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Iraqis march against "terrorism"

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Iraqis march against "terrorism" as bomb leaves carnage on Baghdad street

Fri Dec 5, 8:19 AM ET Add Mideast - AFP to My Yahoo!

BAGHDAD (AFP) - About 1,000 Iraqis, mostly Shiites, rallied in central Baghdad to condemn "terrorism" against Iraqis and US "liberation" forces Friday as four Iraqis and a US soldier died in a bomb attack elswhere in the capital.

Dozens of children aged between five and 10 marched at the front of the protest, with flowers in their hands, under white banners proclaiming in red letters: "Children -- innocent victims of terrorism," and: "Terrorism blocks any future for children".

Organiser Sabih Hassan, head of a child protection association set up since the US-led invasion, said they had all "become orphans because of terrorism".

Hassan said the march, the second here in a week, was against "all operations, including those targeting Americans".

"Our children have a vital need for peace and security."

As the protest was under way, four Iraqis and a US soldier died and at least 15 people were wounded when a homemade bomb exploded as an American convoy drove down a crowded shopping street in Baghdad.

The "Iraqi democratic trend", set up after the war by tribes in the Shiite areas of Karbala and Babel in central Iraq (news - web sites), organised the demonstration, said general secretary Aziz al-Yassiri.

Sheikh Abdul Jalil Cherhani, 55, a leading member of the group said: "We are against those who kill Iraqis, those who fight the Americans who liberated the country."

Iraq's majority Shiite community suffered some of the worst repression from the ousted regime of Saddam Hussein (news - web sites), which put down a Shiite rebellion at the loss of thousands of lives in the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf war (news - web sites).

Abed Salman Ali, 43, a former second-hand clothes dealer said he had joined the demonstration to protest against the insecurity that has forced many street vendors like him out of business.

"It doesn't matter who the target is. This violence is blocking the reconstruction of our country," he complained.

Police escorted the demonstrators as they marched down Saadoun Street, the capital's main commercial thoroughfare, on the Muslim day of rest.

But no US military presence was visible, unlike the last such demonstration a week ago.

The protestors marched in groups of around 100, each carrying the banners of their tribes.

Placards in broken English demanded: "No off terror," "No off formation crime", "Thanks for Colaition Provisional Authority soldiers," "Yes, Yes of peace."

Another of the organisers, Hathem al-Awadi, criticised the coalition's latest plans for stemming the violence that has dogged its nearly eight-month-old occupation by setting up a new counter-insurgency battalion composed of former armed opponents of Saddam.

"Formation of this militia, if indeed it goes ahead, will lead to a bloodbath," said Awadi,

"The only solution is to reconsitute the Iraqi army -- its members are ordinary people who suffered under Saddam like everyone ese."

Iraq's interim foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, himself a member of an armed opposition group -- the Kurdistan Democratic Party -- late Thursday welcomed the coalition's plans to set up the new unit to work with US Special Forces, saying it had not come soon enough.

A series of similar demonstrations have been organized around Iraq in recent days with coalition blessing.

Earlier this week, one was held in the town of Baaquba, north of Baghdad, which was the scene of a deadly suicide bombing against a police station last month.

A coalition spokesman hailed the involvement in that rally of a Muslim preacher, but acknowledged that he was a Shiite, not a member of the Sunni community, which forms the majority in the badlands north and west of the capital where most attacks occur.

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