Gunman shouting 'God is Great' kills Briton in Jordan

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A lone gunman shouting "God is Great" in Arabic killed a British man and injured six other people yesterday at a popular Roman tourist site in Jordan.

The Briton died at the scene of the shooting at the 2,000-year-old amphitheatre in the Jordanian capital, Amman, after his tour group was singled out by the attacker. Two British women were among the injured.

The group of seven visitors scattered as the gunman, Nabeel Ahmed Issa Jaourah, 38, appeared from behind them on a staircase at 12.30pm. He fired up to 14 bullets, before attempting to flee into crowds.

Jaourah was arrested by police after being chased by a group of people into the streets surrounding the Roman arena.

Karen Sparke, one of the injured Britons, told BBC News 24: "We were walking up some steps when we heard [the shooting]. I didn't realise it was a gunshot, I thought it was a firecracker. We turned around and saw this man pointing a gun at us and I got shot. I went up the steps a bit further and stood around the corner, and I realised I was bleeding all over."

Jordan, a key Western ally in the Middle East, has been previously targeted by al-Qa'ida - most recently in November last year when explosions at three hotels killed 63 people.

But the Jordanian government last night suggested that Jaourah had acted on his own without the support of a militant cell despite coming from Zarqa, a town to the east of Amman known as a hub for militants in Jordan. Eid al Fayez, the Interior Minister, told reporters at the scene of the shooting: "This is a cowardly terrorist attack, which we regret took place on Jordanian soil. We're not sure if the accused had an accomplice."

Witnesses described how the gunman appeared to have been waiting at the entrance to the amphitheatre as the group began a tour of the arena. Mohammed Jawad Ali, an Iraqi national, who saw the attack, said: "I was walking when I saw someone pull out a pistol from his pocket and start shouting 'Allahu Akbar' [God is Great] and fire repeatedly.

"Then I saw one tourist who appeared to be dead and some who were injured. A woman told me they were tourists from New Zealand and England."

A Dutch man, an Australian woman, a woman from New Zealand and a uniformed Jordanian tourist police officer were also injured in the attack.

Ms Sparke, who was wounded in the shoulder, said she had seen her injured friends lying on the floor. She said: "The locals came and dragged us away to protect us and then they got the ambulance. I had a very lucky escape. It's not real at the moment."

A spokesman for the Prince Hamzeh Hospital where the two Britons were being treated said that the women had been treated for flesh wounds and could be discharged today.

The Foreign Office said it was assisting the two Britons in hospital along with five other British nationals who were at the scene but escaped injury. The dead man, understood to be in his twenties, had not been named.

The attack will be a blow to Jordan's tourist industry, which is its largest private sector employer. In the wake of the November bombings, security was tightened at hotels and major tourist attractions with metal detectors and extra police patrols.

Margaret Beckett, the British Foreign Secretary, said she was "extremely saddened" by the shootings. "Acts of violence such as this are as senseless as they are callous," she said.