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Jordan arrests two in alleged anti-U.S. plot

Eleven others with similar charges remain at large

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Saudi Arabia
Laurence Foley

AMMAN, Jordan (CNN) -- Two men wanted in connection with deadly rioting last year have been arrested and charged with plotting to attack the U.S. Embassy and other American targets in Jordan, Jordanian officials said.

Omar Bazayaa and Mohammed Shalabi -- also known as Abu Sayyaf -- were arrested in what was described as "a bloodless operation" in the city of Mafraq, northeast of Amman near the border with Syria, officials said Saturday.

The officials did not say when the two were arrested.

Eleven others charged in connection with the same offenses remain at large, among them three Saudi nationals.

Bazayaa and Shalabi were originally wanted in connection with rioting last November in the southern city of Ma'an that left five people dead.

Shalabi at the time was named by Jordanian officials as the ringleader of a group of "armed bandits" who were engaged in smuggling black-market goods to Iraq and Saudi Arabia and had clashed with security forces in Ma'an.

Last month, military prosecutors added the terrorism-related charges to the warrants against Bazayaa, Shalabi and the 11 other men. The government published appeals to the 13 to turn themselves in.

The unexpected arrests in Mafraq came just days before Wednesday's trial date for a suspect accused of assassinating U.S. diplomat Laurence Foley last year in Amman.

Jordanian Information Minister Nabil Sharif called the arrests a "successful operation" that involved no shooting or injuries.

Sharif said the men were being referred to prosecutors and their cases would likely wind up in state security court, not a civilian court.

Jordan has been keen recently to show the United States and its Western allies that it is willing to crack down on extremists within its borders.

Ma'an has been a consistently troublesome area for Jordan's government since the late 1980s but has been relatively quiet for the past 10 to 11 months.

Last year's clashes were the fourth set of riots there in the past 13 years.

Journalist Gordon Robison contributed to this report.

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