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Iraqis flock to Najaf for anti-U.S. protest
NAJAF, Iraq, April 8 (Reuters) - Thousands of Iraqis flocked to the holy city of Najaf on Sunday for a big demonstration called by radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr against the U.S. presence in Iraq.
Sadr has urged Iraqis to protest in Najaf on Monday, the fourth anniversary of the day on which U.S. forces swept into central Baghdad in 2003. It is remembered around the world as the day a large statue of Saddam Hussein was toppled in the Iraqi capital.
The Baghdad-Najaf road was packed on Sunday with hundreds of vehicles crammed with passengers waving Iraqi flags and chanting religious and anti-U.S. slogans.
"No, no, no to America ... Moqtada, yes, yes, yes," they chanted as they converged towards Najaf.
Sadr himself is not expected to attend the gathering -- he has not appeared at a large public gathering in months. A statement is likely to be read out on his behalf.
Protesters in the southern town of Samawa clashed with Iraqi police on Sunday after they were stopped from getting to Najaf. One protester stabbed a policeman and police retaliated by firing shots in the air to disperse the crowd, witnesses said.