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Hundreds of thousands march in Iraq to demand end of US occupation
In a huge demonstration marking the fourth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad to US invasion forces, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis marched in the city of Najaf Monday to demand an end to the American occupation of their land.
Large crowds of men, women and children waving Iraqi flags—signaling an appeal to national unity against the occupation—marched behind banners reading “Down with Bush, Down with America.” Others burned American flags or stomped them with their shoes.
The overwhelmingly Shia demonstration, called by radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, was the largest seen in Najaf since the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Marchers chanted, “No, no, no to America ... Muqtada yes, yes, yes,” “Yes to Iraq, yes to sovereignty, no to occupation” and “The terrorist Bush should leave.” The massive march began outside a mosque in Najaf’s twin city of Kufa and proceeded to the center of Najaf, considered a holy city by the Shia community.
On the eve of the demonstration, al-Sadr issued a call for Iraqi soldiers and police not to fight on the side of the Americans against their co-religionists in the Mahdi Army, the Shia militia that is loyal to him. In an apparent indication of the potency of such an appeal, soldiers and police in uniform joined the demonstration in significant numbers.