AMMAN, JORDAN - Jordan's former Crown Prince Hamzah bin al-Hussein said in a video recording Saturday that he was under house arrest and had been told not to contact anyone.
Hamzah issued the recording after the country's military had told him to halt actions used to target the country's "stability and security." Army chief Yousef Huneiti did not specify what such actions were and denied reports that Hamzah had been arrested.
Hamzah said in the video, passed by his lawyer to the BBC, that he was not part of any foreign conspiracy and denounced the ruling system as corrupt.
"It's a very sad and unfortunate turn," he added.
In its statement, published on the state news agency, the military said it was conducting a broader security investigation in which a former minister, a member of the royal family and unnamed others had been detained.
The Washington Post said Jordanian authorities detained Hamzah and arrested nearly 20 other people after what officials called a "threat to the country's stability."
Plans for a protest
A former U.S. official with knowledge of the events in Jordan said the threat did not involve a physical coup. Rather, he said, those involved were planning to push for protests that would appear to be a "popular uprising with masses on the street" with tribal support.
Prince Hamzah is not seen as a major threat to Jordan's monarchy, and he has been marginalized for years. But the authorities have become increasingly concerned with his efforts to build ties with disgruntled figures within the powerful tribes.
The tribes dominate Jordan's security forces and army and form the bedrock of support for the kingdom's Hashemite monarchy.
The state news agency identified two of those detained: Bassem Awadallah, a U.S.-educated longtime confidant of the king who later became minister of finance and an adviser to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman; and Sharif Hassan bin Zaid, a member of the royal family. It gave no details.
The Saudi royal court voiced its "full support" for King Abdullah and all decisions taken by him to maintain security and stability. Egypt, Lebanon and Bahrain also stood by him.
"We are closely following the reports and in touch with Jordanian officials," U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said in an email Saturday. "King Abdullah is a key partner of the United States, and he has our full support."
Detaining top officials and royal family members is rare in Jordan, a key ally of the U.S. in the Middle East against the Islamic State.
Prince Hamzah, who had been groomed by his mother, Queen Noor, to succeed his late father, King Hussein, was pushed into the political wilderness after he was dismissed as crown prince in 2004 by King Abdullah in a move that consolidated his power.
Opposition figures have rallied around him, a move that has been viewed with displeasure by the king, officials familiar with the situation said.
Abdullah succeeded his father, King Hussein, who ruled Jordan for nearly five decades.
The Jordanian Hashemite dynasty's tradition under the 1952 constitution gives the succession to the eldest son, but the monarch retains the option of naming a brother.
King Abdullah has succeeded in bringing political stability to the country and gaining stature as a prominent Arab leader whose message of moderation has found an echo, especially in Western forums.
Awadallah, who was a driving force behind economic reforms before he resigned as chief of the royal court in 2008, has long faced stiff resistance from an old guard and an entrenched bureaucracy that flourished for years on government perks.
Jordan's powerful intelligence agency, with a pervasive influence in public life, has played a bigger public role since the introduction of emergency laws at the outset of the coronavirus pandemic last year, which civic groups say violate civil and political rights.
Jordanian riot police last month broke up protests in Amman and other cities called to mark the 10th anniversary of Arab Spring pro-democracy demonstrations, and authorities detained dozens of activists, witnesses said.