1 killed in anti-government clashes in Jordan

Security forces break up clashes of pro-monarchy supporters, reform protesters; 50 injured; PM to Islamists: Where are you taking Jordan?

By OREN KESSLER, REUTERS
March 25, 2011 23:23
3 minute read.
Water canon hits Jordanian protesters

Jordanian protesters, police water canon 311 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS/Majed Jaber)

 
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A protester was killed and dozens wounded in Jordan on Friday as security forces broke up clashes between supporters of King Abdullah and demonstrators calling for reform.

The government warned it would not tolerate “chaos” as unrest began to spread into the Hashemite kingdom, long one of the Arab world’s most stable countries.

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Prime Minister Marouf al-Bakhit blamed opposition Islamists for the clash in the monarchy, which has seen weeks of protests calling for curbs on the king’s powers. “What happened today is definitely the start of chaos and it is unacceptable and I warn of the consequences,” Bakhit told Jordanian television.

Addressing Islamists whom he said were taking orders from Egypt and Jordan, he said: “Enough playing with fire. I ask you, where are you taking Jordan?” Jordan’s Islamist opposition, leftists and trade unions demanded Bakhit’s ouster Saturday, AFP reported, placing the number of injured in Friday’s protests at 130. DPA reported that 58 of those wounded were policemen.

“The Islamist movement demands the resignation, or the sacking, of the government and the formation of a national unity and reformist government that would win the people’s trust and protect their lives,” said Hamzah Mansur, chief of the powerful Islamic Action Front, the political arm of Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood. “Any government that kills citizens loses legitimacy.”

Youth movements also backed the move, AFP reported. “We demand the prime minister and intelligence chief quit,” Firas Mahadin of the March 24 youth group told reporters.

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“We have reached a point of no return.”

His father, Muwaffaq Mahadin, a prominent leftist writer, warned “the country is heading towards a civil war and the government is responsible for that because it wants to avoid reforms.”

The family of the dead protester said he was beaten up by security forces, but the official Petra news agency said he died after he suffered a stab wound in the chest during the clashes which police were trying to quell.

Hussein al-Majali, the head of general security, said security forces did not use excessive force and the protester who died suffered from a heart attack. “Security forces had nothing to do with it,” he said.

Islamist, leftist, liberal and tribal figures have staged protests and sit-ins over the past few weeks calling for a constitutional monarchy in Jordan.

King Abdullah responded to the anti-government protests by sacking an unpopular prime minister last month and replacing him with Bakhit, a former intelligence general, in a step seen as dealing a blow to Islamist and liberal hopes for reform.

Dissent has built up and the opposition, disgruntled with the slow pace of promised political reforms, has become more vocal in its calls for change.

A Reuters cameraman was beaten up by pro-monarchy supporters and Jordanian security forces. His camera was broken. A photographer at the scene, Rabie Zureiqat, said security officers took his camera beat him with batons.

On Friday, protesters chanted slogans against the interference of intelligence agents in political activities and called out against the head of intelligence, Mohammed Raqqad.

They also chanted “Peaceful, peaceful” and “We love Jordan.”

“The people want to bring down political parties,” chanted the pro-monarchy crowd, which also raised pictures of King Abdullah.

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