Man Opens Fire At Tourists in Jordan's Capital

By Yasmine Mousa
Special to The Washington Post
Tuesday, September 5, 2006

AMMAN, Jordan, Sept. 4 -- A gunman fired on a group of foreign tourists here in the Jordanian capital Monday, killing a British man and wounding seven other people, according to police and witnesses.

The tourists were visiting the ruins of an ancient Roman amphitheater in central Amman when the gunman approached them from behind and fired more than a dozen bullets, witnesses said. The British man, who was not identified, was fatally wounded and six other foreigners -- two British women, two Australian women, a Dutch man and a New Zealander -- were also hit, according to Jordan's official Petra news agency.

A sergeant in Jordan's tourist police who was accompanying the group was struck by two bullets but managed to subdue the gunman.

The shooting shattered the relative calm of Amman, which in recent years has become a refuge for thousands fleeing warfare in neighboring Iraq and nearby Lebanon. The last high-profile attack in the city was in November, when Iraqi suicide bombers killed 60 people in three major hotels.

Prosecutors identified the attacker as Nabeel Ahmed Issa Jaourah, a Jordanian in his thirties from Zarqa province, the home region of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of the insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq who was killed by U.S. forces in June. A government spokesman, Nasser Judeh, said officials were investigating whether Ahmed acted alone or in coordination with a group such as al-Qaeda.

"We will ascertain in the next period whether this was a sole act or whether this individual is a member of a terrorist cell," Prime Minister Marouf al-Bakhit told reporters after a visit to the hospital where the wounded were being treated.

The Associated Press quoted a Jordanian security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, as saying that preliminary investigations found no link between known terrorist groups and Ahmed, a Jordanian of Palestinian origin who worked as a welder. Ahmed is believed to be an observant Muslim who once wore a beard -- traditional among some conservative Muslims -- but he was cleanshaven when he carried out the assault, the official added. Interior Minister Eid al-Fayez called the shooting "a treacherous act . . . a criminal act, way outside our Jordanian, Islamic, Arabic culture."

British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett said she was "extremely saddened" by the shooting. "Acts of violence such as this are as senseless as they are callous," she said in a statement, according to the Associated Press.

The U.S. Embassy said it extended "deepest condolences" to the victims. "We have the utmost confidence in the Jordanian security forces," it added.

Several witnesses told news services that they saw a young man shooting at a group of Western tourists walking near the Roman ruins in Hashemite Square, a downtown area frequented by thousands of Jordanians for work and entertainment.

"I was walking when I saw someone pull out a pistol from his pocket and start shouting ' Allahu akbar ' [God is greatest] and fire repeatedly," Mohammad Jawad Ali, an Iraqi witness, told the Reuters news agency.

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