One dead as protests heat up in Jordan

Published Thursday, November 15, 2012

One person was killed early Thursday and 12 Jordanian policemen were wounded after a police station came under attack in the country’s north amid a wave of nation-wide protests over a huge rise in fuel prices.

"Twelve policemen were injured when a group of gunmen attacked a police station in Irbid. One of the gunmen died in a shootout, while four others were wounded," said a police statement carried by state-run Petra news agency.

Doubts have been cast by sources sympathetic to the protests over whether the man killed was truly a gunman or a protester.

The incident came a day after rioting and clashes erupted in Amman and other cities, including Irbid, and at least one other police station was attacked.

The statement said that in a separate attack in Shafa Badran, near Amman, "gunmen, using automatic weapons, shot and injured a policeman, directly hitting one of his eyes. He is in a critical condition."

The unrest erupted on Tuesday night after Prime Minister Abdullah Nsur announced a 53 percent increase in household cost of gas and a 12 percent rise in petrol prices. The government had cut fuel subsidies in a move to secure a $US two-billion IMF loan.

The hikes, followed by an 11 percent increase in public transport fares, drew sharp condemnation from the opposition Islamists, who warned of "civil disobedience" in the run-up to January general elections.

In Amman, around 500 demonstrators clashed with anti-riot police, hurling stones at them after the protesters were prevented from holding a sit-in near the interior ministry.

The clashes took place as Islamic Action Front chief Hamzeh Mansur held talks with the Interior Minister.
Mansur told AFP the "demonstrations will not stop unless the government cancels that provocative decision.
We have sent a letter to King Abdullah II urging him to cancel it and form a national salvation government."

Protesters have demanded the resignation of Nsur and his 35-day-old government.

Officials said around half of Jordan's 120,000 public school teachers went on strike after answering a call by their union, affecting at least 2,000 schools countrywide.

Nsur said on Tuesday that the price hikes were required to help reduce a government deficit of around $5 billion dollars this year.

As "compensation," the government has said it will pay 420 dinars a year ($592) to families who earn less than 10,000 dinars ($14,000) a year.

The Muslim Brotherhood, the country’s leading Islamist group, has said it will boycott the upcoming elections in protest of constituency boundaries that they say are unfair, and at the failure to move towards a constitutional monarchy with an elected prime minister, rather than one named by the king.

(AFP, Al-Akhbar)

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