Top Jordan police officer shot dead in fuel price protests
December 17, 2022 08:48 AM
Gunfire killed a senior Jordanian officer and wounded two other police in the country's south, where protesters have taken to the streets for days against rising fuel prices, authorities said on Friday.
Colonel Abdul Razzaq Dalabeh, the deputy police chief of Maan province, was shot in the head on Thursday while officers tried to "calm down riots" in the southern town of Al-Husseiniya, the Public Security Directorate said in a statement.
A separate PSD statement said an officer and a non-commissioned officer "were shot while calming down 'saboteurs' who had staged riots", also in Al-Husseiniya.
Several provinces in the south of Jordan have seen strikes during the past few days. Truck drivers were the first to take action, followed by taxi drivers and then merchants, who closed their premises on Wednesday to protest higher fuel costs.
In some areas the demonstrators blocked roads with burning tyres or scuffled with security officers.
Because of incitement to violence and "calls for chaos," the PSD's cybercrime unit said it suspended operations of the TikTok social video app inside the kingdom, "after its misuse".
Fuel prices in Jordan have nearly doubled compared with a year earlier, particularly the diesel used by trucks and buses, and kerosene for heating.
The government has proposed relief measures including financial aid for the most-affected families.
Global crude prices are up over the past year, and the economic consequences of Russia's February invasion of Ukraine increased economic pain for already-struggling people around the Arab world.
Energy costs have led to protests in Jordan before, including in 2018 when prime minister Hani Mulki resigned after several days of rallies against proposed tax reforms and energy price increases.
"Our only demand is reducing fuel prices," one truck driver, vowing they will remain "steadfast", told Al-Mamlaka state television on Thursday in Maan. He and his colleagues parked their rigs beside a highway and held a sit-in, the images showed.
Another driver quoted by the channel asked: "What would we say to a government whose people couldn't afford food, warmth, and fuel? Is this what we deserve from the government?"
The NetBlocks internet monitor reported that TikTok had been restricted in Jordan "on multiple internet providers".
The PSD said it protects freedom of opinion and peaceful expression but would use "appropriate" force against rioters and vandals.
Government spokesman Faisal Shboul on Twitter said the cabinet condemned the attack "and affirms that the hand of justice will extend to the killers and refer them to a fair judiciary to receive their punishment".
The United States, a close ally of Jordan, on Thursday said US government personnel had been restricted from both personal and official travel to the provinces of Karak, Tafilah, Maan, and Aqaba until further notice.
This was because of "reports of ongoing protests, burning tyres, and throwing stones at vehicles on streets and highways throughout Jordan and particularly in the south," the US embassy in Jordan said.
The World Bank says Jordan is heavily in debt and faces around 23 percent unemployment.
The Hashemite kingdom relies extensively on foreign aid, of which the US in September committed to provide $10.15 billion between 2023 and 2029.
Around 675,000 refugees from neighbouring war-torn Syria are registered with the United Nations in Jordan. Amman estimates the real figure to be about twice that and says the cost of hosting them has exceeded $12 billion.
With multiple tensions around this part of the world, France's Elysee Palace said in early December that a regional summit would take place in Jordan "before the end of the year".
French President Emmanuel Macron is to attend, the palace said at the time after he held a phone call with Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani.