April 9th, 2010
03:02 PM ET

Thousands mark 2003 fall of Baghdad

Tens of thousands of supporters of anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr on Friday marched through the streets of the holy Shiite city of Najaf to commemorate the seventh anniversary of Baghdad's fall.

Al-Sadr, in Iran to complete his religious studies, called for the demonstration. The turnout reflects his strong grassroots popularity. The demonstrators waved Iraqi flags, religious banners and posters of al-Sadr and his late father, who was an ayatollah.

U.S. troops swept into the Iraqi capital 20 days after the U.S.-led invasion began in late March of 2003.

The protesters shouted many slogans: "No for occupation, yes for freedom"; "You occupiers get out of our country"; "No no for occupation"; "No no for America"; "No no for Israel" and "No no for the devil." Using chains, they dragged British, American and Israeli flags and a vehicle resembling a U.S. tank.

"We want the occupiers to leave our country immediately," said Haider Naser, one of Sadr's supporters.

- From CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq

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