Millions of Iraqis marched in towns and cities across the country against the US-led occupation yesterday, waving the nationalist Iraqi flag on the fourth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad in April 2003.
Up to a million men, women and children marched in the southern city of Najaf in response to a call by anti-occupation cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.
Sadr representative Salah al-Obaydi described the mass rally in Najaf as a ‘call for liberation’ and for the withdrawal of all US and UK troops.
He added: ‘We’re hoping that by next year’s anniversary we will be an independent and liberated Iraq with full sovereignty.’
He told the assembled crowds: ‘We call for the withdrawal of the occupier, and the withdrawal of the last American soldier.
‘We refuse the presence of any foreign military base in Iraq.’
Hundreds of thousands also marched in the nearby twin city of Kufa.
Thousands of banners saying ‘Down with Bush, Down with America, Death to America’ could be seen in the crowd.
‘No, no to America, yes, yes to Moqtada,’ the marchers, waving Iraqi flags and burning US and Israeli flags, chanted.
Despite tight security in the capital, Baghdad, hundreds of thousands rallied in Sadr City, a bastion of the Mahdi Army militia.
In a statement stamped and issued by al-Sadr’s Najaf office on his behalf on Sunday, the cleric urged local Iraqi forces not to support the ‘occupier because it is your enemy.
‘Iraq has had enough bloodshed. The occupation force led by the biggest evil, America, is working to sow dissent either directly or through its agents.’
The US military said yesterday that six more US troops had been killed on Sunday.
• Second news story
SHRINE MUST NOT BE REMOVED – DE MENEZES FAMILY
LONDON Transport plans to get rid of the shrine to murdered Brazilian man Jean Charles de Menezes as part of a ‘redevelopment’ of Stockwell tube station.
Jean Charles was held down and shot seven times in the head by armed police on a tube train at the station on July 22, 2005.
The Jean Charles de Menezes Family Campaign said tube managers had told them they now want the shrine next to the station, which is looked after by local people, to be removed.
A mural of Jean Charles close to the station was painted over in November 2005.
A spokesman for the Justice4Jean campaign said: ‘Transport for London have said they want to redevelop the Tube at Stockwell and we don’t mind moving the shrine, but we don’t want to get rid of it altogether.
‘The mural over from the Tube was painted over and it just seems like people are trying to forget what happened.’
Jean Charles’ cousin, Alex Pereira, told News Line: ‘We have to meet them and discuss this. We want to keep the shrine there to remind people that our questions haven’t been answered.’
Tube bosses have suggested putting a plaque inside the station instead.
A Transport for London spokesman said yesterday: ‘London Underground recognises the desire of the family and friends of Jean Charles de Menezes to have a permanent memorial at Stockwell station.
London Underground has been in discussions with representatives of the family and these discussions are ongoing.’