BAGHDAD, Iraq—Five thousand to 10,000 Iraqis tried to send terrorists a cease-and-desist message Wednesday from downtown Baghdad in the biggest demonstration against violence to date.
But insurgents continued to strike at the U.S.-led coalition, killing two American soldiers and wounding four in two incidents in northern Iraq.
An Air Force C-17 transport plane also made an emergency landing after an explosion in one of its engines during takeoff from Baghdad, possibly after being hit by a missile.
The two strikes, in and near Mosul, came a day after a suicide bomber injured dozens of soldiers in the same region. One 101st Airborne soldier was killed and one wounded east of Mosul when they took small-arms fire from two vehicles about 11 a.m. Three hours later, another 101st Airborne soldier was killed and three were wounded in Mosul when their convoy was hit by a roadside bomb and small-arms fire.
In Baghdad, the protesters snarled traffic by filling Fateh Square near the National Theater and Fardos Square in front of the Palestine Hotel. Chanting "No, no terrorism" and "Yes, yes Islam," they carried photographs of religious leaders and unfurled banners that read "The Iraqis Should Not Forget Palestine."
Coalition officials have said that despite pockets of resistance, most Iraqis support the presence of American troops and oppose the resistance. By strengthening Iraqi security forces and announcing a plan to turn over sovereignty to Iraqis by next summer, the United States hopes to stem some of the anger and frustration many Iraqis have voiced.
Protest organizers, including Brig. Gen. Tawfik al Yassiri, a member of the Iraqi Reconstruction and Development Council, which the Pentagon established in February, had invited political parties, religious groups, schools and unions to participate.
"We didn't expect this big a crowd to respond," said al Yassiri, who's also secretary-general of the Iraqi National Coalition, an exile group. "It was hard to organize all these groups who filled the streets and the sidewalks."
Marchers cited a number of reasons for demonstrating.
"There are so many jobless people. If foreign companies were to come here, there would be more jobs, but they will not come if they are afraid of terrorism, so we should protect these companies. We want to live," said Kareem Abed Kareen, 52, who's unemployed.
"All these shortages—electricity, propane for cooking, benzene (gasoline), oil for heating—and the high prices for all of these things, are connected to terrorism," said Amar Anwar, a 50-year-old hospital security guard who complained about sabotage. "Also, if you have no way to make a living, you will protest in another way, by causing trouble and making explosions."
But not everyone was feeling peaceful. "What did Saddam do for us? He slaughtered us all. What did the Americans do for us? They slaughtered us all," said an angry woman in a head-to-toe black abaya.
Abbass Hamid, 24, an off-duty taxi driver, decided to participate when he saw the crowd walk past. "This is the first time I've participated in one of these by my own free will," Hamid said. "I hope, if God is willing, the government will listen to us. I'm depending on them to make life better for us."
The Iraqi Governing Council on Wednesday announced the creation of a special tribunal to prosecute war-crimes charges. Many insurgents and would-be attackers have been detained and investigated by coalition forces. But war-crime suspects will face all-Iraqi judicial panels.
They will adjudicate crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, tampering with the judiciary, and waging war on an Arab state and squandering Iraqi assets, committed between the day that the Ba'ath Party came to power in 1968 and May 1, 2003, when President Bush declared an end to major combat.
(c) 2003, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.
PHOTOS (from KRT Photo Service, 202-383-6099): USIRAQ