A Jordanian police captain shot dead at least five people, including two American instructors, at a police training center in Amman on Monday, raising concerns of a possible Islamist infiltration.
The shooting spree in a canteen at the King Abdullah Training Center also killed a South African trainer and two Jordanians translators, reports The Associated Press. It ended when the assailant was shot to death. The AP reports that six additional people, including two Americans, were wounded in the attack.
Authorities identified the gunman as Anwar Abu Zeid, a Jordanian. His relatives told Reuters he was not an extremist, expressing disbelief that the father of two could have committed such an assault. His uncle, Sulaiman Abu Zeid, told Reuters that the family would not accept his body "until the truth was uncovered.”
Jordanian and US officials said it was premature to speculate on the motive of the gunman while the case is under investigation, reports The New York Times. A government spokesman confirmed the shooting on Tuesday, but Jordanian officials have released few other details.
Jordan is a staunch ally of the United States and has participated in the US-led air campaign against Islamic State (IS) in neighboring Syria and Iraq for the past year. The US gives Jordan $1.5 billion annually in military aid. This alliance puts Jordan in a position that officials say leaves it vulnerable to jihadist attacks.
"This incident sadly does not come as a surprise, as the threat of Islamist terrorism has only increased in the region in the last few years in the aftermath of Syria and Iraq,” a senior Jordanian official who requested anonymity, citing political sensitivities, told Reuters. “As much as pre-emptive measures have been taken, it is impossible to eradicate all risks.”
In February, Jordan intensified airstrikes in Syria against IS after militants burned alive a captured Jordanian pilot. But in recent months Jordan and other Arab allies in the US-led coalition have dialed back their role; Jordan's most recent airstrike was in August.
Monday’s shooting occurred on the 10th anniversary of suicide bombings that targeted three luxury hotels in Amman. The coordinated attack by Al Qaeda killed 57 people and wounded more than 100, making it Jordan's deadliest terrorism incident.
An editorial in the Jordan Times, an English-language daily, evoked the 2005 attack and called on the country “to stay vigilant at all times to safeguard the peace and stability that the country has been enjoying in this regional sea of violence."
Monday’s attack is a reminder, lest we forget, that our peace and security are a target, and a call for all to remain together standing behind our leadership in defending this country and all the good values it stands for.
US President Obama told reporters in Washington on Monday that the US was conducting a “full investigation” into the shooting.
“We take this very seriously and we’ll be working closely with the Jordanians to determine exactly what happened,” he said. “At this stage, I want to just let everyone know that this is something we’re paying close attention to, and at the point where the families have been notified, obviously, our deepest condolences will be going out to them.”