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Heavy clashes with suspected IS militants rock northern Jordanian town

At least five people killed in Irbid, some 15km from the Syrian border and 80km north of the Jordanian capital Amman
Jordan’s King Abdullah II during a military parade in Jordan’s Red Sea port of Aqaba on 23 January, 2016 (AFP)

Deadly clashes broke out near the Syria-Jordan border late on Tuesday as security forces battled suspected Islamic State (IS) group militants.

At least five people – including a captain in the Jordanian army – were killed in the fighting in Irbid, some 15km from the Syrian border and 80km north of the Jordanian capital Amman.

Jordanian sources, who visited the town, told Middle East Eye that fighting raged for more than five hours and that the militants were extremely well-armed.

The state-run Petra news agency said security forces had engaged "outlaws" in the city, adding that three members of the security forces were also injured.

The fighting, which continued late through the night in Irbid, erupted after the army tried to raid IS positions in the city, a Jordanian security official told AFP.

Unnamed military sources also told the Jordan Times “that anti-terror personnel carried out the operation to arrest a number of hard-line takfiris”, a term for a Sunni Muslim who accuses others of being unbelievers.  

Two service members and two civilians were also wounded during the operation, the source told AFP.

Irbid is a few kilometres from the Syrian border where Jordanian security forces regularly detain drug traffickers and fighters attempting to join militant groups in Syria.

Jordan is part of a US-led military coalition that has been carrying out air strikes against IS in Syria and Iraq.

The resource-poor country hosts more than 630,000 of the roughly 4.6 million Syrian refugees overseas, according to the UN refugee agency.

The Jordanian government gives a much higher estimate of 1.4 million, saying many of them are unregistered.

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