Baghdad's streets quiet on fifth anniversary of capital's fall

Other News Materials 9 April 2008 15:18 (UTC +04:00)

(dpa) - The streets of Baghdad were calmer than usual Wednesday as security forces imposed a one-day blanket curfew to prevent any violence on the fifth anniversary of the fall of the Iraqi capital to US troops.

Traffic in and around Baghdad was banned and security was beefed up in neighbourhoods known for violence. Stores were closed down, governmental offices were not working and Iraqi newspapers were not on the stands.

It has been five years since the US-led invasion of Iraq toppled the regime of then president Saddam Hussein and US troops took control over Baathist ministries and bureaus.

In spite of the subsequent political developments and the bigger political share that the Shiites have been enjoying since the US forces entered Iraq on April 9, 2003, some of them, mainly Sadrists, still say that US troops should be driven out of the country.

Meanwhile, radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr cancelled the so- called "march of millions" in which hundreds of thousands of Shiite Iraqis planned protests against US occupation.

Al-Sadr ordered his followers to postpone their mass demonstrations to protect themselves from any anniversary-related killings.

The government launched on March 25 an offensive targeting mainly al-Sadr's militiamen in Basra but halted military operations after al-Sadr moved to halt fighting.

"We have seen the security restrictions of al-Maliki's government and the extent of the escalation against Iraqis across Iraq, as if all Iraqis are criminals," al-Sadr said in his statement.

He added: "This spread of security implies that the government is still under the deceiving US pressure and that is why it (the government) has tried to annul the march of millions."