PEOPLE WALK past a building that was the site of clashes between Jordanian police and Islamist gunmen in the village of Garifla, in Karak, yesterday..
(photo credit: MUHAMMAD HAMED / REUTERS)
This week’s attack on Karak, a tourist destination in Jordan, has left Jordanians reeling amid calls for better security.
ISIS claimed responsibility for a shooting attack that left nine Jordanians and a 62-year-old female Canadian tourist dead. Other tourists hid in the castle during the shootout, which left all four attackers dead.
Linda Vatcher, 62, from Newfoundland, had been visiting her son Chris, who works in the Middle East. He was also wounded.
The interior minister said several other tourists managed to escape.
News reports said police discovered suicide vests and other weapons, strongly suggesting that the gunmen were planning other attacks. Two days later, security forces raided a suspected hideout of the terrorists associated with the attack. Three policeman and a gunman were killed in a firefight.
The two incidents show Jordan’s vulnerability to terrorist attacks.
“Jordanians always felt they are well protected and never expected something like this could happen,” Mohammed Husseiny of the Identity Center told The Media Line.
“When they found out these terrorists are Jordanian, they became angry. At the same time, there is a lot of support in security institutions. All Jordanians are unified behind the army, the police and the special forces.”
Simultaneously, he said, there is anger at government mismanagement and lack of information.
Jordan’s popular King Abdullah has been involved in the hunt for anyone connected to the attack and vowed to intensify measures against terrorism.
State Minister for Media Affairs and Government Spokesman Mohammad Momani urged all citizens not to publish any videos or information regarding any security operation “because it will hinder our work and put our officers in jeopardy. The time now is for all of us to express solidarity with our security forces and leadership by listening to their instructions,” he stressed.
Momani added that there are ongoing operations in Karak and other parts of the kingdom.
Until now, Jordan had been isolated from the violent events in the Middle East. Although the country absorbed more than 650,000 refugees from neighboring Syria, it did not have a strong Islamic State presence.
“Jordan is generally a homogeneous country. There is not a lot of cultural and religious and sectarian differences the way you have in other countries,” said Daoud Kuttab, the director-general of the Community Media Network.
“The monarchy has been clever enough to find the balance between different tribes and communities. Unfortunately there are Jordanians involved with extremists, and some have come back [from fighting in Iraq or Syria].”
Kuttab said the vast majority of Jordanians do not support violence or the goals of Islamic State.
“They are bad apples that must be rooted out,” he said. “The government must take a collective approach in schools, media and the mosques.”
There are also fears in Jordan that the latest attack will decimate the tourism sector, which is already suffering from the general violence in the Middle East.
In 2015, tourism was down from 3.98 million overnight visitors to 3.76 million. Most of those tourists came to see Petra, the ancient Nabatean city carved into rock that is one of the seven natural wonders of the world.
The economy in Jordan is going through a crisis.
Exports have decreased substantially as fighting has engulfed neighboring Iraq. Unemployment and poverty have increased. Now there are fears that the attacks in Karak could lead to a further decline in tourism and more unemployment.