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Iraqis Celebrate Soccer Triumph

Iraqi fan in Jakarta (AFP) July 29, 2007 -- Iraq's soccer team has won the Asian Cup final for the first time, beating Saudi Arabia 1-0 in Indonesia's capital, Jakarta. The victory prompted thousands of Iraqis, including members of the security forces, to celebrate with barrages of gunfire, in defiance of a strict government curfew.

Captain Yunis Mahmud was the hero as Iraq stunned three-time champions Saudi Arabia 1-0 with a goal in the 72nd minute to claim the Asian Cup title for the first time.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki called the victory "a lesson in how to triumph over the impossible to realize victory" and announced that each player on the Iraqi team would receive $10,000 for their achievements.

Security Concerns

Baghdad security officials had imposed an overnight vehicle curfew in order to prevent car-bomb attacks, and ordered police to arrest anyone who took part in the traditional celebratory gunfire.

The decision came after at least 50 celebrating fans were killed by car bombs in Baghdad on July 25, following Iraq's semifinal victory over South Korea.

However, large crowds did gather today at some road junctions, waving flags.

Members of security forces were among those firing in the air in the capital. Civilians also shot from the roofs of buildings. At least four people were reported killed by the gunfire.

The Iraqi team's success in the tournament has been a rare source of shared national celebration in a country torn apart by violence and rifts between the Sunni and Shi'ite communities.

(compiled from agency reports)

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Iraq In Transition

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