Gun battles in streets of Amman as police raid 'terror cell'

Police in the Jordanian capital say they have arrested a 12-member "terrorist cell" and seized "large quantities" of arms and ammunition.

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AMMAN // Jordanian police raided the hideouts of alleged weapon and drug traffickers yesterday, which led to rare gun battles in the kingdom’s normally peaceful capital that left one of the suspects dead, officials said.

At least two officers were wounded and 13 suspects were arrested in the raids.

A police statement described the group as a “terror cell,” but also said the suspects were stockpiling large amounts of arms for sale on the black market.

It did not say if the suspects had any ideological or organisation affiliation, nor if they were involved in planning any attacks.

In one raid, targeting a house in eastern Amman’s low-income Nasr district, two suspects opened fire and seriously injured two members of an elite police unit. One suspect was killed during the firefight that lasted more than an hour.

The police statement said the suspects were wanted for crimes including theft and attempted murder.

In a simultaneous raid in the middle-class Sweileh district, 12 other suspects sprayed automatic-weapons fire at raiding police. The police said the suspects, all middle-aged Jordanian men, were arrested and did not report any casualties.

Such violence is unusual in Jordan, although there have been fears that the civil war in neighbouring Syria may spill across the border. A senior Jordanian security official insisted that Wednesday’s sweeps were not connected to Syria.

“These are merely outlaws who have been plotting to disturb public order,” said the security official, insisting on anonymity because he is not allowed to make public statements before an continuing probe is completed.

He said the suspects were drug and arms traffickers, who rented out homes in the Jordanian capital to store “large cache of arms and ammunition” to be sold on the black market for “financial gains.”

He declined to provide other details, saying more information will be released when the investigation is over.

“It was scary. We woke up to a heavy gunfire exchange,” said Sweileh resident Adel Abu-Rahmeh. He said police also used helicopters in the raid.