Jordan says attack on police 'terrorist act'

 

Jordan's interior minister on Sunday described an attack by Islamist Salafist demonstrators on police as "a terrorist act," after more than 90 people were hurt in the violent protests two days ago.

"The aggression on policemen and citizens by a Takfiri group was a real terrorist act, and I am not exaggerating," Saad Hayel Srur told a news conference.

"They had the ill intention to escalate and carry out their attack, thinking that they can to achieve whatever is in their minds even through bloodshed."

More than 90 people, most of them policemen, were hurt on Friday when protesters from the ultra-conservative Sunni Muslim Salafi movement armed with swords, daggers and clubs attacked police in the northern city of Zarqa.

"So far 103 members of the Salafi group have been arrested," Srur said.

A member of the Salafist movement told AFP on Saturday that 22 prominent figures of the Islamist group including its chief in Jordan, Abdul Shahatah al-Tahawi, were among those detained.

Prime Minister Maaruf Bakhit has accused the Islamists of belonging to an armed organisation, and said his government would take a tough line against rioters.

Unlike pro-reform protests in Jordan in recent weeks, the Salafist demonstrators have been demanding the release of 90 Islamist prisoners.

Among those they want freed is Abu Mohammed al-Maqdessi, the one-time mentor of slain Al-Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was from Zarqa.

The group has been protesting for several weeks and has also staged demonstrations in Amman.

Takfiri ideology is a violent offshoot of the Salafi movement, sanctioning violence, particularly against fellow Muslims considered infidels.

The Salafists espouse an austere form of Sunni Islam that seeks a return to practices that were common in the early days of the faith.

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