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Anti-U.S. Protests Reported In Baghdad, Al-Najaf

Baghdad, 4 April 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Protesters blocked the entrance to the U.S.-led coalition headquarters today, in the latest in a series of demonstrations against the closing of a newspaper that U.S. officials say provoked violence against U.S.-led forces.

There have been several protests in the capital since the closing on 28 March of "Al-Hawza" newspaper for two months. The newspaper supports Shi'ite Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who often speaks out against the United States and its allies in Iraq.

Leaders of today's demonstration, estimated at around 1,000, also called for the release of Mustafa al-Yaqubi, a senior aide of al-Sadr. Spanish forces detained al-Yaqubi in Al-Najaf yesterday, accusing him of inciting violence.

There are also unconfirmed reports of violence at another pro-Sadr demonstration outside the holy city of Al-Najaf today.

Earlier today, the U.S. military said two U.S. Marines were killed yesterday in the western Anbar Province "as a result of enemy action." The province is where four American civilians were killed and their bodies mutilated by Iraqis on 31 March.