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Jordan Frees 200 Arrested in Food Riots

August 21, 1996

AMMAN, Jordan (AP) _ Jordan has released about two-thirds of the 300 people arrested during bread riots last week, security sources said Wednesday.

The government released the roughly 200 detainees for lack of evidence, but will prosecute the rest in connection with the riots that erupted Friday in the southern towns of Kerak, Maan and Tafila and spread to Amman, the capital.

At least 40 people were injured in three days of rioting _ the worst civil unrest in the normally peaceful kingdom since 1989 protests, also over the price of food.

In the last few days, authorities have eased security in Kerak and relaxed a curfew imposed there, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

``Life is back to normal here,″ said Badereddine al-Wedyan, the governor of Kerak, 90 miles southwest of Amman.

The riots were triggered by the government’s decision to more than double the price of bread, a staple for most of Jordan’s 3.8 million people. Prices of other basic food items increased as a result.

A third of Jordan’s population lives in poverty and has been hard hit by a drive to cut government spending to satisfy the International Monetary Fund.

King Hussein blamed the disturbances on Jordanians sympathetic to Iraq, Jordan’s eastern neighbor and one-time ally.

Relations between the two Arab nations have soured over the past year, with Hussein publicly criticizing the policies of President Saddam Hussein and giving asylum to members of his inner circle who fled Iraq.

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