- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 1, 2005

HILLAH, Iraq — Thousands of mostly black-clad Iraqis protested yesterday outside a medical clinic where a suicide car bomber killed 125 persons a day earlier, braving the threat of another attack as they waved clenched fists, condemned foreign fighters and chanted “No to terrorism.”

Police prevented people from parking cars in front of the clinic or the hospital, where authorities blocked hospital gates with barbed wire to stave off hundreds of victims’ relatives desperate for information on loved ones.

The demonstration in this town 60 miles south of the capital came as the Shi’ite candidate for prime minister traveled north for talks with the Kurds about a coalition government and as the number of American dead in the Iraqi war neared 1,500.

Insurgents, fighting both American forces and the Iraqi government, released a video Tuesday of French journalist Florence Aubenas, 43, kidnapped nearly two months ago. The 43-year-old correspondent for the French daily Liberation appeared alone in front of a maroon-colored background, pleading for help.

Abu Musab Zarqawi’s terror group, which has repeatedly seized foreigners and attacked Americans, purportedly claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing in Hillah. It was not possible to independently verify the claim, which was posted on the Internet.

In Hillah, relatives and friends screamed and wailed as they gathered around lists of the dead and wounded that were posted on hospital walls. Relatives who came to identify the dead placed corpses into coffins and loaded them onto pickup trucks to take them away for burial.

Fears that insurgents would target Shi’ite mourners forced authorities to cancel an elaborate funeral procession for some of the victims of Monday’s attack, the deadliest since the insurgency began two years ago.

“I am afraid there might be a suicide bomber among the demonstrating crowd,” said 30-year-old Ahmed al-Amiry. “It’s very possible.”

But anxieties over another attack did not prevent more than 2,000 people from gathering outside the clinic Tuesday, shouting “No to terrorism,” and “No to Ba’athism and Wahhabism” and demanding the resignation of interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi.

Wahhabism was a clear reference to foreign fighters who are supporters of al Qaeda and adherents of the strict Wahhabi form of Islam, which is the version practiced in Saudi Arabia.

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