Al Jazeera English is reporting that thousands of Iraqi protesters have hit the street in Baghdad after the influential Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr called for a "million-strong" march to demand the withdraw of U.S. coalition forces from the country.
NBC News Tehran Bureau Chief & correspondent Ali Arouzi said hundreds of thousands of protesters marched across Baghdad on Friday, demanding U.S. troops leave the country and close all military bases and embassies.
100’s of thousands protest in Baghdad, calling for all US troops to leave Iraq, close all bases & embassies, if they don’t they will be considered an occupying force. pic.twitter.com/C3CqBqpxyD— Ali Arouzi (@aliarouzi) January 24, 2020
Protestors held signs that read "no, no to America" and "no, no to occupation" amid a sea of nationalism and anti-Americanism erupting across the country's capital.
Others were heard on loudspeakers blasting the phrase: "Death to America. Death to Israel."
The presence of U.S. coalition forces in the country has become a hot subject since President Trump launched a drone attack on Iranian general Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, killing both, earlier this month near Baghdad International Airport.
The Green Zone, the International Zone of Baghdad and home of the U.S. embassy, has been peppered with rocket attacks since the killing of Soleimani.
Iraq's parliament voted to expel all foreign troops, including 5,000 U.S. forces from the country, and asked the government to cancel assistance from the U.S.-led coalition that has been working with the Iraqi Army in the eradication of ISIS.
A senior U.S. official said Thursday that the Trump administration has yet to hold talks with Iraq about U.S. troops exiting the country.
Several weeks ago, President Trump threatened severe sanctions against Iraq if its parliament enforced a law that would expel U.S. troops from the country.
"We have a very extraordinarily expensive airbase, that's there. It cost billions of dollars to build. We're not leaving unless they pay us back for it," Trump told reporters.
Twitter users have documented Friday’s massive protest, and Aurora Intel said: "the main street being used in #Baghdad, #Iraq for the protests) and using 4 people per m2 this meets a rough estimate of 600000 people able to be at this protest, if i've got the right location."
Going on the premise that this photo is from Al-Janadriyah (I believe this is the main street being used in #Baghdad, #Iraq for the protests) and using 4 people per m2 this meets a rough estimate of 600000 people able to be at this protest, if i've got the right location. pic.twitter.com/Kp4hwILRaQ— Aurora Intel (@AuroraIntel) January 24, 2020
Here are other social media accounts detailing the protest:
You want a miracle? This is a Million-Man miracle for the largest human gathering in #iraqi history.this morning in the capital, Baghdad, struck by a two-million human-flood in a demonstration to expel American troops and to end their bases in #Iraq.#iraqProtest pic.twitter.com/8Ae7apmk1X— روح اللہ مجلسی (@R_majlisi110) January 24, 2020
#Millions are protesting in #Iraq to call on #US forces to leave #Itaq peacefully or the resistance ( pro #Iranian militias) will force them out .#IraqProtest was called for by Muqtada al-Sadr.— World OSINT (@OsintWorld) January 24, 2020
"Get out American " is the themes of the protests
HAPPENING NOW: People attend an anti-government demonstration in Baghdad’s Jadriyah area in Iraq.— QuickTake by Bloomberg (@QuickTake) January 24, 2020
At least 12 people have died in protests this week pic.twitter.com/UaL9nboQKT