGB to mention a few). However, I have not heard this particular claim before, despite having worked on a biography on Azzam for some time.

It’s hard to know what to make of it. Of course, Abu Dujana may have made it up to smear the Jordanian regime. But he could have made up worse things, and blaming Jordan exonerates the US, who usually takes the blame for Azzam’s death in the jihadi community. One might also ask why a handler would divulge such a secret to an asset he has only known for a few months. But Abu Dujana’s trajectory shows he clearly did inspire trust. The biggest problem I have with this claim is that I don’t see why Jordanian intelligence would have wanted to take out Azzam in 1989. Azzam neither organized nor called for militant activity against the Jordanian regime at the time.

Either the GID did the job for someone else, or Abu Dujana’s claim is false.

  1. Dr. Hegghammer,

    Thanks for bringing such interesting findings to our attention — however, maybe my ex-philosophy teaching brain is malfunctioning here — my question lies in motive. Quid Profites? In what way would Jordanian Intelligence gain from Azzam’s death, especially at the time? While thousands had (at least temporarily) joined the Caravan, he posed no threat to Jordan — besides a reinvigoration of the Palestinian population in Zarqa. Moreover, did Jordanian intelligence posses the capabilities to carry out such a logistically demanding operation in Peshawar at the time? I would be interested in seeing further debate on the topic. I suppose I would not be surprised in Jordanian involvement in a joint operation leading to Azzam’s elimination, but I would be shocked to discover that Jordanian Intelligence carried out such an attack on their own. I would also be honored to hear your opinions on our counter-terror blog at Demagoguesanddictators.blogspot.com Thank you sir, I look forward to your response.

    v/r

    Jeff Schneider

  2. Garbi says:

    Azzam was not in favor of jihad outer. The king Jordan, Morocco Saudi Arabia and other kings…. Outer Necesitan one jihad to maintain the crowns in the power…?

  3. Retired says:

    If not true, this alleged conversation with Abu Dujana looks like one more instance of the seeming carelessness of the Jordanian handler, though the “rejuvenation of Zarqa” mentioned by Jeff Schneider, would be no small concern for the Jordanians. speaking of said handler…..I have seen no information about this handler/intel captain “Abu Zeyd” aka Sharif Ali bin Zeyd. I am wondering whether he is from the extended Hashemite family, perhaps a son of Sharif Zeyd? Someone familiar with the Hashemite geneology might know better if this is the case or whether he is from a further branch of the family? Was it merely to mourn a Jordanian martyr that the king, his wife an other members of the family were present at a ceremony in his honor?

  4. Garbi says:

    Retired: Yes, it belongs to the real house Hachemita, is prime brother of the king of Jordan.

  5. Retired says:

    Garbi: What is a “prime” brother? What is the family connection of Zeyd bin Ali to the King? Is he a descendant of Sharif Nasser?

    Isn’t it unusual that someone with such direct connections with the Palace have this kind of job?

  6. mitchell porter says:

    In the interview, the guy also says Jordanian intelligence contributed to the assassinations of Zarqawi and even Mughniyeh. So perhaps his handler thought he was gullible and tried to impress him regarding the power of the GID.

  7. Garbi says:

    Retired: “prime” is a direct line.
    It is not rare these connections with palace…
    The kings of East and the West have many secrets….Juan Carlos I King of Spain, would not be king, without the support of Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Morocco… “changed the Spanish Sahara by the throne “

    Zeyd bin Ali : His name is Sharif Ali bin Zaid Al Aoun , captain in the Jordanan intelligence hold a Jordanian nationality with Iraqi origin, a member of the former Iraqi royal family. After the assassination ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faisal_II_of_Iraq ), of the Royal family in Iraq’s revolution against the monarca ,the survivors fled Iraq to their relative King of Jordan.