AMMAN, Jordan – Four policemen were killed Tuesday in an exchange of fire with wanted men in a central Jordanian province where assailants had killed 10 people in a series of ambushes earlier this week, state media said.
Government spokesman Mohammed Momani told reporters Tuesday night that one fugitive was killed and one wounded.
“The operation will continue and will not stop until we uproot terrorism from our country,” Momani said in quotes published by the state-run Petra news agency.
State media said police officers came under fire during a raid of a suspected hideout of fugitives. Petra said the cell targeted Tuesday was not connected to those involved in Sunday’s attacks in Karak.
Earlier Tuesday, the extremist group Islamic State (I.S.) claimed responsibility for Sunday’s shootings which killed nine Jordanians and a tourist from Canada.
Sunday’s shootings were the bloodiest in Jordan in recent memory and raised new concerns about the rise of Islamic militancy in the pro-Western kingdom.
Jordan plays a key role in the U.S.-led military campaign against I.S., which seized large areas in neighboring Iraq and Syria in 2014 and proclaimed a “caliphate” there.
The back-to-back violent clashes between security forces and armed men this week undermine the kingdom’s claim to be an oasis of stability in a region increasingly threatened by Islamic extremists.
Sunday’s shootings took place in the town of Qatraneh in Karak province and in the provincial capital of Karak city.
Hours after an initial attack on a police patrol in Qatraneh, four gunmen were killed by Jordanian security forces during a standoff at Karak Castle, a Crusader fortress and popular tourist destination.
The I.S. claim of responsibility was published Tuesday on “Shumoukh al-Islam,” a password-protected website affiliated with the extremist group.
The statement said that “four soldiers of the caliphate” armed with machine guns and hand grenades carried out the attacks, killing 10 “apostates.” It said the four I.S. fighters were engaged in “fierce clashes lasting several hours” with Jordanian forces before being killed.
The statement threatened more attacks in anti-I.S. coalition member states. “We promise the Crusader coalition countries something worse and more severe, Allah permitting … ,” it said.
Jordanian officials have refused to identify the attackers.
Seven members of the Jordanian security forces, two local bystanders and the Canadian tourist were killed in the attacks which also left 34 people wounded.
Jordan has been facing homegrown extremism; hundreds of Jordanians are fighting alongside other I.S. militants in Iraq and Syria and several thousand more are believed to support the extremist group in the kingdom.
Earlier this year, I.S. claimed responsibility for a deadly cross-border attack from Syria on a Jordanian border post.