AMMAN (AFP)- A British tourist was killed and five other Western holidaymakers wounded in the centre of the Jordanian capital when a gunman opened fire at them in what officials have said was a “terror” attack.
A tourist policeman was also wounded in the shooting at a Roman amphitheatre in the city centre and the assailant, a Jordanian, arrested, the officials said Monday.
“The British gentleman has passed away,” government spokesman Nasser Jawdeh told AFP.
The other tourists wounded in the attack were two British women, a female visitor from Australia, a New Zealand female tourist and one Dutch male tourist, Jawdeh said.
“The gunman is a Jordanian national. He was apprehended and an investigation is under way,” he added.
Interior Minister Eid Fayez told reporters the gunman apparently acted alone and described the incident as a “terror” attack.
“We don’t know if he had any partners but certainly this was a terror attack in every sense of the word,” Fayez said.
“We consider the assailant to be a terrorist until proven otherwise but in any case we are studying his case because he could be a mentally disturbed or crazy individual,” Fayez said.
“We, as a government and as a people, are sorry for this operation and hopefully it is only an isolated incident that will have no effect on security and tourism.”
Fayez said the injuries sustained by the wounded were minor.
The British embassy said that a consular team was rushed to the area but could not immediately confirm the identity of the victim or those injured in the shooting.
The French embassy reacted to the attack by sending an advisory to its nationals in Jordan urging them to observe caution in their movements.
“Until we receive further information, we recommend prudence in your movements and invite you to avoid the city centre where traffic is disrupted,” read the message sent to French companies and nationals in Jordan.
The attack occurred in mid-morning when the foreign tourists, escorted by a tourist policeman who also served as a guide, were visiting the city centre amphitheatre.
A witness, Mohammed Jawad, told AFP that the assailant opened fire twice at the group before he was arrested by police, already deployed in the area as part of security measures since hotel bombings in November.
“The gunman fired around 14 rounds after climbing the steps of the amphitheatre shouting Allahu Akhbar (God is greatest),” the witness said.
Another witness told AFP that two street cleaners from Amman municipality who were in the area helped police to arrest the assailant.
Police threw a cordon around the area, AFP correspondents at the scene said. Dozens of anti-riot and counter-terrorism police also fanned out in the area.
The attack is the first to rock the Jordanian capital since November 9 last year when triple suicide bombings on three Amman hotels killed 60 people.
The attacks were claimed by the Al-Qaeda in Iraq group of Jordanian-born Islamist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was killed in a US air strike on June 7.
A Jordanian man whose wedding was devastated by one of the bombings urged a court to publicly hang an Iraqi woman who failed to detonate her device and is now standing trial for the attacks.
Sajida al-Rishawi is the only person facing prosecution. A verdict in her trial is expected to be announced soon and, if found guilty, she could face the death penalty.
Her husband blew himself up at the wedding party.
The bombings dealt a severe blow to Jordan, a close US ally which was regarded as one of the most stable countries in the volatile Middle East.
In August 2005, assailants fired rockets at two US warships moored in Aqaba, Jordan’s only port, and at the adjacent Israeli resort of Eilat.
There were no US or Israeli casualties but a Jordanian soldier was killed and another wounded in the attacks which were also claimed by Zarqawi’s group.
Last month, Jordan’s military prosecutor demanded the death penalty for six Syrian nationals and an Iraqi accused of involvement in the Aqaba attacks and urged the state security court to jail six other suspects.
Monday’s shooting also came less than a week after Jordanian MPs adopted a new anti-terrorism law to crack down on the violence.