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Thursday, April 01, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
The demonstrators burned U.S. flags and sang the praises of Muqtada al-Sadr, the Shiite cleric whose weekly newspaper Al-Hawza the United States deemed a security threat.
Marchers deemed it hypocrisy from a nation that champions freedom of the press.
"We know that in America all the newspapers are free, so why do they come to Iraq and close us down?" said Jafar Hamza, a graduate student at the University of Baghdad.
"So far, Sadr's popular base has behaved wisely; they have not done any military actions. But this provocation by the Americans will result in many things."
Many among the thousands of demonstrators dressed in black, and some wore shirts identifying them as members of the Mehdi Army, as Sadr's militia is known. A few marchers brandished sabers or waved sticks.
But the protesters were orderly and peaceful as they marched from the slum neighborhood known as Sadr City to the Green Zone, the secured area where the coalition headquarters is based.
Protesters have hit the streets daily since Sunday, when U.S. soldiers delivered a letter from Bremer informing Al-Hawza's editors of the closure. It said the newspaper had violated a ban on incitement to violence and cited an article alleging that a Feb. 10 bombing that killed more than 50 people in the town of Iskandariyah was not carried out by guerrillas but, instead, was a U.S. missile attack.
Firms' security costs expected to jump after killing of contractors
WASHINGTON The killings yesterday of four U.S. civilian contractors in Iraq are likely to worsen what's becoming the biggest cost for many foreign companies that work there: insurance and security.
For some contractors who work for the Defense Department, 40 cents out of every dollar spent goes for required insurance for workers, said Bunny Greenhouse, the chief contracting official for the Army Corps of Engineers.
The civilian officials in the Pentagon who planned the war foresaw a quick end to Iraqi resistance and a rapid reconstruction of the country.
In his report issued Tuesday, the provisional authority Inspector General Stuart W. Bowen Jr. said such "rapidly escalating" costs are hampering the government's efforts to rebuild the war-torn nation.
So far the United States has awarded nearly $10 billion worth of contracts for Iraqi reconstruction.
The biggest contractor in Iraq, Halliburton's Kellogg Brown & Root, "is extremely concerned about security in the region and cost is just one aspect of this issue," company spokeswoman Wendy Hall said in an e-mail yesterday.
So far at least 33 U.S. civilian contractors have been killed in Iraq.
Contractors are required by law to carry Defense Base Act insurance, which covers workers for deaths and injuries abroad, Greenhouse said.
How much contractors and thus taxpayers pay for the insurance depends on who hired them. The U.S. Agency for International Development negotiated a group insurance deal for its companies years before the Iraq war, allowing them to get a rate of $2.15 per each $100 of payroll. Some experts estimate that Defense Department contractors pay as much as $25 to $50 per $100 of payroll.
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