Rally Marks Anniversary of Baghdad's Fall
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Filed at 6:23 a.m. ET
BAGHDAD (AP). Tens of thousands marched through the streets of two Shiite holy cities to denounce the U.S. presence in Iraq.
The rally was called for by powerful Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who commands an enormous following among Iraq's majority Shiites and has close allies in the Shiite-dominated government.
A day earlier, the renegade cleric issued a statement ordering his militiamen to redouble their battle to oust American forces and argued that Iraq's army and police should join him in defeating ''your archenemy.''
On Monday, demonstrators marched from Kufa to neighboring Najaf, 100 miles south of Baghdad, with two cordons of Iraqi police lining the route.
Some at the rally waved small Iraqi flags; others hoisted up a giant flag 10 yards long. Leaflets fluttered through the breeze reading: ''Yes, Yes to Iraq'' and ''Yes, Yes to Muqtada. Occupiers should leave Iraq.''
''The enemy that is occupying our country is now targeting the dignity of the Iraqi people,'' said lawmaker Nassar al-Rubaie, head of al-Sadr's bloc in parliament, as he marched. ''After four years of occupation, we have hundreds of thousands of people dead and wounded.''
A senior official in al-Sadr's organization in Najaf, 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 ...full text