AMMAN // Seven people were killed by gunmen in southern Jordan on Sunday, including two civilians, a female Canadian tourist and four policemen.
Security forces were hunting down the unidentified attackers following the series of shootings in the city of Karak.
A tourist destination known for one of the biggest Crusader castles in the region, Karak lies around 120 kilometres south of the capital Amman.
Several other people were reported wounded in the shootings.
The first attack took place when a police patrol went to check on a fire that had broken out in a house in Karak, said Jordan’s general security department.
"As soon as they reached the area, unknown gunmen who were inside the house opened fire on the patrol, wounding a policeman, and then fled by car," it said in a statement carried by the official Petra news agency.
"Shortly afterwards, gunmen opened fire on another patrol without causing any casualties."
At the same time, gunmen hiding in the Crusader castle opened fire on the Karak police station, "wounding several policemen and passers-by" who were rushed to hospital, the department said.
"Police and security forces have surrounded the castle and its vicinity and launched an operation to hunt down the gunmen," it said, adding that the search was still under way.
A senior security source said some people were trapped in a lower floor of the citadel when the gunmen took shelter there, but denied media reports that they were being held as hostages.
"There are no hostages. But some people who were on a lower floor were afraid of leaving as the gunmen traded fire with the security forces," said the source.
He said that the gunmen were on a higher level inside the fortress.
The Jordan tourism board described the Karak citadel, which dates back to the 12th century and has withstood many sieges, as a "maze of stone-vaulted halls and endless passageways".
The general security department statement said "five or six gunmen" were thought to be involved in the shootings.
However, prime minister Hani Al Malki, who was addressing parliament at the time of the shootings, said "special forces and policemen are surrounding 10 gunmen holed up inside the Karak citadel".
It was not immediately clear who was behind the shootings, but Jordan has been hit by militant attacks in the past.
Jordan is a leading member of the US-led coalition fighting the ISIL in neighbouring Iraq and Syria.
It has carried out air strikes targeting the extremist group, and also hosts coalition troops on its territory.
Karak is the home town of Maaz Al Kassasbeh, a Jordanian fighter pilot who was captured by the militants when his plane went down in Syria in December 2014. He was later burned alive in a cage.
In June, a suicide bombing claimed by ISIL killed seven border guards near the Syrian frontier.
According to sources close to militants, almost 4,000 Jordanians have joined extremist groups in Iraq and Syria, and an estimated 420 have been killed since 2011.