/ 3 April 2008

Iraq’s al-Sadr calls for million-strong demonstration

Iraqi Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr called on Thursday for his followers to demonstrate in a million-strong march against United States ”occupation” on April 9, the fifth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad.

”The time has come to express your rejections and raise your voices loud against the unjust occupier and enemy of nations and humanity, and against the horrible massacres committed by the occupier against our honourable people,” said a statement released by Sadr’s office in the holy city of Najaf.

The statement called on Iraqis to converge on Najaf, a site of annual pilgrimages that often attract hundreds of thousands of Shi’ite worshippers.

Sadr’s followers clashed with Iraqi and US forces throughout the south of the country and Baghdad last week in the worst fighting Iraq has seen since at least the first half of 2007.

The fighting mainly ended on Sunday after Sadr called his followers off the streets. But Sadr’s supporters say government forces have continued to round them up and lay siege to Sadr strongholds in Baghdad. — Reuters