Jordan's top prison official held hostage

Jordan's top prison official and at least six other police officers were being held hostage Wednesday by prisoners rioting over the fate of two convicted al-Qaida killers.

Two of the hostages were released, Maj. Bashir Da'aja, spokesman for the Public Security Department announced on Jordan Television. But he did not identify the men or provide further details.

Jordan's Interior Minister Eid al-Fayez said using force to release the captives would only be a last resort.

"We will not resort to using force, unless necessity requires it," al-Fayez told the official Petra news agency. He added that officials were talking to the hostage takers.

Al-Fayez said one of their demands was for new trials in civil courts as some had been convicted and sentenced by military tribunals.

He had initially reported that six to eight police officers had been taken hostage.

Da'aja said the riots broke out at Juweideh prison when prisoners demanded that at least two inmates, including the al-Qaida-linked killer of an American diplomat, be transferred from the Swaqa prison to theirs, Da'aja said earlier at a news conference.

But an Islamic activist in Jordan said inmates began rioting after they heard reports that the two convicted al-Qaida members were being taken away for execution. But al-Da'aja denied the report saying that "no execution order was ever issued."

The activist said hundreds of special security and army units were at the prison. The activist, who asked not to be named so as not to endanger himself with police, said he got his information from families of inmates who were in the prison at the time the rioting broke out. The activist himself once was in the same prison, reports the AP.

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