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The Guardian OCTOBER 8, 2011 - by Staff & Agencies

STOP THE WAR COALITION DEMO IN LONDON MARKS TENTH ANNIVERSARY OF AFGHAN WAR

The names of a hundred and twenty servicemen and women who have died in Afghanistan are read out at the protest in Trafalgar Square.

The Stop The War Coalition said up to five thousand people attended the Anti-War Mass Assembly in Trafalgar Square.

Following the demo, during which anti-war musicians, actors and MPs addressed the crowd, protesters made their way along Whitehall to Downing Street.

There, a delegation called on the prime minister for the immediate withdrawal of British troops from Afghanistan.

"(They handed over) a letter from military families calling on the prime minister to bring the troops home to avoid any other families suffering tragedies in the way they have," organiser Kate Hudson said.

BBC correspondent Ben Ando, in Trafalgar Square, estimated about a thousand people had been at the protest and said organisers would be "disappointed" at the turnout.

But Chris Nineham, of the coalition, said: "We have had a good turnout.

"Once again it is an expression of the overwhelming opinion in this country which is against the war."

Speakers addressing the crowds in Trafalgar Square included Stop The War Coalition president Tony Benn, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, activist Jemima Khan, journalist John Pilger, musician Brian Eno, comedian Mark Steel, a number of Labour MPs, and one-hundred-and-six-year-old anti-war campaigner Hetty Bower.

'BRING TROOPS HOME'

Earlier, campaigners held a Naming The Dead Ceremony, in which a hundred and twenty names of British soldiers and Afghan civilians who have died in the ten years since the war began were read out. The same number of balloons was released.

A "Tweet-out" led by Khan took place, in which those in attendance used social media to get their message to a wider audience.

A Stop The War spokesman said: "After ten years of war in Afghanistan, more than a hundred thousand NATO troops remain and tens of thousands have died.

"The government claims that the war is contributing to Britain's stability look increasingly hollow.

"Opinion polls suggest the majority of Britons want a speedy withdrawal of British troops, a view recently endorsed by the trade unions.

"Politicians have to get in step with public opinion and announce a date to bring troops home."

The number of British military deaths in operations in Afghanistan since 2001 stands at three hundred and eighty-two.


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