Jordanians protest over fuel price rises

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By Suleiman Al-Khalidi

AMMAN (Reuters) – Jordanian activists called for more protests over fuel price rises that have added to a cost-of-living squeeze, after riots in a southern city left one police officer dead, witnesses and security sources said.

Authorities said the policeman was killed on Thursday night by a gunshot fired by an unidentified individual when armed officers entered a neighbourhood of Maan to quell riots.

Tensions have mounted in Maan and several cities in southern Jordan in particular after sporadic strikes by truck drivers protesting against high fuel prices and demanding cuts in diesel prices.

Interior Minister Mazen Farrayeh told a news conference that the government will take tough steps and redeploy more anti-riot police against people who protest violently.

“We have seen a large jump in violent acts,” he said. “After what happened, there will be tougher security measures to reinforce the security forces in the areas that witness such acts.”

Jordanian police forces at one of the positions across the desert road near Ma’an, Southern Jordan, after news of the death of Colonel Abdul Razzaq Dalabeeh, Deputy Police Director of Ma’an Governorate. The Jordanian Public Security Directorate (PSD) said that Dalabeeh was shot in the head on 15 December in Al-Husseiniya area in the southern Jordanian city of Maan as policemen were trying to calm down riots. In a separate statement on 16 December, the PSD said that an officer and a non-commissioned officer were shot while calming down ‘saboteurs’ who had staged riots in the Al-Hussainiya, adding that the two officers were taken to a hospital. Protests and riots erupted overnight due to high fuel prices while several strikes were staged across the country including truck and taxi drivers. EPA-EFE/STR

Police said in a statement that 40 officers were wounded by gunshots last night and that protesters smashed cars. The force later said it had arrested 44 people in connection with the unrest.

Streets were quieter during the day on Friday, but sporadic protests continued with a sit-in in front of Maan’s main mosque and a mosque in the capital Amman after prayers, while activists called for more demonstrations.

By the evening, there were no reports of the full-blown confrontations seen the previous night when riot police chased scores of youths throwing stones in Amman, Zarqa, Irbid and other cities in some of the most widespread civil unrest seen in recent years.

In the most significant unrest, security forces used tear gas to disperse angry crowds in Zarqa city, and protesters set fire to tyres on highways in the southern city of Karak and several other towns, disrupting traffic, witnesses said.

Internet users and activists said internet services slowed in several regions, disrupting the social media platforms activists used to share footage of clashes with police.

The government has promised to examine truck strikers’ demands but says it has already paid more than 500 million dinars ($700 million) to cap fuel prices this year

Jordan say it needs to maintain fiscal prudence under an under an International Monetary Fund (IMF)-backed structural economic reform programme that has helped it cushion the country’s economy.

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