Middle East

Jordan: 4 security force members killed in shootout during raid on ‘terrorist’ cell in Salt

Raid came a day after one security force member was killed in a home-made bomb blast in Al-Fuhais

Gunmen killed four members of Jordan’s security forces in a shootout during a raid on a “terrorist” cell, a day after an officer died in a rare bomb blast.

Three suspects were killed and five arrested during the operation.

The shootout on Saturday, August 11 in the city of Salt, northwest of the capital Amman, came after a bomb exploded under a patrol car at a music festival on Friday killing one security force member and wounding six others.

The rare blast hit the security patrol in Al-Fuhais, 12 kilometres (8 miles) west of the capital on Friday evening, the interior ministry said on Saturday. According to the ministry the bomb was home-made. An initial report carried by Petra late Friday had said the blast was caused by the explosion of a tear gas grenade.

“It killed Sergeant Ali Adnan Qawqaza and wounded six other members of the patrol,” the ministry said, adding that an investigation was underway into the cause of the blast.

Security forces were deployed to protect the town’s annual festival, which hosts prominent Arab music acts.

Later Saturday, a joint unit of special forces, police and army troops raided a building in Salt, a few kilometres north of Al-Fuhais, in search of a suspected “terrorist cell” believed to be behind Friday’s bombing after receiving a tip-off, government spokesperson Jumana Ghneimat said.

The gunmen were holed up in an apartment in a four-storey residential bloc, she said.

“The suspects refused to surrender and opened heavy fire toward a joint security force,” Ghneimat said.

The suspects also “blew up the building in which they were hiding, and which they had booby-trapped earlier,” she said, adding that part of the building collapsed during the raid.

Three members of the security forces were killed in the shootout and several others, including civilians, were wounded, said Ghneimat, who is also minister of state for media affairs.

A fourth security forces member who was critically wounded died of his injuries on Sunday, she added.

The bodies of three “terrorists” as well as automatic weapons were found in the rubble of the building, and a total of five militants were arrested during the operation, Ghneimat said.

Ghneimat did not give details but Jordanian media, quoting medical sources in Salt, said around 20 people were wounded in the operation.

“A clean-up operation is still under way,” Ghneimat said, adding that units of the civil defence were at the scene to assess the damage at the building and sift through the rubble.

Ghneimat urged civilians to stay away, warning that “it could totally collapse at any minute”.

An excavator was later seen demolishing the structure.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Friday’s bomb blast and the identity of the suspects in Salt was not immediately known.

Jordan has played a key role in the U.S.-led Coalition fighting Islamic State in neighbouring Syria and Iraq, using its air force against the jihadists and allowing Coalition forces to use its bases.

In March, Jordan and the United States unveiled a counterterrorism training centre aimed at boosting the capacity of local forces. The centre in in Suwaqah was funded, constructed, and equipped through the U.S. Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance (ATA) program. In 2009, the two countries opened the King Abdullah II training centre for special operations in Zarqa, east of Amman. Personnel from 21 partner nations have trained in that facility.

Jordan was hit by a string of jihadist attacks in 2016, including a suicide bombing in June that killed seven guards near the border with Syria that was claimed by ISIS. Months later in December a shooting rampage, also claimed by IS, killed 10 people including a Canadian tourist.

With reporting from AFP. This post was updated on August 12.


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