World News

Anti-government riots hit Jordan desert city

AMMAN (Reuters) - Rioters in the town of Maan in southern Jordan set fire to government buildings and police cars on Tuesday in a protest against the killing of two men this week, prompting the government to send security forces to the area to restore order.

Witnesses said hundreds of rioters angry at the authorities’ failure to arrest the culprits behind Monday’s killings spilt on to the streets of the desert town, setting a court building alight and damaging businesses.

“They hurled stones and burnt tyres in the main streets of the city. Other groups of rampaging masked youths burnt the local court,” said one witness, Ibrahim Kreishan.

Security officials confirmed troubles had erupted and tear gas was used to disperse hundreds of people who had attacked government property and damaged private shops.

Residents said the unrest followed the funeral of two workers from prominent tribes who were believed killed in a labour dispute on Monday by Bedouins from the powerful Hwaitat tribe.

They said Hwaitat tribe members were angered that rival tribes from the city of Maan were employed in their hometown in Shidiya, nearly 70 km (45 miles) south of Maan, to build a multi-million dollar water project.

Most of the businesses attacked in Maan on Tuesday belonged to members of the Hwaitat tribe.

Maan is a tribal stronghold of over 40,000 people about 250 km (156 miles) south of the capital Amman, which is known for its defiance of central authority.

The impoverished city has the been scene of violent civil unrest in recent years and Muslim fundamentalists have long been active among its residents, many of whom carry weapons and have resisted pressure to disarm.

Inter-tribal violence has been on the rise in Jordan where tribes, who are the original inhabitants of the country, form the backbone of support for the Hashemite dynasty.

In 2009 the kingdom suffered its worst economic performance since an economic crisis in 1989 when it was forced to seek help from the International Monetary Fund.

The downturn is making it more difficult for the state to satisfy demands of Jordanians for state jobs as proceeds from foreign aid and tax revenues have shrunk, analysts say.

Writing by Suleiman al-Khalidi; Editing by Dominic Evans and Noah Barkin