Thursday, March 27, 2008

Sadr followers march to demand downfall of Maliki

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Thousands of supporters of Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr marched in Baghdad on Thursday to protest against a three-day-old crackdown against his followers and call for the downfall of the U.S.-backed government.

Mass demonstrations were held in the Sadr City, Kadhimiya and Shula districts. An Interior Ministry source said hundreds of thousands had taken to the streets.

"We demand the downfall of the Maliki government. It does not represent the people. It represents Bush and Cheney," said Sadr City resident Hussein Abu Ali.

"The government wants to root out the Sadr movement ahead of provincial elections. We are demonstrating -- women, children and men -- to demand an end to the military operation. These are our brothers," said a man who gave his name as Abu Ammar.

Authorities imposed curfews across southern Iraq in an effort to halt the spread of violence after the largest military offensive carried out by Iraqi forces independent of major support from U.S. or British combat units.

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