Shiites call for U.S. to leave Iraq
By LAUREN FRAYER, Associated Press Writer
BAGHDAD - Tens of thousands of Shiites — a sea of women in black abayas and men waving Iraqi flags — rallied Monday to demand that U.S. forces leave their country. Some ripped apart American flags and tromped across a Stars and Stripes rug.
The protesters marched about three miles between the holy cities of Kufa and Najaf to mark the fourth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad. In the capital, streets were silent and empty under a hastily imposed 24-hour driving ban.
Radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr ordered up the march as a show of strength not only to Washington but to Iraq's establishment Shiite ayatollahs as well.
Al-Sadr, who disappointed followers hoping he might appear after months in seclusion, has pounded his anti-American theme in a series of written statements. The most recent came on Sunday, when he called on his Mahdi Army militia to redouble efforts to expel American forces and for the police and army to join the struggle against "your archenemy."