Terror angle not ruled out as Jordan Karak castle siege ends; 10 dead

The gunmen carried automatic weapons, large quantities of explosives and suicide belts.

Armed gunmen carry out attack at Jordan Kerak Castle
Part of the Kerak Castle where armed gunmen carried out an attack is seen, in the city of Karak, Jordan, December 18, 2016. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed

Jordanian security personnel have ended the deadly siege at a medieval crusader castle near capital Amman where gunmen killed 10 people on Sunday.

Shootings in Karak castle, 120km south of Amman, killed seven security officers, a Canadian tourist and two local civilians. Nearly 30 people including several security officers were injured and scores were feared trapped in the premises as gunmen, initially thought to be round 10 in number, took shelter in the castle.

Late on sunday Joradnainan offficials said the siege had ended and at least four gunmen were shot dead in the operation at the castle, an important crusade era landmark. It's not yet clear who the government thinks was behind the attack – whether it was part of a revenge attack by local tribal militia or one launched by Isis-affiliated militant outfits.

"Police and security forces ... surrounded the castle and its vicinity and launched an operation to hunt down the gunmen," the general security department said in a statement carried by official Petra news agency.

Security officials dispelled rumors that more tourists could have been trapped in the citadel's lower floor where assailants had taken position. "There are no hostages. But some people who were on a lower floor were afraid of leaving as the gunmen traded fire with the security forces," a source told Al Jazeera.

Jordan Prime Minister Hani al-Mulki made a statement in the parliament abut the attack but did not divulge any clue as to who is behind the attack.

Reuters cited top security officers terming the gunmen "terrorist outlaws". The gunmen carried automatic weapons, large quantities of explosives and suicide belts the agency reported.

A government spokesman appeared to allay fears of a targeted terror attack, saying the incident could have been a spill off of violence in the broader region. "When we are in a region engulfed with fire from every side you expect that such events happen," government spokesman Mohammad al-Momani said.

However, a former government minister, Sameeh Maaytah, suggested that Islamist militants could have been behind the attack . "This was a group that was plotting certain operations inside Jordan," he told Arab news channel al-Hadath.

Media reports citing local officials said the gunmen came from the desert town of Qatraneh, which is notorious smuggling activity. The desert city, about 30 km northeast of Karak, is known to have several tribal armed groups who have resisted government authority in the past.

Jordan is a key partner in the US-led coalition against the Islamic State group of terrorists. The country was shaken by the footage of the Isis militants burning one of its fighter pilots alive in a cage in Syria in December 2014. Jordan later witnessed deadly Isis-led attacks on its border regions. Karak is the home town of fighter pilot Moaz al-Kassasbeh.