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BAGHDAD - The Iraqi capital was under curfew yesterday, the fourth anniversary of its fall to US forces, as Iraqis gathered in the city of Najaf for a big anti-US protest called by fiery cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.
"No, no, to the occupation, no, no to America," thousands of marching Iraqis, waving Iraqi flags, chanted as they marched through the southern Shiite holy city.
Iraq imposed a 24-hour vehicle ban in Baghdad from 5am to prevent any attacks on the anniversary. Car bombs still plague the capital, despite a new security crackdown by tens of thousands of US and Iraqi troops that is seen as a last attempt to avert sectarian civil war.
Al-Sadr, who blames the US-led invasion for Iraq's unrelenting violence, urged Iraqis on Sunday to protest against the presence of US troops in Iraq.
Protesters in Najaf burnt the American flag and spray painted the slogans "May America fall" and "Bush is a dog" on the ground.
Thousands marched from nearby Kufa, while others clogged roads as they came by car and bus from Baghdad and Shiite cities in the south.
US President George Bush has insisted troops will not leave until Iraqis can take over security, and has rejected setting a timetable for withdrawal.
Four years ago to the day, the world watched as Iraqis, helped by US soldiers, toppled Saddam's 20m tall statue in Firdous Square.
Four years on more than 3270 US soldiers have been killed, 140 British soldiers, 124 from other nations, and tens of thousands of Iraqis. - Reuters