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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 18 November 2018

Two Jordanian security officers killed in attacks near Amman

One was killed in bombing on Friday and another in a shootout with the suspects

Prince El Hassan street from Jabal Amman hill in the Jordanian capital, just 12 km from the attack on security forces. Getty Images
Prince El Hassan street from Jabal Amman hill in the Jordanian capital, just 12 km from the attack on security forces. Getty Images

Two Jordanian security officers were killed by suspected terrorists and more than 20 people were injured in two related incidents near Amman at the weekend.

One policeman was killed and six others injured when an explosive device blew up in a village outside Amman on Friday night in what government officials called a terrorist act.

A second Jordanian security officer was killed late on Saturday in clashes with suspects believed to be responsible for the bombing.

According to local news reports, 16 people were injured after a firefight erupted during a raid by security forces on the suspects in the area of Naqab Al Dabour near the town of Salt, 15 kilometres north-west of Amman.

According to a security source quoted by the official daily Al Rai, the suspects detonated explosives after police forces followed them into an apartment building.

Purported footage of the firefight, filmed on a mobile phone and shared on social media, shows clashes by an apartment building on a hillside, before the building collapses from within after an explosion.

It was unclear as of late Saturday whether civilians were among the injured.

The government said later that security forces has arrested three suspected members of a terrorist cell during the raid who were believed to be behind Friday's bombing in the village of Fuheis, 12km west of Amman.

The interior ministry said Sgt Ali Qawqaza of the Gendarmerie was killed and six policemen were injured when an improvised explosive device was detonated beneath their squad car.

The ministry statement indicated that the explosive device was planted before the car arrived.

“This cowardly act will only increase our determination to perform our sacred duty to protect the lives and property of citizens,” it said.

The joint patrol was part of an increased security during an annual week-long music festival in the hilly, predominantly Christian village of 25,000 that attracts thousands and ended on Friday.

Thousands of Jordanians attended the policeman's funeral in the village of Souf in northern Jordan on Saturday. The officer was recently married and expecting his first child, according to local reports. Several policemen and Gendarmerie carried the casket in a military procession.

Jordanian Prime Minister Omar Razzaz express condolences on Twitter for Qawqaza who sacrificed his life “for the sake of the homeland and the nation".

He warned that “Jordan will remain the firm sword against the neck of vicious terrorism”.

During a visit to the Gendarmerie headquarters in Amman, Mr Razzaz reiterated that “Jordan will always be at the forefront of the fight against terrorism and obscurantist ideas which target the lives of innocents and try to undermine security and stability,” the Jordan's Petra news agency reported.

Parliamentary Speaker Atef Tarawneh also denounced the “treacherous” and “cowardly" attack in a tweet, saying “the hand of treachery and terrorism will not befall Jordan”.

“Jordan will remain defiant in its leadership, army, security services and its people in the face of black terrorism,” Mr Tarawneh added.

Terrorist attacks in Jordan are rare, despite the country sharing a 375km border with Syria, and a 175km border with Iraq in areas which at various times were under ISIS control.

The last terrorist attack in the kingdom was in December 2016, when an ISIS sleeper cell seized the crusader castle of Karak in southern Jordan and killed 10 in a shootout with police.

Analysts and former extremist militants say ISIS has made a concentrated effort to target mainly security officials and members of the state in its attacks in Jordan to drive a wedge between the people and the state.

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However, an attack on Jordanian security is widely seen by citizens as an attack on Jordanians themselves, with many families having one or two members serving in the police, military or anti-riot Gendarmerie.

In some marginalised rural communities or in the Badia desert, the security forces are the only source of employment.

Jordanian security services are also the most trusted and respected institution in the kingdom. In an opinion poll by Centre for Strategic Studies at the University of Jordan in July, Jordanians reported a 92 per cent favourable rating for the police and Gendarmarie, compared to 44 per cent for the government and 14 per cent for parliament.