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Authorities Provide Few Details On Attack At Police Training Center In Jordan


We're going to hear now from families still in shock after a man in Jordan opened fire yesterday in a police training base. Authorities say he killed two Jordanians, two Americans and a South African. The suspect himself also died. NPR's Alice Fordham spoke with his relatives and one of his victims.

ALICE FORDHAM, BYLINE: In the village of Raimoun in rocky north Jordan, kids play in the street with a plastic bottle and a broken-off olive branch. Their fathers gloomily head into a gray assembly hall to pay condolences to the family of Anwar Abu Zaid. That's the police officer who the government says killed those five people.

SULEIMAN ABU ZAID: (Foreign language spoken).

FORDHAM: His uncle, Suleiman Abu Zaid, tells me his nephew was married with two kids. Family snapshots show a fine-featured laughing man.

ABU ZAID: (Foreign language spoken).

FORDHAM: "He was religious, but he wouldn't attack anyone," says the uncle. He thinks maybe there was some provocation or pressure.

ABU ZAID: (Foreign language spoken).

FORDHAM: His nephew, the alleged shooter, had a law degree. He was ambitious. The uncle, who twice served as a member of parliament, says authorities have told him very little. I ask, well, did your nephew hold extreme religious views? Did he have objections to American policy in the Middle East?

ABU ZAID: (Foreign language spoken).

FORDHAM: He says, "all Jordanian people are upset by what America is doing in the region and Jordanians are religious, but that wouldn't make us kill an innocent civilian who was in the country legally."

We have few details of the shooting, which happened in a cafeteria on a base mainly used for training Palestinian police. All those killed were employed by private companies contracted by the State Department. The U.S. Embassy declined to comment. Jordan's government released only tolls of dead and injured. Eyewitnesses aren't allowed to talk to media. It happened on the 10th anniversary of an al-Qaida bombing here, but there's no evidence it was linked to extremist Islam or even preplanned.


FORDHAM: That's little consolation to the family of Kamal al-Yahya, a Jordanian translator killed in the incident. Police deliver his shrouded body to his family in the town of Zarqa. Relatives carry him into the house.

His father, Ahmed al-Yahya, says both he and his son served in the military for years and traveled widely.

KAMAL AL-YAHYA: (Foreign language spoken).

FORDHAM: His son spoke five languages. Yahya was shocked to learn Americans and a South African died in the attack that killed his son because he says people here respect foreigners.

AL-YAHYA: (Foreign language spoken).

FORDHAM: He doesn't know why his son was killed - whether it was extremism or something else. He says he just sees it as an inhuman act. Alice Fordham, NPR News, Amman. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Alice Fordham is an NPR International Correspondent based in Beirut, Lebanon.