Monday, January 22, 2018

Calls for ouster of Jordan's king grow at protests

AMMAN, Jordan — Police armed with truncheons skirmished with protesters outside a central Amman mosque on Friday as demonstrations over rising fuel prices rocked this Western-backed Arab monarchy for a fourth straight day.

Scattered scuffles broke out between security forces and an agitated but predominantly peaceful crowd of about 4,000 people who rallied outside the capital's Husseini Mosque after Friday prayers.

Many protesters chanted slogans demanding the ouster of King Abdullah II, the moderate monarch long regarded as a pillar of stability in the Middle East.

The unrest is the worst under Abdullah's 13-year rule. Jordan has witnessed scores of protests since the start of the Arab Spring movement nearly two years ago, but most have been relatively small and peaceful.

Demonstrations in Amman early last year prompted the king to replace the prime minister and announce a number of political reforms. Discontent over the pace of the reforms sent tens of thousands of protesters into the streets in protest in October.

Jordan, one of only two Arab countries with diplomatic ties to Israel, is regarded as a vital U.S. ally in the region and a partner in counterterrorism efforts.

Already this week, rioters in more than a dozen cities have torched cars and government buildings and battled with police in disturbances that have left one protester dead and scores injured. But Friday's protests did not appear to signal a significant escalation of the protest movement, and organizers and police alike issued appeals for restraint.

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