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Iraqis flock to Najaf for anti-U.S. protest
by reposted
Sunday Apr 8th, 2007 10:17 AM
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.

by more
Sunday Apr 8th, 2007 12:02 PM
BAGHDAD - The renegade cleric Muqtada al-Sadr urged the Iraqi army and police to stop cooperating with the United States and told his guerrilla fighters to concentrate on pushing American forces out of the country, according to a statement issued Sunday.

The statement, stamped with al-Sadr's official seal, was distributed in the Shiite holy city of Najaf on Sunday — a day before a large demonstration there, called for by al-Sadr, to mark the fourth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad.

"You, the Iraqi army and police forces, don't walk alongside the occupiers, because they are your archenemy," the statement said. Its authenticity could not be verified.

In the statement, al-Sadr — who commands an enormous following among
Iraq's majority Shiites and has close allies in the Shiite-dominated government — also encouraged his followers to attack only American forces, not fellow Iraqis.