By Suleiman Al-Khalidi
AMMAN (Reuters) - Riots that broke out in Jordan after the government raised fuel prices left one protester dead on Thursday, the first fatality of violence that has spread to several impoverished towns in the kingdom, witnesses and security sources said.
Hundreds took to the streets on Wednesday after the government decided to raise gasoline, cooking gas and heating fuel prices. They blocked roads, set government buildings alight and vandalized shops in the towns of Maan, Tafila and Karak.
The protestor was killed and scores were injured during an attack on a police station in the country's second-largest city of Irbid, the witnesses said.
Jordanians have held occasional protests inspired by the Arab Spring revolts, demanding democratic reforms and curbs on corruption. But the gatherings have been peaceful and the security forces did not use weapons.
Demonstrators sometimes chant against King Abdullah but there seems to be little enthusiasm for revolution. The monarchy is seen as a guarantor of stability, balancing the interests of tribes native to the east of the Jordan river with those of the majority of citizens, who are of Palestinian origin.
Riot police chased scores of youths throwing stones overnight in the main commercial district of the capital Amman after police foiled an attempt by Islamist and tribal opposition figures to stage an anti-government rally.
Security officials confirmed that clashes had erupted and said police used tear gas to disperse hundreds of masked youths and rioters who had attacked government property and burnt cars.
Most of the civil unrest is in outlying areas inhabited by powerful tribes who are the original inhabitants of the country. They supply the army and security forces with recruits and form the backbone of support for the ruling Hashemite dynasty.
Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour said lifting hefty subsidies that cost at least $2 billion annually was unavoidable to avert economic collapse caused by a ballooning budget deficit.
(Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; Editing by Tom Pfeiffer)