Tourists attacked by knife-wielding man in Jordan

A lone attacker on Wednesday stabbed eight people, including four foreign tourists and their tour guide, at a popular archaeological site in northern Jordan.

Police said the victims were four Jordanians, three Mexican nationals, and one Swiss national. The identity of the attacker or his motives were not announced. He was later arrested by police.

The incident occurred at the ancient city of Jerash, about 50km (31 miles) north of the capital Amman, one of the country’s top tourist destinations.

Police spokesperson Amer Sartawi said in a statement “several tourists, a tourist’s guide and a police officer were stabbed” by a knife-wielding man in the city known for its Roman ruins.

“The victims have been transported to a hospital and are undergoing treatment,” Sartawi said.

Jordanian tour guide Zouheir Zreiqat was at the scene and told AFP news agency the attack happened “just before midday when around 100 foreign tourists” were at the site.

“A bearded man in his 20s wearing black and brandishing a knife started to stab tourists,” said Zreiqat.

He said others started to shout for help and he along with three other tour guides and three tourists wrestle the assailant down.

“We chased him until we could grab him and get him on the ground,” Zreiqat said. “We took the knife from him. He stayed silent without saying a word until the police arrived and arrested him.”

Bloody scene

Amateur video footage showed a bloody scene next to the Jerash archaeological site. In one video, a woman can be heard screaming in Spanish: “It’s a dagger, it’s a dagger, there is a knife. Please, help him now!”

One woman is seen lying on the ground with blood around her, as someone presses a towel to her back. Another man sits nearby with an apparent leg wound.

Police said the suspect was Mohammad Abu Touaima, 22, who lived in a makeshift home on the edge of the city near a poor Palestinian refugee camp, where unemployment was rife among many of the youth in the area.

“I was about to have a heart attack,” the suspect’s father, Mahmoud, 56, told Reuters news agency. “My son was a loser and his mind was twisted, but he was scared of even slaughtering a baby chick. I am shocked he did this.”

Jordan’s Public Security office said two people, a Mexican woman and a Jordanian security officer, were in serious condition and airlifted to Amman by helicopter.

Mexico’s Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said the attack occurred during a guided tour and confirmed one person was seriously wounded and said a second was in surgery.

“The Jordanian government has supported us throughout this,” he tweeted.

No group claimed responsibility for the attack.

Assaults on tourists in Jordan are rare, but the latest incident comes as the country faces an economic crisis.

Jordan’s economy relies heavily on tourism, and armed groups and lone attackers have in the past targeted tourist sites to embarrass the government or harm the valuable industry.

Last year, four security forces were killed in an attack attributed to groups linked to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS).

A 2016 attack by ISIL killed 14 people, including a Canadian tourist, in the city of Karak, about 120km (75 miles) south of Amman.

In 2005, triple hotel attacks killed at least 23 people, while the following year a British tourist was killed when a gunman opened fire at Roman ruins in Amman.

The tourim sector has enjoyed a strong rebound over the past two years.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES

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