AMMAN, Jordan (AP) — Jordan on Saturday executed 10 men convicted in a series of bombings and shooting attacks since 2003 that killed a British tourist, an outspoken critic of Islamic extremism and members of the Jordanian security forces, the government spokesman said.
It was the largest round of executions in recent memory, and the first since pro-Western Jordan launched a crackdown on Islamic extremists two years ago, after the killing of a captured Jordanian fighter pilot by the Islamic State group.
Jordan is a part of a U.S.-led military coalition against IS, which holds territory in Syria and Iraq.
The prisoners were hanged at dawn Saturday at Swaqa Prison, about 75 kilometers (47 kilometers) south of the capital of Amman, said government spokesman Mohammed Momani.
Five others were executed for other crimes, including incest, Momani said in a statement carried by the state news agency Petra.
The assailants executed Saturday for terror convictions had been involved in six different incidents, from a 2003 bombing attack that killed 19 at Jordan's embassy in Iraq to the September 2016 shooting of local writer Nahed Hattar on the steps of an Amman courthouse.
Also listed were a 2006 shooting attack on a group of tourists at a Roman theater in Amman in which a 30-year-old British man was killed; a December 2015 shooting attack that killed two police officers; a March 2016 shootout between police and IS militants at their hideout in which an officer was killed; and a June 2016 attack by a lone gunman on an office of Jordan's intelligence agency that killed five.
Nahad Hattar, the writer, had been on trial for posting a cartoon deemed offensive to Islam on social media when an assailant killed him outside the courthouse. The shooter was a former mosque prayer leader motivated by anger over the cartoon, officials said at the time.
Saad Hattar, a cousin of the victim, said Saturday that while the killer was punished, those who instigated such attacks with hateful rhetoric were not.
"The murderer was just a tool, and our society needs the uprooting of the ideology and the culture behind him," Hattar, a journalist, told The Associated Press.
Analyst Labib Kamhawi said he believes the executions were meant to send a triple message. They signaled to potential attackers that they can expect harsh punishment and reminded ordinary Jordanians buckling under price increases that their country faces a serious security threat, he said.
The message to the outside world, particularly the Trump administration, is that "Jordan is on top of things and that Jordan can be considered one of the allies in fighting terrorism," Kamhawi said.
Jordan intensified its campaign against suspected Islamic extremists after IS released a video in early 2015, showing its militants as they burned to death the fighter pilot trapped in a cage. In response to the video, Jordan executed two prisoners linked to the al-Qaida terror network, a precursor of IS.
Hundreds of Jordanians have been detained or sentenced to prison since then, including those expressing support for IS on social media.
Jordanian authorities have dismissed support for IS in the kingdom as a fringe phenomenon and said security forces can contain any threat. However, there has been a rise in attacks in Jordan linked to Islamic extremists over the past year.
Previously, Jordan had executed 11 people in December 2014, in cases involving murder. This ended what had been a de facto eight-year moratorium on the death penalty, the international group Human Rights Watch said at the time.
The rights group Amnesty International said the "horrific scale and secrecy" surrounding Saturday's executions was shocking.
"This is a major step backward for both Jordan and efforts to end the death penalty, a senseless and ineffective means of administering justice," said Samah Hadid, deputy director of the London-based group's regional office in Beirut.
Associated Press writers Mohammed Daraghmeh in Ramallah, West Bank, and Omar Akour in Amman, Jordan, contributed to this report.
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