Jordan: Ten die in attacks on tourist attraction

Trapped civilians freed after police storm Karak castle; Canadian citizen among dead

 

Ten people, including a Canadian woman, have been killed after gunmen ambushed police in a series of attacks in Jordan.

One of the attacks targeted a Crusader castle popular with tourists, killing seven officers, two civilians and the Canadian victim, Linda Vatcher.

Several armed men were reported to be barricaded inside the castle in Karak, a town in central Jordan about 141 km (87 miles) south of the capital Amman, after night fell, surrounded by Jordanian special forces.

At least 34 people, including two foreigners, were wounded in Sunday’s violence, one of the bloodiest attacks in Jordan in recent memory.

Security officials said at least four gunmen were killed and troops continued to search the area. They added that large amounts of weapons had been seized.

Their statement, however, made no reference to news reports that at one point the attackers had held hostages.

The shootings were the latest in a series of attacks that have challenged the pro-West kingdom’s claim to be an oasis of calm in a region threatened by Islamic extremists.

Tourism

The killing of the Canadian tourist could further hurt Jordan’s embattled tourism sector, which has declined sharply since the Islamic State group seized large parts of neighbouring Syria and Iraq two years ago.

Canada’s global affairs spokesman John Babcock said Ms Vatcher was a former teacher from Burgeo, Newfoundland. Her son Chris was injured in the attack.

“Canadian officials in Amman are actively working with local authorities to gather additional information and are providing consular assistance to Canadians at this difficult time,” he said.

The Canadian embassy in Amman issued an alert warning Canadians to avoid travel to Karak.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks in and near Karak.

The chain of events began when a police patrol received reports of a house fire in the town of Qatraneh in the Karak district, Jordan’s Public Security Directorate said.

Officers responding to the call came under fire from inside the hous. Two policemen were wounded and the assailants fled in a car.

In another attack, gunmen fired on a security patrol in Karak, causing no injuries.

Armed men also opened fire on a police station at Karak Castle, a Crusader fort, wounding members of security forces. The statement said five or six gunmen were believed to be trapped inside the castle.

In all, seven members of the security forces, two local civilians and the Canadian woman were killed, security officials said. Fifteen members of the security forces, 17 civilians and two foreign nationals were injured.

Home-grown extremism

Jordan faces home-grown extremism, with hundreds of Jordanians fighting alongside other Islamic State, also known as Isis, militants in Iraq and Syria and several thousand more supporting the extremist group in the kingdom.

Jordan is a key US ally, and a member of a US-led military coalition fighting Islamic State.

Over the past year, gunmen have carried out several attacks on members of the Jordanian security forces and foreign trainers. Earlier this year Jordanian security forces engaged in a deadly shoot-out with suspected Islamic State sympathisers in a northern town.

In the most recent incident, three US military members were killed in a shooting outside an air base in southern Jordan in November. They were in the country on a training mission and came under fire while driving into the base.

AP