AMMAN — Jordan was hit Wednesday by a wave of protests and strikes while rioting broke in southern cities and a police station was attacked, security officials said, as anger mounted against a whopping rise in fuel prices. The sudden price hike, followed by an 11 percent increase in public transport fares, drew sharp condemnation from the opposition Islamists, who warned of civil disobedience in the run-up to January’s general elections they are boycotting.
Angry protesters blocked a main road in downtown Amman as police warned they would use force if necessary to open the road. The Islamists and other groups tried to demonstrate near the Interior Ministry, on Gamal Abdel Nasser Circle, where 24 people were arrested on Tuesday night after more than 2,000 people demonstrated there.But anti-riot police sealed off the area, creating traffic jam and preventing demonstrators from reaching the circle. “We are on alert and this place will be sealed off at least until the morning,” a policeman told AFP. Unrest broke out in southern cities, according to a security official. “Violent rioting took place today in Karak, Tafileh and Maan.
Some rioters attacked a police station in Theiban, while others blocked a main desert road,” he told AFP, adding that anti-riot forces broke up the protests. Officials said around half the country’s 120,000 public school teachers went on strike Wednesday after a call by their union, affecting at least 2,000 schools countrywide. Lawyers stopped working in Amman and other trade unions said they are considering similar strike action, while youth groups and some political parties staged demonstrations in the capital and other centres.
The violence erupted on Tuesday night after news spread of the price increases, under which the cost of household gas will rise 53 percent and petrol around 12 percent. Police said 14 people were wounded, 10 of them policemen, when angry protesters attacked a police station late Tuesday in the northern city of Irbid and government buildings in Salt, west of Amman. Police used tear gas and water cannons to break up a protest outside the house of Prime Minister Abdullah Nsur in Salt, his hometown, as well as in other parts in Jordan, it said.