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Last Updated: Sunday, 29 July 2007, 17:41 GMT 18:41 UK
Iraq celebrates football victory
Iraq's captain Younis Mahmoud (left) celebrates with team mates
A historic moment for Iraq's football team and the Iraqi nation
Thousands of Iraqis have spilled onto the streets to celebrate their football squad's Asian Cup victory, firing guns into the air despite a government ban.

Iraq beat Saudi Arabia 1-0. Celebratory gunfire was heard in Baghdad, where authorities had banned vehicles and urged fans not to gather.

It was feared crowds could be targets for bombers. Some 50 people died in attacks after Wednesday's semi-final.

Correspondents say Iraq's progress has temporarily united the divided country.

The team includes Sunni and Shia Muslims, as well as Kurds.

Iraqi police and supporters anticipate Iraq's appearance in the Asian cup final 29/07/07

Thousands of Iraqis, who had been following the match in Indonesia on television, rushed into the streets of the capital and other cities to celebrate.

The crowds in Baghdad included members of the security forces. Guns were fired into the air despite an earlier warning by the authorities that any such displays would be punished.

"It's a huge success for Iraq and it's a very, very good news for Iraq," Iraq's national security adviser Mouwaffaq al-Rubaie told the BBC.

"You should come to see the jubilation and the joy which is spreading all over Baghdad's streets now. People are pouring in, hundreds of thousands of people are pouring into the streets."

Meanwhile, at the stadium in Jakarta, the BBC's Lucy Williamson said the atmosphere was electric.

She said there was huge sympathy and support in Indonesia for the Iraqi team, for their difficulties in training and the continuing violence at home.

Football fever

Earlier, the Iraqi authorities banned the use of vehicles in Baghdad until 0600 (0200 GMT) on Monday in an effort to prevent a repeat of the bloodshed which followed the semi-final win.

Iraqi soldiers celebrate in Baghdad
The crowds in Baghdad included members of the security forces
A similar ban was also imposed in the northern city of Kirkuk.

Military spokesman Brigadier General Qassim Moussawi said they wanted to stop "terrorists, Sunni extremists and criminals from targeting the joy of the people".

Iraq surprised the football world by beating tournament favourites Australia, and then former winners South Korea in Wednesday's semi-final match.

Wild celebrations followed that victory, with crowds dancing in the streets and waving the national flag.

But the party was brought to a bloody end as insurgents detonated bombs in two parts of Baghdad, killing about 50 people.


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Iraqis celebrate their football squad's success



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