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Iraqi Shias protest in holy city
by BBC (reposted)
Monday Apr 9th, 2007 6:34 AM
Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Shias have gathered in the holy city of Najaf for a mass demonstration calling for US-led troops to leave Iraq.
Up to one million people were expected in Najaf after an appeal by Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr, who branded US forces "your arch enemy" in a statement.

He called Iraqis to Najaf to mark four years since US troops entered Baghdad and ended the rule of Saddam Hussein.

Baghdad has been placed under curfew for the duration of the anniversary.

A 24-hour ban on movement by all vehicles, for fear of car bomb attacks, began in the city at 0500 (0100 GMT) on Monday, where four years ago a giant statue of Saddam Hussein was torn down, symbolising the fall of his regime.

Followers of Moqtada Sadr play a key role in Iraq, with the Mehdi Army said to be heavily involved in the sectarian violence of the past year.

The BBC's Jim Muir, in Baghdad, says the Americans regard the cleric and his militia as the biggest danger to Iraq today.

However, the militia is reported to have stood down in response to a nearly eight-week-old US "surge", or security drive in Baghdad.

The cleric did not appear personally, but called for the mass protest in a statement issued on Sunday.

"In order to end the occupation, you will go out and demonstrate," he said.

He asked Iraqis not to "walk alongside the occupiers, because they are your arch enemy" and to turn all their efforts on US forces.

But he warned followers against violence, urging the Mehdi Army and Iraqi security forces "to be to be patient and to unite your efforts against the enemy and not against the sons of Iraq".

Thousands of Shias responded by heading to Najaf, 160km (100 miles) south of Baghdad, in tightly-packed buses and cars.

Some demonstrators burned US flags and shouted slogans: "No, no, no to America... Moqtada, yes, yes, yes," they chanted.

Many demonstrators arrived in Najaf carrying the Iraqi flag.

One members of Mr Sadr's organisation, Salah al-Obaydi, called the rally a "call for liberation".

"We're hoping that by next year's anniversary, we will be an independent and liberated Iraq with full sovereignty," he told the Associated Press.

Cars were banned from entering the city for a 24-hour period but buses were carrying demonstrators to the city centre.

'Nationalist chord'

Moqtada Sadr's supporters hold a crucial block of seats in Iraq's parliament, giving them an influential voice in Prime Minister Nouri Maliki's government.

by Al Jazeera (reposted)
Monday Apr 9th, 2007 6:35 AM
Hundreds of thousands of Shia protesters have burned and trampled on US flags in the Iraqi holy city of Najaf during an anti-American rally called by Muqtada al-Sadr, a prominent Shia cleric.

The rally coincided with the fourth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad - the day when US-led forces symbolically pulled down a statue of Saddam Hussein.

Crowds of men, women and children holding Iraqi flags and anti-US banners massed in Najaf and the nearby twin city of Kufa on Monday to protest what they said was an American occupation of Iraq.

The rally is seen as a show of strength for al-Sadr who has not been seen for more than two months.

Angry chants

Hundreds of banners saying "Down with Bush, Down with America" were carried by protesters as Iraqi police and soldiers guarded checkpoints in and around Najaf and Kufa.

by UK Guardian (reposted)
Monday Apr 9th, 2007 6:41 AM
Hundreds of thousands of supporters of the radical Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr took to the streets of two Shia holy cities in Iraq today and protested against "US occupiers".

The rally was called by Mr Sadr, who said in a statement yesterday that his militia followers should redouble efforts to drive US forces out of Iraq, describing them as "your arch-enemy".

Today, clad in Iraqi flags, demonstrators marched from the city of Kufa to neighbouring Najaf, which is 100 miles south of Baghdad, shouting "we obey your call" and other slogans against the US "occupiers".

by IOL (reposted)
Monday Apr 9th, 2007 6:47 AM
NAJAF — Calling for an immediate US withdrawal, tens of thousands of Iraqis took to the streets on Monday, April 9, to mark the fourth anniversary of Baghdad's fall to the US-led occupation forces.

"No, no, to the occupation, no, no to America," chanted the protestors as they marched through the southern Shiite holy city of Najaf, reported Reuters.

Thousands of Iraqi flag-wavers in Najaf burnt the American flag and spray-painted "May America fall" and "Bush is a dog" on the ground.

"Down with Bush, Down with America" were but a few of the banners carried by the angry Iraqis.

Many in the crowds were seen trampling on and striking US and Israeli flags painted on the ground with their shoes, an act considered one of the worst insults in Arab culture.

Thousands more protestors were marching from nearby Kufa, while others clogged roads as they came by car and bus from Baghdad and other cities in the south.

The US-backed Iraqi government has imposed a 24-hour vehicle ban in Baghdad on the fall anniversary.

All main roads and bridges were deserted as people remained indoors.

On April 9, 2003, the world watched as Iraqis, helped by US soldiers, toppled the 20-foot statue of ousted president Saddam Hussein in Baghdad's central Firdous Square.

A crowd swarmed over what was left of the statue and danced in joy.

Kadhim al-Jubouri, who personally took part in wrecking the statue, had since regretted his action.

"We got rid of a tyrant and tyranny. But we were surprised that after one thief had left, another 40 replaced him," Jubouri told the Washington Post on Monday.

"It's gotten worse," added the father of four. "We can hardly make both ends meet."

Damn US

Many of the Iraqi protestors damned the US occupation forces for the spiraling violence plaguing their country.

"In four years of occupation, our sons have been killed and women made widows," Ahmed al-Mayahie, 39, a Shiite from the southern city of Basra, told Agence France-Presse (AFP).

"The occupier raised slogans saying Iraq is free, Iraq is liberated. What freedom? What liberation? There is nothing but destruction.

"We do not want their liberation and their presence. We tell them to get out of our land."

Four years after the invasion, Iraq is now gripped by a bloody circle of violence, with more than a hundred people being killed on a daily basis.

Only last year, more than 34,000 civilians died in the raging violence that reached a peak in the capital Baghdad.

The UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has said that one in eight Iraqis had been forced from their homes because of the bloodshed, warning that the numbers are on the rise.

Lawmaker Falah Hassan Shanshil from Sadr's parliamentary bloc damned the US invasion-turned-occupation.

"This crowd has come to reject the American occupation and demand its withdrawal," he said.

Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr has called on Iraqis to unite against the American occupation forces.

He also urged Iraqi security forces not to support the "occupier because it is your enemy."

"Iraq has had enough bloodshed. The occupation forces led by the biggest evil, America, is working to sow dissent either directly or through its agents."

The US military says Sadr is in neighboring Iran. His aides say the Shiite leader is in Iraq and have denied suggestions he fled to escape a security crackdown on his Mahdy Army militia.

Mahdi fighters fought gun battles with US and Iraqi forces in Diwaniya at the weekend after the troops swept into neighborhoods to hunt them.

The Pentagon accuses the Mahdi Army of responsibility for sectarian violence and death squads.
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