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March called by Sadr against US troop presence ends after thousands rally in Baghdad

Had caused concern that it would detract from Tharir protests
Supporters of Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr protest against the US presence in Iraq during a demonstration in Baghdad, Iraq, January 24, 2020. REUTERS/Alaa al-Marjani
2020-01-24

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SULAIMANI — Thousands of supporters of Shia cleric and political leader Moqtada al-Sadr turned out on Friday (January 24) for a brief rally in the al- Jadiriyah area of Baghdad in what had been billed as a “million-strong” march against the US presence in Iraq.

Chanting slogans against the US and Israel and holding Iraqi flags, the crowd gathered for several hours before a representative of Sadr read a message condemning the continued presence of US troops and then urged the crowd to disperse.

“Our demand is that the conquerors should get out. We want to kick US out of Iraq, and not just US, we want them all out and for Iraq to achieve complete independence,” one protester told NRT Digital Media reporter Omed Muhammad during the rally.

“We don’t want US or Iran or Saudi Arabia or Turkey in our country, we want them out completely,” he added.

In his speech, Sadr's representative said that all foreign troops should leave Iraq, security agreements between with the US should be canceled, and air space closed to US military and surveillance aircraft.

The march had caused concern that it would distract from the months-long protests against the government centered on Tahrir Square in Baghdad and in cities across the southern provinces in which more than 500 people have been killed.

The Iraqi security forces had been deployed to the area overnight to ensure that there was no attempt by the Sadrists to march towards Tahrir or the Green Zone, where Iranian-backed militiamen staged a violent show of force outside the US embassy last month.

The issue of foreign troops in Iraq came to head earlier this month following the US’ assassination of Iranian Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani, angering many Shia members in the Council of Representatives who called on caretaker Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi to request that US and coalition forces leave the country.

(NRT Digital Media)

This story was updated at 12:57 p.m.