New year celebrations started early in Iraq as the country called a national holiday to mark the withdrawal of US troops.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said the country was free and praised Iraqis for getting rid of Saddam Hussein and ending the sectarian conflict. He added the focus will not be on rebuilding the country.
There has been torrential rain in Baghdad in the run-up to the new year, a sign of what most people believe is God’s blessing.
“Thank God rain has fallen,” said one resident of Baghdad. “God has saved us from the evil of the Americans. Now everyone can benefit from this rain, farmers, animals, this is happiness which God is giving to us.”
Our correspondent in Baghdad says there is tremendous joy throughout the city as a result of the Americans’ departure.