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70 Islamists arrested after clashes in Jordan

AMMAN, April 16, 2011 (AFP) - Jordanian security forces arrested 70 persons after violent protests in which many people were hurt, most of them policemen, a security official told AFP on Saturday.

The suspects, members of the ultra-conservative Sunni Muslim Salafist movement, were rounded up during raids on Friday in the town of Zarqa and nearby Rassifeh, hours after Islamist protesters attacked police, the official said.

An official who declined to be named said initially 120 people were detained, but 50 of them were later released while 70 were quizzed for involvement in the violence in Zarqa, a northern industrial town.
Those found guilty would be prosecuted, he added. A member of the Salafist movement meanwhile told AFP that 22 prominent figures of the Islamist group including its chief in Jordan, Abdul Shahatah al-Tahawi, were among those detained. More than 90 people, most of them policemen, were hurt Friday when Islamist Salafist demonstrators armed with swords, daggers and clubs attacked police in Zarqa during protests.

“Fifty-one policemen, including senior officers, were stabbed with knives, beaten with bats or hit with sharp tools,” Lieutenant General Hussein Majali told a news conference after Friday's violence. He said 32 other policemen were treated for tear gas inhalation while eight civilians were also hurt “when police fired tear gas and tried to stop Islamist Salafist demonstrators from attacking shoppers in Zarqa.”It was clear the demonstrators had plans to clash with police. They carried swords and daggers and were provocative, seeking to drag police into a bloody confrontation,” he said.

Unlike other protests calling for reform that have rocked Jordan in recent weeks, the Salafist demonstrators have been demanding the release of 90 Islamist prisoners. Among those they want freed is Abu Mohammed al-Maqdessi, the one-time mentor of slain Al-Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who hailed from Zarqa.

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