Hundreds of Iraqis took to the streets of this Shiite holy city Saturday, October 11 , in support for a shadow cabinet formed a day earlier by anti-USA firebrand Shiite leader Moqtada al-Sadr. Delivering Friday sermon, Sadr asked his followers to demonstrate peacefully if they agreed to his self-declared government, which includes several ministries.
“I have decided and I have formed a government made up of several ministries, including ministries of justice, finance, information, interior, foreign affairs, endowments and the promotion of virtue and prevention of vice,” Sadr told Shiite worshipers. “If you agree, I ask you to demonstrate peacefully in order to express your support,” the young leader added.
Demonstrators gathered Saturday in front of Sadr’s office on a narrow street next to Imam Ali shrine in central An-Najaf. “We are ready to sacrifice our souls for you, Sadr,” they chanted as they roamed the streets of the city, 180 kilometers south of Baghdad.
Sadr, who heads the thousands-strong Mehdi Army, was ignored by the USA-led occupation authority while forming the interim Governing Council. In July, thousands of Iraqis demonstrated against the USA-sanctioned council, signaling mounting frustration over the USA military’s hollow promises to spread democracy and restore situation back to normal.
Another Anti-U.S. Demo
Meanwhile, anti-U.S. fervor surged in the Iraqi capital after thousands of Shiites staged an angry funeral following clashes in Sadr City. Two Iraqis were killed in a shootout with U.S. troops in the city, which is home for 2.5 million Shiites. The troubles started hours after a car bomb at a police station claimed Thursday, October9 , the lives of nine people, including a bomber and three police officers.
Chanting “No to America,” more than 10,000 Shiites, many armed, marched alongside the coffins of the two men killed in the shooting. They raised their fists, roaring: “There is no God but Allah. America is the enemy of Allah”. Relatives then took the bodies to An-Najaf. Many among the crowd wore the black or green headbands of Mahdi Army.
“It is forbidden for the Americans to enter Sadr City. They intimidate and incite the people,” Sheikh Abdul Haji al-Darraji said during outdoor prayers before the procession. One man wearing a funeral shroud to symbolize his readiness to sacrifice his life called on the crowd to “salute the martyrs.” “Yes to the martyrs, no to America,” the crowd chanted.
Darraji denounced the “the criminal silence of the Governing Council in the face of the violence.” He also called USA forces a threat to the Muslim and Arab worlds and urged people to rise up against them. “How long will you be silent? Americans threaten Syria. They are threatening Iran. In the future, they will threaten more Arabs,” Darraji said.
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