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Jordan's king vows to fight 'with iron fist' after suicide bomb kills 6 soldiers

Jordanian authorities had said they feared IS militants were among Syrian refugees in nearby camp, but no group has claimed responsibility
The army said its soldiers had destroyed several 'enemy' vehicles at the border (AFP)

A car bomb killed several Jordanian soldiers outside a refugee camp near the Syrian border on Tuesday in an attack King Abdullah vowed to fight with "an iron fist".

The dawn bombing killed four border guards, one member of the security services and one member of the civil defence. Fourteen soldiers were also wounded, according to a statement from the army.

King Abdullah condemned the attack and said that Jordanian armed forces would strike back and later also declared Jordan's border a "military zone" which is off limits to civilians. 

"Jordan will respond with an iron fist against anyone who tries to tamper with its security and borders," the king said as he met with senior military and other officials.

"Such criminal acts will only increase our determination to confront terrorism and terror gangs that target army personnel who protect the security of the country and its borders," he said.

According to the army's statement, early on Tuesday the suicide bomber set off from the camp, which lies in a demilitarised zone near where Jordan, Syria and Iraq's borders meet.

The driver entered Jordanian territory through an opening used for humanitarian aid deliveries and blew himself up as he reached a military post, it added.

Reports said the attack targeted a watchtower on the border between Syria and Jordan.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but Jordan is part of the US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State (IS) group in Syria and Iraq, and has been targeted by militants previously.

Jordan's army said it had destroyed several "enemy" vehicles at the border, but said it would give no further details until later in the day.

The attack also comes as access to Ruqban, where more than 60,000 Syrians have set up a makeshift refugee camp, has been limited for both Jordanian military and aid agencies as a result of legal and security constraints.

Yet the camp's steady growth has concerned Jordanian authorities who have said they fear that Islamic State militants are among the displaced people and has kept hundreds of refugees waiting at the squalid camp for vetting, a position that has been criticised by the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).

A flare-up in the five-year civil war in Syria sparked a new influx of refugees to the no man's land of Ruqban last month, with nearly 5,500 arriving within days in early May.

Jordan says it hosts nearly 1.4 million Syrian refugees, of whom 630,000 are registered with the United Nations. Their presence has placed a massive strain on Jordan's economy and resources, and raised security concerns.

Since 2014, Jordan has carried out air strikes against IS in Syria. 

One of its pilots was burnt to death by the group after he was captured in Syria in December 2014. His murder prompted Jordan to extend its air strikes against IS to Iraq.

Jordan has also opened the Prince Hassan airbase, northeast of the capital, to other members of the US-led coalition taking part in the air war against IS in Syria.

In March, Jordanian authorities announced they had foiled an IS plot to carry out attacks in the kingdom in an operation that led to the deaths of seven militants.

Earlier this month, a gunman killed five Jordanian intelligence officers in a Palestinian refugee camp north of the capital.

A suspect was later arrested, but details of the attack have been kept under a gag order while the investigation continues.

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