Protesters tell Jordan’s king to ‘get out’, violence erupts

17 Nov

Protest in Jordan’s capital Amman over hikes in fuel and gas prices


by Al Jazeera

15 November 2012

article abridged & re-edited

Jordan’s rulers have threatened to use an “iron fist” against protesters who incite violence. Opposition groups, meanwhile, pledge to continue the demonstrations which now threaten king Abdullah’s absolute monarchy.

The protests, which erupted on Tuesday across the country in response to the government raising fuel and gas prices, are the largest and most sustained to hit the country since the start of the Arab Spring.

“We will hit with an iron fist those who violated the law by stirring unrest,” Hussein Majali, Jordan’s police chief, said on Thursday.

Armed men, taking advantage of street chaos caused by the protests, fired on two police stations late Wednesday, wounding 17 people, including 13 cops, officials said. One of the attackers was killed in the firefight.

Assailants stormed a police station in Irbid, in the country’s far north, and fired on officers there.

Another police station came under attack in the northern Amman suburb of Shafa Badran, where automatic weapons were used.

In Salt, northwest of the capital Amman, protesters set fire to a civil affairs office.

The scene was less deadly in central Amman on Wednesday night, although up to 1,000 people had spilled onto the streets.

Hundreds of young men gathered at a usually busy road junction in the capital, facing off with riot police, who shot tear gas as tensions rose.

The unrest was not confined to the country’s north. About 2,000 protesters in the city of Karak, 140km south of Amman, shouted: “Down, down with you, Abdullah,” and “Get out and leave us alone” as they marched through the town on Wednesday, breaking shop windows, witnesses and police said.

The violence started on Tuesday night after news spread of the price increases, under which the cost of household gas will rise by 53 percent and petrol around 12 percent.

The measure aims to rein in a bulging budget deficit and secure a US$2 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund.

Minutes after state television announced the price rises, thousands of Jordanians poured into the streets.

The hikes, followed by an 11 percent increase in public transport fares, drew sharp condemnation from the opposition, which warned of civil disobedience in the run-up to January’s general election.

“The street is seething with anger and an explosion is coming,” said Zaki Bani Irsheid, leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Jordan’s most powerful opposition group. “We want to create a Jordanian Spring with a local flavour – meaning reforms in the system while keeping our protests peaceful.”

In Amman on Tuesday, hundreds of demonstrators clashed with riot cops, hurled stones after they were prevented from holding a sit-in near the Interior Ministry on Gamal Abdel Nasser Circle.

They set tyres and garbage bins ablaze and tried to block the main road to nearby Firas Circle, but police stopped them with tear gas, an AFP journalist reported.

Violent demonstrations broke out earlier this week across all twelve of Jordan’s governorates, police said.

Protesters burned tyres to block traffic, and torched 20 or more government offices, including court buildings. Police said at least 120 people were arrested nationwide.

In the southern city of Maan, demonstrators fired in the air to force riot cops out of town, wounding one officer, police stated.

In the northwestern city of Salt, protesters tried to storm the residence of Jordanian prime minister Abdullah Nsur. Police used tear gas and water cannons to stop the occupation attempt.

Protesters have demanded the resignation of Nsur and his 36-day-old government.

Jordan has been hit by frequent, but small, anti-government protests over the past 23 months. This week’s demonstrations, however, have squarely shifted the focus from the government to the king.

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