Iraqi Shiites rally after troops leave

FOLLOWERS of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr smashed symbolic British and Israeli flags as they celebrated the US withdrawal from Iraq in the Shiite stronghold of Sadr City in Baghdad yesterday.

The US completed its military withdrawal from Iraq in December 2011, but Sadrist MP Jawad al-Shuhaili said the movement postponed celebrating the event until the end of the Arbaeen, a 40-day period of mourning following the anniversary of the death of Imam Hussein, a revered Shia figure.

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At the rally, attended by tens of thousands, Mr Sadr presented himself as a statesman who can unite a fractured Iraq.

“If the last stage was of military and political resistance, the next stage will be that of construction and peace,” Mr Sadr said in a recorded speech from Iran, broadcast to his massed supporters.