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Jordanian Forces Sweep City for Islamic Militants

November 11, 2002|From Reuters

AMMAN, Jordan — Four people were killed and scores injured in clashes in the southern Jordanian city of Maan during a major government sweep to round up Islamic activists, witnesses and officials said.

Witnesses said heavy gunfire broke out at dawn between hundreds of masked, armed youths and police after security forces stormed the city, allegedly to search for militants linked to the killing of a U.S. diplomat last month.

The state-run Petra news agency quoted an official source as saying four people had died -- three gunmen "who had opened fire at security forces" and one police officer. It said another police officer was seriously wounded.

Witnesses said scores of people were wounded by gunfire and rushed to the hospital.

Speaking on state television, Interior Minister Qaftan Majali accused "armed outlaw groups" of being behind the clashes. He said people from other Arab countries were among those arrested with ammunition and automatic weapons in their possession. He did not elaborate.

Authorities cut telephone lines to Maan on Sunday, and the city of 40,000 was under curfew, with all government offices and schools closed, witnesses and residents said.

"Heavy gunfire can be heard across the city," one resident said by phone.

One official said the crackdown was aimed at those who might foment unrest or carry out sabotage in the event of a U.S. war against Iraq.

The Islamic Action Front, the country's largest opposition party, issued a statement warning the government not to risk "an escalation in the situation and widening of its repercussions" that could endanger national security at a time of looming war.

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