Supporters of the radical Shi’ite leader Moqtada Sadr in Iraq have celebrated with pomp the departure of American troops.
All but a handful of US forces left the country by December, but the Shi’ites have been waiting for the end of the mourning period linked to the Ashura religious festival.
Tens of thousands of people poured into the streets of Sadr City in the north of Baghdad.
The cleric himself was not there but addressed the crowd via a video link on a big screen. His message: US forces who had arrived as liberators turned into occupiers.
“We will regard this occasion as a starting point for Iraq’s reconstruction and rebuilding, and to repair what had been destroyed by occupation, God willing,” said Salah al-Obed, the cleric’s spokesman.
Moqtada Sadr’s militia who fought US forces have since disbanded.
Several Iraqi ministers and politicians were present at the rally.
Huge Iraqi rally to celebrate US troops departure