Security forces are seen near a damaged building one day after the security incident, at the city of Al Salt, Jordan. Image Credit: Reuters

Dubai: Gunmen killed four members of Jordan’s security forces in a shootout Saturday during a raid on a “terrorist” cell a day after an officer died in a bomb blast, the government spokeswoman said.

The shootout in the city of Salt, northwest of the capital Amman, came after a home-made bomb exploded Friday under a patrol car at a music festival killing one security force member and wounding six others.

A Jordanian official was quoted by Reuters as saying that the number of troops killed during a raid of a suspected militant hideout has risen to four.

The clash late on Saturday in the central town of Salt was among the deadliest between troops and suspected extremists in recent years.

It raised new concerns about attempts by domestic and foreign militants to carry out attacks and destabilize the kingdom.

Government spokeswoman Jumana Ghuneimat initially said three members of the security forces were killed when suspects holed up inside a building opened fire and set off explosions.

A fourth member of the force died later.

Security forces had been deployed to protect the town’s annual festival, which hosts prominent Arab music acts.

Suspects

The Hala Akhbar news website linked to Jordan's military said on Sunday that the suspects are Jordanians and that the cell planned to attack security installations and other sensitive targets.

Government spokeswoman Jumana Ghuneimat initially said three suspects were in custody, but later raised the number to five.

Authorities did not provide details about their affiliation.

The Raid

Jordanian security forces raided a house in Salt after receiving a tip-off on Saturday.

The suspected “terrorist cell” believed to be behind Friday’s bombing is hiding inside a building, government spokeswoman Jumana Ghneimat said in a statement.

“The suspects refused to surrender and opened heavy fire toward a joint security force,” Ghneimat said.

The suspects also “blew up the building in which they were hiding, and which they had booby-trapped earlier,” she said, adding that part of the building “collapsed” during the raid.

The security forces were killed in the shootout and several others, including civilians, were wounded, said Ghneimat, who is also minister of state for media affairs.

Local Jordanian media, reported that 20 people were wounded in the operation, according to medical workers.

'Cowardly act'

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Friday's bomb blast and the identity of the suspects in Salt was not immediately known.

The kingdom was hit by a string of jihadist attacks in 2016, including a suicide bombing in June that killed seven guards near the border with Syria that was claimed by Daesh.

Months later in December a shooting rampage, also claimed by Daesh, killed 10 people including a Canadian tourist.

On Saturday Prime Minister Omar Razzaz vowed that Jordan would “not be complacent in the hunt for terrorists”.

“Jordan will always be at the forefront of the fight against terrorism and obscurantist ideas which target the lives of innocents and try to undermine security and stability,” he said in remarks carried by Petra.

 “This cowardly act will not deter the security forces but strengthen their resolve to carry out their sacred duty to maintain the security of citizens,” the ministry said in a statement early Saturday.