Iraqis Protest U.S. Troops, Marking Baghdad's Fall

Four years ago, Baghdad fell to American forces. They pulled Saddam Hussein's huge statue to the ground, and Iraqis danced for joy in the city square.

But these days, many Iraqis blame the United States for the insurgent attacks, sectarian bloodshed and violent crime that have followed. A fear of suicide bombers led the Iraqi government to ban vehicle traffic Monday in Baghdad.

Many Iraqis turned out on the anniversary to demand that U.S. troops leave their country. Anti-American sentiment reverberated Monday across Iraq's south, where tens of thousands of Iraqi men and boys congregated in the Shiite holy cities of Najaf and Kufa.

The crowds chanted "No to America" and "Yes to Muqtada al-Sadr," the radical cleric who commands Iraq's largest Shiite militia and whose political clout has grown steadily over the past four years. Sadr called on Iraqis to unite and demonstrate peacefully.

But Sadr's militiamen fought U.S. and Iraqi forces in another southern town, Diwaniyah, about 45 miles east of Najaf. U.S. commanders dispatched troop reinforcements there last Friday, after Sadr supporters clashed with another Shiite militia.

Sadr's whereabouts are disputed. American officials say he is in Iran; his aides say he's still in Iraq. Sadr issued a statement Sunday condemning U.S. troops and their coalition allies, calling them the armies of darkness and accusing them of provoking strife among Iraqis.

He called on the Iraqi police and army not to cooperate with U.S. forces. Brothers are not to fight each other, he declared, and it is not right for some to defend the invader.