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Sunday, 24 November, 2002, 22:33 GMT
Fresh clashes in southern Jordan
Jordanian security forces seal off the town of Maan
Jordan sent troops into Maan earlier this month
Reports from Jordan say at least one person has been killed and several others injured, during renewed clashes in the southern town of Maan.

Violence erupted following a dispute between residents and police, witnesses and officials said.


Anger is thundering in Maan

Resident
The authorities are reported to have imposed a curfew on the town and sent in reinforcements.

It is not yet known whether the latest violence is linked to fighting between Islamists and the army earlier this month, during a military operation against an Islamic group.

Firefight

There are conflicting reports as to what sparked the latest violence in the trouble-hit town, 215 kilometres (135 miles) south of the capital, Amman.

The Associated Press (AP) news agency said crowds, angry at the arrest of a local youth, attacked police, who returned fire, killing a man.

Other reports say the violence began after a resident claimed a policeman had uttered "an insult", triggering a row, French news agency AFP quoted a witness as saying.

Residents and police exchanged fire and gunshots could be heard on the outskirts of the city after nightfall, AP reported.

"Anger is thundering in Maan, the situation is very tense due to the shoot-outs and we don't know where it is all leading to," a resident told AFP.

Crackdown

The latest violence came days after at least five people were killed in clashes between security forces and gunmen in the town.

Troops and tanks stormed into Maan in a crackdown against a gang of bandits allegedly led by militant Islamic preacher, Mohammed Shalabi, better known as Abu Sayyaf.

About 130 people were arrested in the six-day long operation, but Abu Sayyaf escaped.

Abu Sayyaf was arrested last month after the killing in Amman of US diplomat Laurence Foley.

He reportedly escaped after being rescued by his supporters from hospital where he was being treated for injuries sustained during his arrest.

Maan is the home to many anti-Western Bedouin tribesmen, opposed to the government's relations with Israel and sympathetic towards Iraq.

The area is also used as an arms smuggling route from Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

See also:

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