Radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr made a scathing attack on the United States in a statement was read to worshippers during Friday prayers at a mosque in Kufa, a holy Shiite city south of Baghdad, blaming it for Iraq's woes and calling for a mass demonstration April 9 to mark the fourth anniversary of Baghdad's fall.
The statement was the first by al-Sadr since March 14 when he called on his supporters to resist US forces in Iraq through peaceful means. Al-Sadr has been said by US and Iraqi officials to be in neighboring Iran. His aides insist he is still in Iraq.
"I renew my call for the occupier (the United States) to leave our land," he said in the statement, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press. "The departure of the occupier will mean stability for Iraq, victory for Islam and peace and defeat for terrorism and infidels."
"You, oppressed people of Iraq, let the entire world hear your voice that you reject occupation, destruction and terrorism," he said in calling for the April 9 demonstration.
"Fly Iraqi flags atop homes, apartment buildings and government departments to show the sovereignty and independence of Iraq, and that you reject the presence of American flags and those of other nations occupying our beloved Iraq. Keep them there until they leave our land," he said.