BAGHDAD - American flags were set on fire yesterday to chants of "no, no for occupation" as followers of an anti-US Shi'ite cleric marked the sixth anniversary of the Iraq war.
In five other Iraqi cities, supporters of cleric Moqtada al-Sadr also marched or stood in protest after prayers to demand the release of their allies detained at Iraqi and US-run prisons.
The protests came as a suicide bomber in Fallujah killed an Iraqi police officer and five other people, including civilians, in an attempted attack on the home of the local leader of Sunni security volunteers who turned against Al Qaeda.
Also, a pair of roadside bombs exploded within 10 minutes of one another after sundown yesterday, wounding four policemen and three civilians in Baghdad's Karradah district, police said. A police colonel and his aide were wounded in a bombing yesterday in Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit, police said.
In the capital, Sadr aide Sheik Haidar al-Jabiri urged supporters to join an April 9 march to protest the sixth anniversary of Americans taking over the city.
"Today, a remembrance of the cruel occupation of Iraq, and on April 9, there will be a chant for liberation," Sadr aide Sheik Haidar al-Jabiri told worshipers gathered in Baghdad's Shi'ite district of Sadr City for Friday sermons.
He added: "Sayed Moqtada invites you to march by the millions on April 9, the anniversary of the cruel occupation."
Baghdad fell to US forces on April 9, 2003.
The war began with a missile and bombing attack on south Baghdad before dawn on March 20, 2003 - March 19 in Washington.
Demonstrators responded by lifting a banner reading: "To the Iraqi government, when will you be trustful and release our detainee sons?"
"No, no for occupation. Yes, yes for liberation. Yes, yes for Iraq," the demonstrators chanted.
Two American flags were set on fire.
Thousands of Sadrist followers in five other cities - Basra, Kut, Diwaniyah, Amarah, and Nasiriyah - also took to the streets in an apparent planned series of protests.
In Kut, up to 1,000 worshipers marched from the grand mosque in the center of the city to Sadrist offices a short distance away, denouncing the US occupation and calling for detainees to be released.
Outside Fallujah, an Iraqi police officer and a small group of civilians died yesterday while trying to stop a suicide bomber from reaching the home of Saadoun al-Eifan, who runs the local branch of the Sunni volunteers, the Sons of Iraq.
Police Major Hamed al-Jumaili said the bomber was trying to get past guards monitoring a bridge in rural Albu Eifan, where Eifan lives, about 6 miles south of Fallujah.
He detonated his explosives belt after bring confronted by the police officer and residents, Jumaili said.
The protests and bombings came a day after a US airstrike on a militant hideout north of Baghdad killed at least 11 insurgents, the United States said.
A search of the site by ground forces after the strike found a cache of weapons, munitions, and parts to build improvised explosive devices, US military spokesman Major Derrick Cheng said yesterday.
Cheng did not immediately know yesterday whether any civilians were killed or injured in the strike, or exactly when it occurred.