At least three were killed, including a police officer, and several others were injured in a raid on Saturday on a building in the town of Salt, where terrorists were holed up, a senior official announced.
The crackdown came in connection with the terrorist attack on a joint Gendarmerie-police patrol stationed in Fuheis a day earlier, said Minister of State for Media Affairs and Government Spokesperson Jumana Ghunaimat, who is also the government spokesperson.
Meanwhile, three suspects were arrested in the raid that also resulted in the suspects reportedly blowing up the building where they have barricaded themselves, Ghunaimat explained.
“Following intense and delicate investigations, a special force decided to raid a building in Salt Governorate that was believed to be the hideout of the suspects,” Ghunaimat told The Jordan Times.
The suspects reportedly refused to surrender and instead started shooting at the joint force that surrounded their building, according to Ghunaimat.
The suspects engaged in a heavy fire exchange with the special police force and they eventually detonated the building, a large part of which collapsed. The fire exchange resulted in the death of a police officer,” the official said, adding that the security operation was still ongoing.
Meanwhile, officials at Al Salt Government Hospital said dozens of people were rushed to the hospital by ambulances suffering from various injuries.
“We received dozens of cases and every staff member at the hospital is heavily engaged in rescuing people and performing operations,” the medical source said.
Later in the evening, Ghunaimat issued a note appealing to the public not to issue videos or names of wounded persons related to the Salt incident, as that would compromise the ongoing security operation.
In another statement, the minister said that the operation entered a second phase “with highly professional planning...to secure the site and make sure that there were no civilians threatened by the suspects”.
She added that people could have heard sounds of explosions in the area as forces were cleaning the site from explosives.
Earlier in the day, the Interior Ministry said a primitive explosive device was the cause of an explosion that ripped through the Gendarmerie vehicle that was stationed near Fuheis Festival leaving one officer dead and six others injured.
The incident occurred at around 7:30pm on Friday and targeted a Gendarmerie vehicle that was parked near the premises of the Fuheis Festival, resulting in the death of Gendarmerie officer Ali Qoqazeh, according to a statement by the Ministry of Interior.
“The investigations indicated that a primitive explosive device was planted in an area before a Gendarmerie and Public Security Department force was to take its regular position near the Fuheis Festival,” the Interior Ministry statement indicated.
Prime Minister Omar Razzaz issued a statement via his Twitter account, expressing his condolences to “our hero the martyr Ali Qoqazeh, who sacrificed his life for the sake of the nation and its security”.
Razzaz stressed that Jordan will “always be a sharp sword raised in the face of terrorism”.
Interior Minister Samir Mubaidin and other top security agencies’ directors visited the scene of the explosion on Friday, the Jordan News Agency, Petra, reported.
“This cowardly attack will only increase the security agencies’ determination to maintain their holistic duty of safeguarding the lives of citizens and their properties,” the Interior Ministry statement said, adding that “our security agencies vow to hunt for these cowardly groups and to inflict upon them the maximum punishment, along with anyone who attempts to tamper with the safety and security of our nation”.
Fuheis, some 12km west of Amman, has been hosting the Fuheis Festival for around 30 years. This year 27th edition lasted between August 2 and 10, hosting stars and bands from the Arab world who performed in concerts and poetry evenings, which attracted around 10,000 to 20,000 visitors.
University of Jordan employee Heba Rihani was at Fuheis Festival, waiting for the concert by Tunisian Singer Saber Rebai when the explosion happened.
“I received a call from my son asking me if I was okay because they heard news of an explosion in the premises,” Rihani told The Jordan Times, adding that she did not hear “any explosion because they were trying the sound and were playing music”.
“We did not hear anything but the phone calls continued to pour on me and others around me asking about our well-being,” she recounted.
Before the concert began, Rihani maintained, “the organisers informed us that there had been an unfortunate incident that claimed the life of a Gendarmerie officer and we all stood up for a moment of silence in his honour”.
Arab and foreign countries, regional and international organisations reacted to the terror attack, voicing solidarity with Jordan in the face of terrorists.
Local civil society also issued statements condemning the terrorist attack and urging steadfastness as the country rises up to combat terrorism and radicalism (see separate story).
Dozens of friends and relatives of Qoqazeh expressed their sadness, anger and sympathies over his death.
Thamer Majali wrote on his Facebook page: “Ali Qoqazeh has been married for eight months and was expecting a baby in four months. May his soul rest in peace.”
Maha Tarawneh added: “These people are cowards and their hands are tainted with the blood of the innocent”.
Qoqazeh was laid to rest on Saturday in his hometown of Souf in Jerash.
His father was quoted by Petra as saying that his son was doing his job defending the security of the country and he sacrificed his life in the line of duty, adding that “every Jordanian is a potential martyr”.