Baghdad, Iraq (CNN)Hundreds of thousands of protesters were marching through Baghdad on Friday calling for US troops to leave Iraq, heeding the call of powerful Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr who called for a “Million Man March.”
Families and children held aloft signs that read “no, no to America” and “no, no to occupation” amid a sea of Iraqi flags. A heavy security presence surrounded the path of the march, as well as the Green Zone which houses the US embassy.
The Green Zone has been the site of multiple rocket attacks that have increased in frequency since a US attack in Baghdad killed Iran’s most powerful military general, Qassem Soleimani, and the Iran-backed Iraqi commander, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.
The targeted killing on January 3 sparked growing calls for US troops to leave the country, as many Iraqis criticized what they see as a breach of its sovereignty. There are roughly 5,000 US troops in Iraq.
Iraq’s parliament voted to expel the US military from the country following the attack, but the Trump administration has said it does not intend to pull its troops out.