12/19/2016, 15.20
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Jordanian priest: Karak attack work of local terrorists to undermine the country's unity

Fr. Rifat Baader speaks of "worrying" attack which is likely to have "repercussions" on the tourism industry. Not a lone wolf attack as in the past, but "an organized group composed mostly of Jordanians". The Latin Vicariate in solidarity with the victims’ family. Christmas prayers for peace in Jordan and around the world.

Amman (AsiaNews) - A "worrisome" attack that targeted both Jordanians and foreigners and which could have "repercussions" on the tourism industry, one of the main resources of the national economy. What is also of concern is the fact that this was no lone wolf attack as in the past but an organized group comprised by mainly Jordanians", says Fr. Rifat Baader, director of the Catholic Center for Studies and Media in Amman, speaking to AsiaNews.  He was commenting on yesterday’s attack on police and the assault on the medieval castle of Karak.

The country is "united" against fundamentalism, terror, violence, the priest adds, "but we are on high alert: this time it was six Jordanian and a Syrian terrorist. Before today we were led to believe that terrorism was a threat from the outside, we now know that there are compatriots who want to undermine national unity and target the country. "

The assault started around noon yesterday. An armed group opened fire on the police, near a center of the town of Karak, a city of 170 thousand inhabitants in the south of Jordan, 150 km from the capital Amman. An Italian hospital is active area managed by nuns, in the lead in the hospitality and assistance for refugees fleeing wars in Syria and Iraq.

Civilians and seven policemen died in the attack. Ten victims in total, including two Jordanian civilians and a Canadian tourist. 27 other people were injured.

The commando then headed towards the castle of Karak, one of the most famous remnants of the Crusades in the region; the assailants broke in and took some visitors hostage, among whom there were also many tourists from Malaysia.

The siege ended in the evening, with a blitz of Jordanian security forces which allowed the release of the hostages. There has been no official communications about the terrorists killed by the SWAT team.

The police reported the seizure of weapons and explosive belts, found in a hideout used by "outlawed terrorists". However, at the moment it is unclear whether the assailants belong to militia groups or have ties to jihadist movements active in the region. Official sources, speaking anonymously, believe that there are "extremists" linked to the Islamic State or al Qaeda behind the attack and that there is the risk of more violence in the coming weeks.

"We do not yet know the affiliation of the terrorists - says Fr. Rifat Baader - and we're still waiting to see if there are official claims. The most worrying thing is that this was a group, composed mostly of Jordanians". The fear is of the presence of "internal cells" ready to sow violence, however the priest emphasizes the "pride of a people" gathered around King Abdullah and the highest state institutions.

"We have confidence in the future - said the director of the Catholic Center for Studies and Media in Amman - yesterday we saw images of ordinary citizens helping the police capture  the terrorists and this is comforting. Every time we get hit, the country is more united and stronger”.

"Of course we must not underestimate the risks - he added - because we are in the middle of a region that is still burning. The wars in Syria and Iraq, the offensive for the liberation of the territories under Daesh control [Arabic acronym for the Islamic State] have pushed the jihadists into neighboring countries including Jordan. We must be careful, but Christians and Muslims of this land are united against terrorism”.

Fr. Rifat does not rule out the danger of "new attacks" and therefore joins the call of Latin Patriarchal Vicar for Jordan, Msgr. Maroun Lahham, who invites us to "pray for peace in Jordan and the region." "Our bishop - said Fr. Rifat – expresses his condolences to the victims' families and asks the churches to pray for peace. There will be no festivities and illuminations, we will reduce celebrations but we will pray and participate in the functions with even greater faith and recollection".

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