Jordan standoff over, Canadian Linda Vatcher among 10 killed by gunmen

Gunmen ambushed Jordanian police in a series of attacks Sunday, including at a Crusader castle popular with tourists, killing a woman visiting from Canada, seven officers and two local civilians, officials said. Thirty-four people were also injured.

The gunmen were killed after an hours-long standoff with police

Linda Vatcher was killed in Jordan on Sunday while visiting her son Chris Vatcher, who was shot. (Family photo)

Linda Vatcher, a retired teacher from Newfoundland, was killed as gunmen struck in multiple locations in Karak, Jordan, on Sunday.

Vatcher was visiting her son Chris Vatcher, who works in the Middle East. They were among a group of people caught as gunmen opened fire near the Crusader castle, a tourist location.

Chris Vatcher was shot and injured in the attack.

Seven police and two local civilians were also killed, officials said. Fifteen members of the security forces, 17 local civilians and two foreign nationals were injured.

Linda Vatcher, 62, hailed from Burgeo, N.L., but spent decades living and working in Corner Brook, N.L.

Jordanian policemen and an ambulance are seen in the vicinity of Karak Castle in the city of Karak, Jordan, on Sunday. (Muhammad Hamed/Reuters)

Barb Rhymes, her cousin, said Vatcher was a widow and was a mother of two adult sons.

"She was very friendly, outgoing. She was nice to everyone. A friend to all," Rhymes said from Burgeo. "It's devastating. It has hit the town hard. My mind is not there right now. She was a beautiful person."

She had been a regular volunteer at the Salvation Army Food Bank in Corner Brook for five years and dropped off a donation for the Christmas program shortly before leaving to visit her son, food bank supervisor Jane Ash said.

"She said to us, 'see you in a few weeks' and she was smiling," Ash said. "And now she's gone."

Ash said Vatcher loved passing out food hampers and had started a side project called Women Helping Women, where she would cook a big meal and invite women to donate personal care items to the food bank.

"She loved to care for others and did it in such a graceful way."

Burgeo Mayor Barbara Barter said Vatcher's mother and a younger sister still live in the community, and Vatcher came home each year for Relay for Life cancer fundraiser. 

Standoff at castle

John Babcock, a spokesman for Global Affairs Canada, earlier in the day confirmed that Canadians were victims of the attack.

Babcock said in a written statement, "Our thoughts and deepest sympathies are with the family and friends of the Canadian reported killed in Jordan today, and to all those affected.

"Canadian officials in Amman are actively working with local authorities to gather additional information and provide consular assistance at this difficult time. The Government of Canada stands ready to assist Jordan in bringing the perpetrators of this heinous attack to justice."

A witness said attackers immediately targeted tourists when they reached the castle.

Tourists flee attack at Jordanian castle RAW

6 years ago
Duration 0:57
Security forces push tourists through Jordan castle as gunfire heard in the background

"Four gunmen got out of their car" at the castle, said Wasfi al-Habashneh, a local resident. "They opened fire at the Canadian tourists. The woman was killed, the other Canadian tourist escaped and hid behind a car and one of the children was injured."

Al-Habashneh said the attackers also targeted other people. Security forces "engaged with the gunmen and cornered the gunmen at the castle gate," he said.

Security officials said in a statement late Sunday that at least four gunmen were killed and that troops continued to search the area. The statement said a large number of weapons had been seized. It made no reference to local media reports that at one point, the attackers had held hostages. 

The shootings were the latest in a series of attacks that have challenged the pro-Western kingdom's claim to be an oasis of calm in a region threatened by Islamic extremists.

The killing of a Canadian tourist could further hurt Jordan's embattled tourism sector, which has declined sharply since Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) seized large parts of neighbouring Syria and Iraq two years ago.

Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs Stéphane Dion expressed on Twitter his condolences for the Canadian victim as well as for all those affected by the "heinous attack." Dion also said Canada is is currently in contact with local authorities.‎

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks in and near the central town of Karak, about 140 kilometres south of the capital, Amman.

Incident at house started chain of violence

The chain of events began when a police patrol received reports of a house fire in the town of Qatraneh in the Karak district, said a statement by Jordan's Public Security Directorate.

The officers responding to the call came under fire from inside the house, the statement said. Two policemen were wounded and the assailants fled in a car, it said.

A Jordanian policeman stands guard in the vicinity of Kerak Castle where armed gunmen carried out an attack in the city of Karak on Sunday. The shootings were the latest in a series of attacks that have challenged the pro-Western kingdom's claim to be an oasis of calm in a region threatened by Islamic extremists. (Muhammad Hamed/Reuters)

In another attack, gunmen fired on a security patrol in Karak, causing no injuries, the statement said.

Armed men also opened fire on a police station in Karak Castle, a Crusader fort, wounding members of the security forces.

Jordan faces homegrown extremism, with hundreds of Jordanians fighting alongside other ISIS militants in Iraq and Syria and several thousand more supporting the extremist group in the kingdom. Jordan is a key U.S. ally, and a member of a U.S.-led military coalition fighting ISIS.

Over the past year, gunmen have carried out several attacks on members of the Jordanian security forces and foreign trainers. Earlier this year, Jordanian security forces engaged in a deadly shootout with suspected ISIS sympathizers in a northern Jordanian town.

In the most recent incident, three U.S. military members were killed in a shooting outside an air base in southern Jordan in November. The three were in Jordan on a training mission, and came under fire while driving into the base.

With files from CBC News