Qassim Abdul-Zahra
May 26, 2011

Iraqi Shi’ite militia fighters led a massive rally of followers of a hard-liner anti-American cleric on Thursday, marching in Baghdad in a show of defiance as Iraqi leaders weigh whether to keep U.S. troops in the country beyond the end of the year.

An estimated 70,000 supporters of Muqtada al-Sadr waved Iraqi flags and shouted “No, no, America!” as the tight columns of the unarmed but ominous Mahdi Army marched though one of Baghdad’s poorest neighborhoods.

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U.S., Israeli and British flags were painted on the pavement to be stomped on by the marching protesters, and Iraqi military helicopters buzzed overhead while soldiers stood guard to keep peace if needed.

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