Amid economic decline and high unemployment, resentment is building among the country’s youth.
Armed men have killed 10 people, including security officers and a Canadian tourist, in southern Jordan where security forces have reportedly shot four unidentified attackers.
A government spokesperson told Jordanian news media on Sunday evening that the security operation in al-Karak, a city 120km south of capital Amman, had come to an end.
Jordan’s general security department said seven security officers, a female Canadian tourist and two local civilians were killed in the series of shootings.
It said that besides the dead, 27 others, including security officers and civilians, were wounded in the assault.
The Canadian government confirmed the death of one of its nationals.
A separate police statement said that “a number of outlaws who committed ugly crimes this afternoon” had been killed and that security forces were combing the city’s Crusader-era castle for more assailants.
Reports of house fire
The first attack occurred when a security patrol went to check on a fire that had broken out in a house in Karak, the general security department said.
“As soon as they reached the area, unknown gunmen who were inside the house opened fire on the patrol, wounding a policeman, and then fled by car,” it said in a statement carried by the official Petra news agency.
“Shortly afterwards, gunmen opened fire on another patrol without causing any casualties.”
At the same time, assailants in the citadel, a well-known tourist destination, opened fire on the Karak police station, “wounding several policemen and passers-by” who were taken to hospital.
“Police and security forces … surrounded the castle and its vicinity and launched an operation to hunt down the gunmen,” the statement said.
A senior security source said some people were trapped in a lower floor of the citadel when the assailants took shelter there, but denied media reports that they were being held hostage.
“There are no hostages. But some people who were on a lower floor were afraid of leaving as the gunmen traded fire with the security forces,” said the source who did not wish to be identified.
He said that the fighters were on a higher level inside the fortress.
The Jordan Tourism Board described the Karak citadel, which dates back to the 12th century and has withstood many sieges, as a “maze of stone-vaulted halls and endless passageways”.
No responsibility claim
The general security department statement said “five or six gunmen” were thought to have been involved in the shootings.
However, Hani al-Mulki, Jordan’s prime minister, who was addressing parliament at the time of the shootings, said that “special forces and policemen are surrounding 10 gunmen holed up inside the Karak citadel”.
It was not immediately clear who was behind the shootings.
Witnesses posted purported amateur videos and images of the incidents on social media.
Several incidents over the past year have shaken Jordan, a leading member of the US-led coalition battling the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group in neighbouring Iraq and Syria.
Jordan has carried out air strikes targeting ISIL fighters and hosts coalition troops on its territory.
Moaz al-Kasasbeh, a Jordanian fighter pilot, was captured by ISIL, also known as ISIS, when his plane went down in Syria in December 2014 and he was later burned alive in a cage.
Karak is Kasasbeh’s hometown.
In June, a suicide bombing claimed by ISIL killed seven border guards near the Syrian frontier.
According to sources close to ISIL, almost 4,000 Jordanians have joined armed groups in Iraq and Syria, where an estimated 420 have been killed since 2011.