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 each other 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-Jabiri told worshippers gathered in Baghdad’s Shiite district of Sadr City for Friday sermons.
Baghdad fell to U.S. forces on April 9, 2003. The war began with a missile and bombing attack on south Baghdad before dawn on March 20, 2003 – March 19 in Washington.
A similar planned march last year was canceled. Al-Sadr’s previous demonstrations have attracted thousands of supporters.
Demonstrators responded by lifting a banner reading: “To the Iraqi government, when you will be trustful and release our detainee sons?”
“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.
The protests and bombings came a day after a U.S. airstrike on a militant hideout north of Baghdad killed at least 11 insurgents, the U.S. said.