Middle East

Jordan unrest: Salafist clash wounds dozens in Zarqa

A Salafist protester holds a sword during a demonstration in Zarqa, east of Amman, 15 April
Image caption The Salafists have a similar ideology to al-Qaeda

Dozens of people have been injured as ultra-conservative Salafist Muslims clashed with pro-government supporters in Jordan's northern city of Zarqa.

The police used tear gas to disperse the crowds, a police spokesman said. Six officers were stabbed and 34 others injured in the clashes, he added.

Meanwhile, up to 1,000 people protested in the capital Amman, calling for political and economic reform.

Opposition groups want free and fair elections and an end to corruption.

"[The police] had to fire tear gas after a group of Islamist Salafists attacked some citizens following their demonstration in Zarqa, accusing them of being atheists," spokesman Mohammad Khatib told the AFP news agency.

The Salafists have been demonstrating over the past few weeks to demand the release of 90 Islamist prisoners.

They include Abu Mohammed al-Maqdessi, the former mentor of slain al-Qaeda leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was born in Zarqa.

Salafists espouse an austere form of Sunni Islam that seeks a return to practices common in the early days of the faith. The movement's ideology is similar to al-Qaeda's.

Their demonstrations are separate from the 14-week-old wave of anti-government protests by leftists and more moderate Islamists, who are demanding democratic reforms in the kingdom.

They also want the resignation of Prime Minister Marouf al-Bakhit, reforms to parliament, and for corrupt officials to stand trial.

Jordan is one of a dozen Arab countries to be rocked by protests since the popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt that toppled the presidents in January and February.

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