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Tens of thousands in Baghdad call for US withdrawal
Posted: Friday, April 18, 2003

-Al Jazeera and agencies

Tens of thousands of demonstrators in Baghdad protested against the United States presence in Iraq on Friday, following Friday prayers.

Waving banners in English and Arabic reading "Leave our country, we want peace," protestors outside of the Abu Hanifa Al-Numan Mosque chanted "No to America, no to Saddam" and "This homeland is for the Shia and Sunni," in a sign of unity among the two groups.

The majority of Iraq's 25-million strong population is 60 percent Shia, which had been ruled ruthlessly under Saddam Hussein's mostly Sunni elitist regime. In recent days there has been mounting discontent from among the Shia to Washington's presence in Iraq.

Protestors called for unity among Iraqis and urged all to put aside past conflicts and differences.

Al-Jazeera TV correspondent Youseff Al-Shouly reported it was the first non-state organized protest in the Iraqi capital in decades, describing it as a significant development.

In the first Friday prayers since US tanks rolled into the heart of Baghdad last week, Imam Ahmad Al-Kubaisi said in his sermon the United States invaded Iraq to defend Israel and denied that Iraqi possessed weapons of mass destruction.

April 18, 2003

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