Monday, April 9, 2007

Al Sadr calls for resistance to US occupation

There doesn't seem to be much new in his message. His rallies on the anniversary of the war obviously are attracting large crowds. The rallies seem more or less peaceful. Sadr himself is not risking arrest by appearing. He may or may not be in Iran. This report is from Der Spiegel.


Al-Sadr Calls for Resistance Against the US
Thousands of Iraqis have turned out to protest US troops on the fourth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad, and Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has issued his fiercest anti-American statement in months.

Anti-American protests called by the cleric Moqtada al-Sadr filled a Shiite holy city south of Baghdad on Monday, as the government imposed a curfew in the capital to keep order on the fourth anniversary of the fall of Saddam Hussein.

The April 9 demonstrations marked the day in 2003 when US Marines and the Army's 3rd Infantry Division took Baghdad. Thousands of demonstrators marched from Kufa to the holy city of Najaf, waving Iraqi flags and chanting, "No, no to America, yes, yes to Moqtada," with police lining the demonstration route. They weren't allowed to protest in Baghdad.


Photo Gallery: Iraqis Protest US Troops
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Al-Sadr -- who is in hiding -- had exhorted his followers over the weekend to attend the protests and end the recent fighting in the Shiite city of Diwaniya, where US forces began a mission on Friday to oust his Mahdi Army militia. Al-Sadr blamed the US for the continuing violence and said, in a statement distributed in Najaf on Sunday, "You, the Iraqi army and police forces, don't walk alongside the occupiers, because they are your archenemy ... God has ordered you to be patient in front of your enemy, and unify your efforts against them -- not against the sons of Iraq."

It wasn't an outright call to arms, but it was al-Sadr's most aggressive anti-American rhetoric since a security crackdown in Baghdad drove him underground almost two months ago.

The crackdown intensified on Monday. Vehicle traffic was banned in Baghdad starting at 5 a.m., but cars full of protesters flowed out of the capital city before the curfew to demonstrate elsewhere. The government on Sunday had cancelled the April 9 holiday, but quickly recinded the decree.


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"There will be protests marking the fourth anniversary," said Iraqi Army Brigadier Qassim Moussawi, spokesman for the latest US-Iraqi security mission in Baghdad, to explain the vehicle curfew. "We don't want to give the terrorists a chance to use this opportunity."

Al-Sadr has officially been ordering members of his Mahdi Army militia to disarm ever since the crackdown started in Baghdad in mid-February. But his anti-American rhetoric hasn't slackened, and some of the violence has moved to Shiite towns in the Diyala province south of Baghdad, like Diwaniya. On Sunday a car bomb in another such town, Mahmudiya, killed 17 people and wounded two dozen while in Baghdad, the bodies of 17 people, some apparently tortured, were found across the city in the last 24 hours. The US military on Monday announced the deaths of 10 soldiers in Iraq over the weekend including six on Sunday.

The Iraqi government called last week for a broadening of the crackdown to other cities.

Meanwhile Pope Benedict XVI released an Easter message on Sunday lamenting violence in Africa and the Middle East and decrying the "continual slaughter" in Iraq.

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