Amman (AFP) – Gunmen killed three members of Jordan’s security forces in a shootout Saturday during a raid on a “terrorist” cell a day after an officer died in a rare bomb blast, the government spokeswoman said.
The shootout in the city of Salt, northwest of the capital Amman, came after a home-made bomb exploded Friday under a patrol car at a music festival 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.
“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 had been deployed to protect the town’s annual festival, which hosts prominent Arab music acts.
Later Saturday, security forces raided a house in Salt in search of a suspected “terrorist cell” believed to be behind Friday’s bombing, government spokeswoman Jumana Ghneimat said in a statement.
“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.
Ghneimat did not give details but local Jordanian media, quoting medical sources in Salt, said around 20 people were wounded in the operation.
The security forces eventually arrested three suspects, she said, adding that the operation in Salt was still “ongoing”.
– ‘Cowardly act’ –
Salt lies a few kilometres north of Al-Fuhais, a mostly Christian town.
Ghneimat said that the security forces raided the house in Salt after receiving a tip-off.
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 US-led coalition fighting Islamic State group in neighbouring Syria and Iraq, using its air force against the jihadists and allowing coalition forces to use its bases.
The kingdom 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 IS.
Months later in December a shooting rampage, also claimed by IS, killed 10 people including a Canadian tourist.
On Saturday Prime Minister Omar al-Razzaz vowed that Jordan would “not be complacent in the hunt for terrorists”.
“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,” he said in remarks carried by Petra.
According to the interior ministry the bomb that was planted under the patrol car in Al-Fuhais was “home-made”.
“This cowardly act will not deter the security forces but strengthen their resolve to carry out their sacred duty to maintain the security of citizens,” the ministry said in a statement early Saturday.
An initial report carried by Petra late Friday had said the blast was caused by the explosion of a tear gas grenade.