Jordanians torch U.S. flag to protest troop deployment

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Jordanian protesters torched a U.S. flag at a demonstration in Amman Friday against an American troop deployment in Jordan in connection with the war in neighboring Syria as hundreds also rallied in other cities.

An AFP photographer said about 400 people took to the streets of the old city of Amman after weekly Muslim prayers chanting: “We don’t want to see American” soldiers in our country.

The demonstrators set off from the Al-Husseini mosque in a protest organized by opposition leftist parties and youth groups, carrying signs that read: “The (Jordanian) Arab army protects us” and “U.S. presence undermines national sovereignty.”

Some demonstrators set on fire a U.S. flag before the rally broke off into two groups, one heading towards the royal palace that overlooks downtown Amman, while the other marched on the main square outside city hall.

Similar protests were held in the northern city of Irbid and in Zarqa, east of the capital, a stronghold of Islamists, where demonstrators chanted: “America is the head of the snake” and “Syria free, free. America out,” witnesses said.

Earlier this month U.S. Defense Minister Chuck Hagel revealed that some 150 U.S. military specialists have been deployed in Jordan since last year and that he had ordered a U.S. Army headquarters team to bolster the mission, bringing the total American presence to more than 200 troops.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose regime has been battling rebels trying to oust him from power since March 2011, warned in an interview this month that the war in his country could spread to Jordan, which he accused of allowing rebels free movement across the border.

But on Thursday a U.S. Defense official played down chances of military action over Syria, despite an assessment from U.S. spy agencies that the Syrian regime likely used chemical agents in the conflict.

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