UPDATE: Security officials say the death toll in the Jordanian shooting attacks today has risen to 10 with 27 people wounded.
KARAK, Jordan – Gunmen ambushed Jordanian police in a series of attacks Sunday, including at a Crusader castle popular with tourists, killing four members of the security forces and a woman visiting from Canada, officials said.
A standoff between Jordanian special forces and armed men holed up inside the castle continued after nightfall Sunday, several hours after the first shooting.
Government officials declined comment on local news reports saying the attackers were holding hostages.
The shootings were the latest in a series of attacks that have challenged the pro-Western kingdom’s claim to be an oasis of calm in a region threatened by Islamic extremists.
The killing of the Canadian tourist could further hurt Jordan’s embattled tourism sector, which has declined sharply since the Islamic State group seized large parts of neighbouring Syria and Iraq two years ago.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks in and near the central town of Karak, about 140 kilometres south of the capital, Amman.
The chain of events began when a police patrol received reports of a house fire in the town of Qatraneh in the Karak district, said a statement by Jordan’s Public Security Directorate.
The officers responding to the call came under fire from inside the house, the statement said. Two police officers were wounded and the assailants fled in a car, it said.
In another attack, gunmen fired on a security patrol in Karak, causing no injuries, the statement said.
Armed men also opened fire on a police station in Karak Castle, a Crusader fort, wounding members of the security forces. The statement said five or six gunmen were believed to be holed up inside the castle.
In all, four members of the security forces and a female tourist from Canada were killed in the shootings, though it was not clear if all five were killed at the castle.
After the attack, the Canadian embassy in Jordan tweeted a warning to Canadians, advising them against all travel to Karak until further notice.
Global Affairs Canada did not immediately respond to a request for comment by The Canadian Press.
Jordan faces homegrown extremism, with hundreds of Jordanians fighting alongside other Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria and several thousand more supporting the extremist group in the kingdom. Jordan is a key U.S. ally, and a member of a U.S.-led military coalition fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
Over the past year, gunmen have carried out several attacks on members of the Jordanian security forces and foreign trainers. Earlier this year, Jordanian security forces engaged in a deadly shootout with suspected ISIL sympathizers in a northern Jordanian town.
In the most recent incident, three U.S. military members were killed in a shooting outside an air base in southern Jordan in November. The three were in Jordan on a training mission, and came under fire while driving into the base.
-With files from The Canadian Press