Jordan police vow to strike those who stir unrest

Associated Press Modified: November 15, 2012 at 3:03 pm •  Published: November 15, 2012
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AMMAN, Jordan (AP) — Jordanian authorities will strike those who incite violence during protests with an "iron fist," the country's police chief said Thursday as the Islamist-led opposition vowed to continue demonstrations that have rattled the U.S.-allied kingdom.

The protests, which erupted Tuesday across Jordan in response to the government's hiking fuel and gas prices, are the largest and most sustained to hit the country since the start of uprisings in the region nearly two years ago.

Gunmen taking advantage of street chaos caused by the protests fired on two police stations late Wednesday, wounding 17 people, including 13 police officers, officials said. One of the assailants was killed in the ensuing firefight.

"We will hit with an iron fist those who violated the law by stirring unrest," said Gen. Hussein Majali, adding that he had "zero tolerance" for such actions.

Since Tuesday, 157 protesters — including two Syrian refugees — were arrested for street violence, Majali said. The Syrians confessed to have been paid by an unidentified Jordanian political party to join protests to beef up crowd numbers, he added.

Other "outlaws" with police records took advantage of the disorder to rob banks and homes and carry out carjackings, he said. Assaults on power and police stations and a tourist bus also occurred, and in one incident Wednesday, gunmen hurled a hand grenade at a government office.

One Jordanian protester was killed and 71 others — including 54 policemen — were wounded in 100 violent riots in the past two days, he said.

On Thursday, a national holiday for Islamic New Year, only six protests took place nationwide, a police statement said. In the southern town of Tafila, four policemen were wounded when a handful of gunmen among the 150 protesters fired at them as they stood outside the governor's office.

The demonstrations also spread to the largest of Jordan's 13 camps that host Palestinian refugees, a population which had refrained from protests since the outset of the so-called Arab Spring uprisings. In Baqaa, just outside Amman, residents and police said some 400 young Palestinians pelted riot police with stones and burned tires to block streets, prompting riot police to fire tear gas.

Jordan hosts 2 million Palestinian refugees and their descendants displaced in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

Jamil Abu-Bakr, a leader from the Muslim Brotherhood — which is spearheading the opposition to the price hikes and the ruling system in general — said his group will continue staging street protests until the government's decision is revoked. He said the next demonstration is scheduled for Friday in Amman and a general strike is planned for Sunday.

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