Protesters Pelt US Troops in Baghdad: Rally by the Army of the Mahdi
Protesters from the Sadrist “Army of the Mahdi” gathered again Wednesday at a Shiite mosque in southwest Baghdad, demanding the release of two clerics, Moayad al-Khazraji and Jalil al-Shumri, who had been arrested Tuesday by US troops for “crimes against the coalition.” The two are suspected of stockpiling weaponry in the mosque, and al-Khazraji has made inflammatory sermons against the Americans. Negotiations with the Americans broke down at the mosque site, and 2,000 or so marchers then headed downtown, gathering in front of the Coalition headquarters. The crowd threw stones and shoes at US troops when it became clear that the two clerics would not be released. “Some of them pointed to U.S. soldiers and moved their hands across their necks in a threat of violence. “Today we’re peaceful, tomorrow it will be war,” they chanted. “ They also lay down in the street, blocking roads and immobilizing two US armored personnel carriers. Other protesters attacked Western reporters and photographers. An AP photographer had his camera destroyed. The protesters are followers of Muqtada al-Sadr, a young sectarian leader with an immense following among the two million poor, young inhabitants of Baghdad’s Shiite slums.