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Clashes erupt anew along Syria border

By Taylor Luck - May 18,2014 - Last updated at May 18,2014

AMMAN — Border guards clashed with militants along the northern border with Syria late Saturday, killing one gunman and wounding several others, the army said Sunday.

The Jordan Armed Forces (JAF) said border guards detained a group of gunmen attempting to illegally cross the Jordanian-Syrian border following the clashes, which took place during the past 72 hours.

The statement, carried by the Jordan News Agency, Petra, did not disclose the number or nationalities of the gunmen, mentioning only that the detained militants were referred to the concerned authorities.

Security and Islamist sources said the gunmen were a group of 12 Jordanian and foreign Islamist fighters attempting to cross into Jordan to receive medical treatment.

Clashes erupted between the jihadists and border forces after the military fired “warning shots” to prevent the militants from approaching Jordanian territory, the sources said.

The ensuing clashes injured five of the 12 militants, according to security sources, one of whom is currently listed in critical condition in a public hospital in northern Jordan.

The 12 men, seven of whom are Jordanian nationals, were reportedly serving alongside the ranks of Al Qaeda-linked Jabhat Al Nusra jihadist coalition in southern Syria over the past three months before attempting to return to Jordan.

Also during the past 72 hours, border guards prevented three cars coming from Syria from proceeding further into Jordanian territory. The military used helicopters and ground forces to neutralise the threat and confiscate the contraband found in the three vehicles.

The incident marked the latest in a series of recent clashes along the 370-kilometre Jordanian-Syrian border.

Military forces have killed 14 Islamist militants and wounded 24 others attempting to cross the border since the launch of the new security campaign in late April.

Over 2,200 Jordanians are reportedly fighting alongside Islamist militias in Syria, according to Islamist sources, the vast majority of whom serving under the banner of Al Nusra and its rival, former Al Qaeda-affiliate the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. 

Leaders of the hard-line Jihadi Salafist movement, Al Nusra’s largest recruiter in Jordan, report a growing number of Jordanian jihadists returning to their homeland  due to rising infighting among Islamist militias, citing the return of some 30 former fighters each week.

Officials have singled out the return of suspected jihadist fighters as a “direct national security threat” to the country, having referred 100 suspected militants to the State Security Court, which has jailed 40 since late December.

The army statement said 1,144 Syrian refugees crossed into Jordan over the past 72 hours. The arrivals included 60 injured people who were sent to nearby hospitals and healthcare centres, while the rest were taken to refugee camps.

Shells and missiles have been falling on Jordanian border villages over the past few days due to the heavy shelling on Daraa in Syria near the Jordanian side of the border, the statement added.

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