Jordanian search teams pulled the bodies of three suspected militants from the rubble of their hideout, a government official said yesterday, hours after assailants opened fire and set off explosions that killed three members of the security forces trying to storm the building.
The clash late on Saturday was among the deadliest between suspected militants and Jordanian security forces over the past few years. It raised new concerns about attempts by domestic and foreign militants to carry out attacks and destabilize the Western-allied kingdom.
Jordan has played a key role in an international military coalition that helped push back the Islamic State (IS) group in neighboring Syria and Iraq.
The chain of events in Jordan began on Friday when assailants detonated a home-made bomb under a police car guarding a music festival in the predominantly Christian town of Fuheis, west of the capital of Amman.
The blast, labeled a terrorist attack by Jordanian Prime Minister Omar Razzaz, killed a police officer. Jordanian authorities did not say what motivated the Fuheis attackers and there was no claim of responsibility.
Security forces chasing the suspects zeroed in on a multistory building in the town of Salt, near Fuheis, and attempted to storm it late on Saturday.
The suspects holed up inside opened fire and set off powerful explosions, officials said.
A wing of the building collapsed.
In initial statements late on Saturday, government spokeswoman Jumana Ghuneimat said that three members of the security forces were killed and five suspects were in custody.
On Sunday, she added that the bodies of three suspects were pulled out of the rubble.
The Hala Akhbar news Web site, which is linked to Jordanian Armed Forces, said that the suspects are Jordanians the cell had planned to attack security installations and other sensitive targets.
The suspects were armed with explosives, grenades and weapons, the Web site said.
Jordan has been a target for attacks by the IS over the past few years. In June 2016, a cross-border car bombing launched from Syria killed seven Jordanian border guards. In December 2016, a shoot-out at a Crusader castle in the southern town of Karak left 14 people dead, including seven members of the security forces, four militants and three civilians.
Jordan is considered an important security ally, particularly by the US and Israel, which view any signs of unrest there with concern.
The kingdom has cracked down on suspected militants over the past few years, imposing prison terms of several years on suspected sympathizers, including those expressing support for militant ideology on social media.
At the same time, hopelessness and alienation among some of the kingdom’s young people, driven by high youth unemployment, have provided fertile ground for recruitment by militant groups.
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