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Thursday, January 6, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Killing of Bedouins sparks anti-government riots in Jordan

AMMAN — Thousands of people have battled security forces in the southern Jordanian city of Maan in the third major incident of unrest in as many months. The rioters torched government buildings and police vehicles in protest of the killing of two Bedouin men earlier this month.


"The situation is now calm and stable," Jordanian Interior Minister Saad Hayel Sarour said.

The riots took place on Jan. 4-5 in wake of a clash in which two people were killed in a dispute between rival clans at a water project outside Maan, Middle East Newsline reported. Officials said agitators exploited inter-tribal tension to fuel unrest in the southern province of Maan, with a population 60,000 and dominated by the opposition Muslim Brotherhood. They said at least 37 people were arrested.

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"We will not be lenient with the small group that took advantage of the incidents in the Maan province to destabilize the area and disrupt the life of its residents," a Jordanian government statement said.

This marked the third major bout of riots in Jordan in as many months. In November and December, riots swept through Salt and Amman in incidents that involved soccer violence and a Bedouin shooting.

"We will search and arrest those proven to have been involved in the [Maan] riots," Public Security director Lt. Gen. Hussein Majali said.

Witnesses said Bedouin mobs, who shouted anti-government slogans, destroyed government offices, stores and vehicles in wake of the killing of two members of a local tribe. In one attack, Bedouin gunmen opened fire on a police station in Maan. Most of the shops destroyed were said to have belonged to the Hweitat tribe.

In another assault, a courthouse was torched and heavily damaged. In all, at least three people were injured in the clashes.

The assailants were identified as members of the Hweitat tribe, located in the village of Mreigha south of Maan, witnesses said. They said officials promised to arrest suspects over the next few days. Hweitat was identified as one of the most powerful tribes in Jordan and had demanded additional government jobs.

The Interior Ministry ordered the reinforcement of security forces in Maan and established roadblocks around the city. Officials said officers were directed to use non-lethal means in an attempt to contain the violence.

"We are committed to enforcement of state sovereignty and law and order," Majali said.

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