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JORDAN

Canadian tourist, police officers killed in Jordan gun attacks

CC, Wikipedia | The Karak Crusader castle is one of the largest of its kind in the Levant.
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Gunmen attacked police patrols in the historic southern Jordanian city of Karak Sunday, killing five people, including a Canadian female tourist and four police officers, according to Jordanian security sources.

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At least nine people were also wounded in the attack, which started when gunmen fired at a police patrol that went to check on a fire that broke out in a house in Karak, according to a statement released by Jordan's general security department.

"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," a statement carried by the official Petra news agency said.

"Shortly afterwards, gunmen opened fire on another patrol without causing any casualties," it added.

At the same time, gunmen holed up in a Crusader castle opened fire on the Karak police station, "wounding several policemen and passersby" who were rushed to hospital, the statement added.

"Police and security forces have surrounded the castle and its vicinity and launched an operation to hunt down the gunmen," the statement continued, adding that the search was still under way.

The department said "five or six gunmen" were thought to be involved in the shootings.

However, Prime Minister Hani al-Malki, who was addressing parliament at the time of the attacks, said that "special forces and policemen are surrounding 10 gunmen holed up inside the Karak citadel".

Reports of tourists trapped in castle

Jordanian security sources also told reporters the gunmen were holed up inside the Karak castle, where several tourists were believed to be trapped. The attackers were firing at police officers from within the castle, a security source told Reuters.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the assault, but a security source said that a militant attack had not been ruled out.

The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan shares a 379-kilometre border with Syria and a 179-kilometre border with Iraq and has been vulnerable to attacks since the launch of the Syrian uprising.

Jordan is a close ally of the US and an active member of the US-led coalition against the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq. Jordan has also hosted US military officials training moderate Syrian rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad's troops and militia fighters allied to Assad.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)

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