Six years after invasion, cleric’s supporters denounce ‘cruel occupation’
Followers of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr burn an American flag during an anti-U.S. demonstration Friday, March 20, 2009 in the Sadr City neighborhood of Baghdad marking the sixth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. (Photo credit: Karim Kadim / AP)
March 20, 2009
BAGHDAD – American flags were set on fire Friday to chants of “no, no for occupation” as followers of an anti-U.S. Shiite cleric marked the sixth anniversary of the Iraq war.
In five other Iraqi cities, supporters of cleric Muqtada al-Sadr also either marched or stood in protest after prayers to demand the release of their allies detained at Iraqi and U.S.-run prisons.
The protests came as a suicide bomber in Fallujah killed an Iraqi police officer and five other people, including civilians, in an attempted attack on the home of the local leader of Sunni security volunteers who turned against al-Qaida.
Also, a pair of roadside bombs exploded within 10 minutes of one another after sundown Friday, wounding four policemen and three civilians in Baghdad’s Karradah district, police said. A police colonel and his aide were wounded in a bombing Friday in Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit, police said.
In the capital, al-Sadr aide Sheik Haidar al-Jabiri urged supporters to join an April 9 march to protest the six-year anniversary of Americans taking over the city.
“Today, a remembrance of the cruel occupation of Iraq, and on April 9, there will be a chant for liberation,” al-Sadr aide Sheik Haidar al-Jabiri told worshippers gathered in Baghdad’s Shiite district of Sadr City for Friday sermons. …
A similar planned march last year was canceled. Al-Sadr’s previous demonstrations have attracted thousands of supporters, but have not reached 1 million. …
“No, no for occupation. Yes, yes for liberation. Yes, yes for Iraq,” the demonstrators chanted.
Two American flags were set on fire.
Thousands of Sadrist followers in five other cities – Basra, Kut, Diwaniyah, Amarah and Nasiriyah – also took to the streets Friday in an apparent planned series of protests.
In Kut, up to 1,000 worshippers marched from the grand mosque in center of the city to Sadrist offices a short distance away, denouncing the U.S. occupation and calling for detainees to be released. …
Meanwhile, the U.S. military announced the Thursday death of an American soldier from non-combat causes in Iraq.
At least 4,260 American service members have died in Iraq since the war started, according to an Associated Press count.
March 17, 2009
Of the 31 countries in the coalition at the start of the war, four remain: U.S., United Kingdom, Australia, Romania
Deaths & injuries
Congress has approved more than $657 billion so far for the Iraq war and has financed a wide array of projects – from training the Iraqi army and police to rebuilding the country’s oil, electric, justice, health and transportation sectors.
But progress has been undermined in many areas by violence, corruption and tension between U.S. and Iraqi officials.
The Bush administration initially thought the war effort would cost $2.4 billion.
Over the next 10 years, the cost could range from an estimated $440 billion to $865 billion.
Total tab for the Iraq war: At least $3 trillion, according to economists Linda Bilmes and Joseph Stiglitz.
Iraq possesses the third largest proven oil reserves in the world, estimated at a total of 115 billion barrels. Only Saudi Arabia and Iran have larger world oil reserves.
Still, Iraq’s government will have dramatically less money to spend on rebuilding plans in 2009 because of plunging oil prices.
Security Developments in Iraq
Following are security developments in Iraq on Saturday, March 21, 2009, as reported by Reuters.
MOSUL – Iraqi police said they found the body of an ex-army officer dumped in central Mosul, 240 miles north of Baghdad.
BAGHDAD – Two successive roadside bombs wounded three people including a policeman in central Baghdad on Friday, police said.
Following are security developments in Iraq on Friday, March 20, 2009, as reported by Reuters.
NEAR FALLUJA – A suicide bomber shot dead a policeman and wounded two civilians with his AK-47 before detonating his explosive belt near a tribal leader’s house, near Falluja, 32 miles west of Baghdad, police said. No one was hurt by the ensuing blast.
BAQUBA – U.S.-backed Iraqi army forces killed 10 suspected militants in fierce clashes southeast of Baquba, 40 miles northeast of Baghdad, on Thursday, police and hospital sources said.
RAMADI – A roadside bomb wounded a policeman and two civilians when it struck a police patrol in central Ramadi, 60 miles west of Baghdad, on Thursday, police said.
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