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Huge march in Baghdad against US occupation

From Le Figaro

On the occasion of the second anniversary of the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime, tens of thousands of demonstrators expressed their scorn for America in Baghdad, while 30 Iraqis, 16 of them soldiers, were killed in rebel attacks.

The crows gathered at Firdos Square, where on April 9 2003, Iraqis helped by American soldiers toppled a statue of the former dictator, signifying the end of his grip on Iraq.

The demonstration, called by the radical Shiite leader Moqtada al-Sadr, also attracted Sunnis, who have seen their influence decline in Iraq with the fall of the old regime and the electoral victory of the majority Shiites.

During the demonstration, the largest that has been organized in Baghdad in two years, the crowd chanted: "No, no to America, no, no to occupation."

To avoid excesses, the police blocked the main streets in central Baghdad and closed two bridges over the Tigris.

Demonstrators carried portraits of American President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair with bloody teeth and the words: "International terrorists."

"Our unity shuts up those who repeat that the end of the occupation will lead to civil war," said Moqtada al-Sadr, in a speech read by one of his aides, Nasser al-Saaidi.

He was alluding to the call issued Friday by radical Sunni imams to participate in the march and the presence of some of them.

"God, break their neck like they are break ours and terrorize us," he added, stating that "there will be neither peace nor security in Iraq until the end of the occupation."

Moqtada Sadr sharply upbraided President Bush: "You said that America has become more secure... Perhaps... but the rest of the world has become more dangerous," he said.

"Why do you seize weapons of the resistance and let Israel keep its nuclear arsenal?" said the radical leader, continuing: "Why does the United States make Syria leave Lebanon, a fraternal nation, while the
American aggressor remains in Iraq?"

Another of his aides, Moayad al-Khazraji, articulated several of his movement's demands, the first being "the opening of a transparent trial of Saddam Hussein."

"We want the withdrawal of occupation forces and not to hear as a pretext that our security forces aren't ready," he declared in a direct criticism of the new Iraqi executive.

"We want the government to free all prisoners immediately," the sheikh insisted, referring to the 6,504 detainees, only 2,573 of whom have been sentenced.

He also demanded that "the resistance should not be kept out of the political process and the resistance should be differentiated from terrorism," and the crowd greeted each request by chanting: "That's what we want."

In Ramadi, capital of the rebel Sunni province of al-Anbar, 60 miles west of Baghdad, hundreds of students also demonstrated in response to a call from their religious leaders, asking that "the occupation be ended and foreign forces be driven out."

Violence, attributed to the Sunni rebellion, saw an upturn on this anniversary day, leaving 27 dead in a period of several hours.

Twenty-five Iraqis, fifteen of them soldiers, died in a series of attacks in the rebel zone south of Baghdad known as the "triangle of death," according to security sources.

In Mosul, northern Iraq's large city, a civilian and a policeman were killed and fourteen other persons wounded, eleven of them policemen, in a suicide attack. Three other persons, including an Iraqi soldier and a civilian, were killed by an explosive device at Machahda (18 miles north of Baghdad).

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Translated by Mark K. Jensen
Associate Professor of French
Department of Languages and Literatures
Pacific Lutheran University

 

April 2005

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