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Jordanian sentenced to death for 2019 tourist stabbings

Tourists leave the ruins of the ancient Roman city of Jerash where a Jordanian of Palestinian origin went on a stabbing rampage wounding eight people in November 2019
Tourists leave the ruins of the ancient Roman city of Jerash where a Jordanian of Palestinian origin went on a stabbing rampage wounding eight people in November 2019 Ahmad ABDO AFP/File
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Amman (AFP)

Jordan's state security court sentenced a man to death on Tuesday for the 2019 stabbing of eight people, four of them foreign tourists, at one of the kingdom's ancient sites.

The victims, who included one Swiss and three Mexican tourists, all survived the November 2019 knife attack in the ruins of the ancient Roman city of Jerash, some 50 kilometres (30 miles) north of the capital Amman.

Mustafa Abu Ruwais, 24, was sentenced to "death by hanging for the terrorist knife attack on tourists," the court said.

There is no right of appeal against the decisions of Jordan's state security court.

Abu Ruwais, a Jordanian of Palestinian origin, was at the time of the attack a resident of the Souf camp in Jerash, which houses some 20,000 Palestinian refugees.

He was arrested immediately afterwards and charged with terrorism offences in January last year.

The charge sheet alleged that Abu Ruwais "follows the ideology of the Daesh terrorist gang", a pejorative reference to the Islamic State jihadist group, and has been "in contact with one of the members of this organisation in Syria" who gave the green light for the attack.

But there was never any formal claim of responsibility for the attack.

IS led a self-proclaimed caliphate across large swathes of Iraq and Syria between 2014 and its collapse in 2019.

Jordanian forces played a significant part in a US-led coalition that helped defeat the jihadists.

At Tuesday's hearing, the court also found two other defendants guilty, sentencing one to life imprisonment and the other to seven years for complicity.

Both are Jordanians of Palestinian origin like Abu Ruwais.

- Vital sector -

The Jordanian victims included a tour guide and a security officer who attempted to intervene.

It was not the first time a Jordanian tourist attraction had been attacked.

In December 2016, in Karak, home to one of the region's biggest Crusader castles, 10 people -- seven police, two Jordanian civilians and a Canadian tourist -- were killed in an attack that also left 30 wounded.

That attack was claimed by the Islamic State group, and 10 people were later convicted of carrying out the assault, two of them sentenced to death.

Tourism is a key lifeline for Jordan, a country lacking in natural resources and reliant on foreign aid.

The sector accounted for 14 percent of GDP in 2019, but has since been ravaged by the collapse in international travel that resulted from the coronavirus pandemic.

The kingdom, which borders conflict-torn Syria and Iraq, had been working to revive its tourism industry.

Jordan boasts 21,000 archaeological and historical sites that span millennia, according to the tourism board.

They include the Roman ruins of Jerash, the ancient city of Petra, the Dead Sea and Wadi al-Kharrar, or Bethany Beyond the Jordan, where some believe Jesus was baptised.

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