Even while Jordan launched stepped-up airstrikes against the Islamic State this week, to avenge the burning to death of their captured pilot by the extremist group, the militants have support inside the kingdom.
While the horrific killing has sparked great outrage over much of Jordan with protests in Amman the capital, 150 miles to the south in Ma’an it remains a hotbed for support of the Islamic State.
Jordan has had for a long time its own radial homegrown Islamists that have clashed with troops from the government over the last 20 years due to Jordan’s strong alliance with the U.S.
Recently there has been a big outpouring of activity that is pro-Islamic State in the city. For example, in September authorities in Jordan cracked down on the demonstrators that were waving the black flag of the Islamic State.
Residents in Ma’an would not publicly condone the cruel execution by the Islamic State of the Jordanian pilot. Many out of fear of reprisals from officials in Jordan remained silent over the call to arms of King Abdullah.
However, Muslim clerics in the mosques around the city regularly give praise to the Islamic State, which is comprised of Sunnis, for opposing the brutal regime of Assad.
The general mood in Ma’an is in support of the Syrian revolution, making it natural that imams in the mosques are against Bashar al-Assad.
The situation now has led Ma’an based radicals to regard the government of Jordan as an enemy due to participating in the airstrikes led by the U.S. against the militants of the Islamic State who have taken control of more than one third of Syria and Iraq and govern the area as their caliphate.
Three hundred men have moved from Ma’an into Syria, to fight said local residents. Nearly 100 of those have returned with 30 injured. Over 120 have been killed in fighting and authorities in Jordan have arrested over 70 for fighting illegally abroad and sentencing them to 3 years behind bars.
Some residents in Ma’an are angry with the government of Jordan for stopping the recruiters who induct young, naïve men into IS.