By Suleiman Al-Khalidi
AMMAN (Reuters) - Three Jordanian intelligence officers and two other security personnel were killed in an attack on a security office in a Palestinian refugee camp on the outskirts of the Jordanian capital, a government official said on Monday.
Jordanian television, quoting a government spokesman, described it as a terrorist attack that took place at 7 a.m. (12 a.m. ET), giving no further details.
The Baqaa camp is the largest camp in Jordan, where a large percentage of the country's over seven million population are descendants of Palestinian refugees who fled in the aftermath of the creation of Israel in 1948.
Government spokesman Mohammad al-Momani said the attack targeted the intelligence department's local office in the camp that houses over 70,000 refugees. Alongside the three officers, a guard and a telephone exchange operator at the office were killed.
"Security forces are chasing these culprits and investigating the circumstances of the terrorist attack," Momani said.
Earlier this year a large security operation was mounted in the northern city of Irbid in which several Islamic State sympathizers were killed in a shoot out.
The security authorities later said they had carried out a pre-emptive strike against a group of militants linked to Syria who were planning suicide attacks on shopping malls and government buildings.
The kingdom, an ally of the United States for decades and which has close security ties with Israel, has long been a target of radical Sunni fundamentalist groups including both al Qaeda and Islamic State.
Jordan was one of the first regional countries to join a military campaign led by Washington against Islamic State.
King Abdullah has repeatedly warned that the threat from extremist Sunni groups poses the biggest threat to Jordan's long-term stability.
The kingdom has sent dozens of radical Islamic hardliners to prison in the last few years, many of whom who came from Syria or were arrested while trying to cross the border.
Western donors and political analysts warn of growing radicalization in Jordan's impoverished camps and in squalid areas within major cities fueled by poverty and few economic opportunities.
The sprawling Baqaa camp is one of the biggest impoverished areas that has long been a fertile ground for Islamic militancy. Dozens have left the camp to join jihadist groups in Syria and Iraq.
(Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; Editing by Tom Perry and Richard Balmforth)