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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Iraqi citizens exercise peaceful right of assembly in Najaf

Tuesday, 10 April 2007

BAGHDAD — Citizens of Iraq assembled in Najaf Monday to conduct a demonstration against the U.S. presence in their country.
Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr called for the protest on the fourth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad, when Coalition forces toppled the Saddam Hussein regime.

The number of participants that took part in the event ranged from 5,000 to 7,000, based on aerial photographs, said U.S. Army Col. Steven Boylan, a military spokesman with Multi-National Force-Iraq.

During the era of Saddam Hussein the people could not voice their opinions or freely express how they felt about the government. This changed in Dec. 2005 when millions of Iraqis voted for a democratic future during their general election of a new government.

The gathering is part of the right to peaceful assembly and for the Iraqi people to voice their views, said Boylan. This is an example of the changes occurring in Iraq, he added.

Since the removal of Saddam Hussein’s regime by the Coalition, and with the continued security efforts of the Iraqi security forces, citizens here can take part in their young democracy through peaceful assembly and protest.

Efforts by Iraqi troops and Coalition forces continue in order to build the required security needed for the country to prosper.

Thousands of projects are taking place all across Iraq, which are designed to improve the quality of life for every Iraqi. A key element for Iraqis to go about their daily lives is electricity.

“We are achieving pretty good results in terms of providing Iraq its power needs,” said Al Herman, senior consultant for electricity to the U.S. State Department.

Electricity should be provided to all Iraqis, regardless of their ethnic and sectarian differences, said Dr. Karim Wahid Al-Hasan, Iraqi Minister of Electricity. However, we need secure conditions to carry out these projects, he said.

The effort to improve security in Iraq will take time and determination and the way ahead will be challenging, but the mission of improving security can be done, said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, the Multi-National Force-Iraq Spokesman.

“We're out there to protect the population,” Caldwell said.

Through the increased presence on the streets with Iraqi security forces and Coalition forces living and working together, utilizing combat outposts and joint security stations throughout Baghdad, the security situation is showing improvement, Caldwell said.

Coalition forces will continue to assist their Iraqi counterparts and maintain a presence in Iraq at the request of Iraq’s elected government.

(Story by Sgt. Sky M. Laron, Combined Press Information Center)
In other developments throughout Iraq:

The 3rd Brigade, 5th Iraqi Army Division, in partnership with Coalition forces from 6-9 Armored Reconnaissance Squadron, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, unearthed and destroyed seven cache sites and detained 12 suspected terrorists during a combined operation in Jazeera and Mohatta, areas near Muqdadiyah, Iraq, Saturday.

Prior to finding a sizeable weapons cache, Multi-National Division-Baghdad Soldiers engaged four enemy gunmen, killing two and wounding two others after the men had fired from their vehicle toward the troops April 7 near Abu Ghuraib, Iraq.

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