Two killed in explosions near military base in Jordan

A Jordanian minister said that preliminary investigations show the explosions to be caused by an electric short circuit at an army depot used for storing unusable and old mortar bombs

September 11, 2020 by Peoples Dispatch
Residents in Zarqa said windows of homes were shattered and large flames could be seen following the explosion on September 11. (Photo: Screengrab/Twitter)

A series of massive explosions in Jordan in the early hours of September 11, Friday, have killed at least two people and injured three others. The explosions reportedly occurred at an army munitions depot in the Al-Ghabawi area on the outskirts of Zarqa city, northeast of Jordanian capital Amman. The area is home to several Jordanian army bases, as well as a newly-built airfield, and is at considerable distance from civilian populated areas of the city.

The explosions caused massive flames and a subsequent orange cloud of smoke which was visible from Amman, approximately 35 kilometers away. It also resulted in the shattering of windows of several homes in the city. Tremors emanating from the blast were reportedly felt as far as Amman. Following the explosions, security forces closed off the city and stopped all vehicular traffic to and from the city. Journalists were also denied entry to the site of the explosions. Civil defense teams were dispatched to the site to extinguish the fires and contain smoke rising from the explosions.

Later, in a statement to the press, Jordan’s minister of state for media affairs Amjad Adaileh said, “initial investigations show that the explosion was caused by an electric circuit in army ammunition depots that are in an isolated and unpopulated area and under camera surveillance.” He also added that the mortar bombs that were stored in the depot were old and unusable.

However, according to an anonymous source in the Jordanian army, the site was also storing some precision-guided anti-aircraft missiles. The army command has not given out an official statement regarding the blast yet, but has said that an investigation is underway to determine the cause of the explosions.

The Zarqa governorate, home to close to 1.5 million Jordanians, has suffered from several such explosions in previous years due to the many munitions depots and warehouses situated here. The rest of the city, apart from the area that hosts the military bases and the multiple depots and warehouses, is a sprawling industrial area with many factories and other industries as well as a free-trade area.

The news of the blast comes just two days after Jordanian prime minister Omar al-Razzaz announced on Wednesday, September 9, that the government will be relaunching military conscription for Jordanian men between the age group of 25-29 for a limited one year period. The government has reportedly decided to relaunch the mandatory military service for men to try and reduce the unemployment rates in the country which are rising at an alarming speed. 

The already fragile Jordanian economy has suffered massive financial losses and economic instability and decline following the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic. The unemployment rate in the country in the second quarter of 2020 has risen to 23%, which is 3.8% higher than the same period in 2019. The rate is even higher for university degree holders at 26.6%.