Four policemen killed in new shootout in Jordan

December 20, 2016 9:27 pm
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Jordanian security forces on duty during a funeral for the victims of a weekend attack in Karak, on December 19, 2016 © afp/AFP / KHALIL MAZRAAWI

, Amman, Jordan, Dec 20 – Gunmen killed four Jordanian policemen in a new shootout Tuesday in Karak, where a weekend attack claimed by the Islamic State group left 10 people dead, a security source said.

Security forces came under fire after launching a raid to track down suspects following Sunday’s assault, whose victims included a Canadian tourist, the source said, adding that the operation was still ongoing.

But another senior security source quoted by the official Petra news agency said that the suspects were not linked to the “terrorist group” behind Sunday’s attack.

The general security department said in a statement that police surrounded a house where the gunmen were holed up and that the suspects opened fire on them.

A Jordanian member of parliament from Karak, Haitham Ziadeen, confirmed that an operation was under way to arrest wanted gunmen.

Jordan © AFP / Thomas SAINT-CRICQ, Omar KAMAL

“A shootout erupted after security forces arrived to raid a house in the Qarifla region of Karak province, where the gunmen have sought shelter,” he said.

Sunday’s shooting spree in Karak, home to one of the region’s biggest Crusader castles, killed seven policemen and two Jordanian civilians as well as the Canadian tourist.

A total of 34 other people were wounded, including the son of the Canadian holidaymaker and another foreigner, according to authorities.

Four assailants were killed by the Jordanian security forces after an hours-long siege of the Crusader castle, where the suspects had fled after opening fire on police patrols and a police station in the city.

The Islamic State group on Tuesday claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was carried out by four “soldiers of the caliphate” who used machine-guns and hand grenades.

A statement said the jihadist assault targeted Jordanian “apostate” security forces and citizens of the US-led coalition battling the jihadists in Syria and Iraq.

– Revenge for air campaign –

IS identified the four dead militants and said the attack was revenge for the US-led coalition’s air campaign targeting jihadists in Syria and Iraq.

It also pledged to carry out further assaults on countries within the US-led coalition.

Jordan is part of the alliance and has carried out air strikes targeting IS. It also hosts coalition troops on its territory.

Maaz al-Kassasbeh, a Jordanian fighter pilot from Karak, was captured by the jihadists when his plane went down in Syria in December 2014, and he was later burned alive in a cage.

King Abdullah II denounced Sunday’s shooting spree as a “cowardly terrorist attack”, during a visit Tuesday to the police headquarters in Amman.

But he vowed that the assault “will not affect the security and stability of Jordan. It will reinforce its will and the criminals will not be able to undermine” the country.

The Canadian foreign ministry confirmed that one of its nationals had been killed and another injured in “the heinous attack”.

“The government of Canada stands ready to assist Jordan in bringing the perpetrators of this attack to justice,” a statement added.

On Monday, Jordanian police said they found suicide belts and other explosives in the hideout of the suspects behind the attack.

IS has claimed previous attacks on Jordan, including in June when a suicide bomber killed seven border guards near the Syrian frontier.

According to sources close to Islamists, almost 4,000 Jordanians have joined jihadist groups in Iraq and Syria, and an estimated 420 have been killed since 2011.

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