UK

Protest in London marks 10 years of war in Afghanistan

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Media captionThe BBC's Ben Ando on the the day's events

A protest has taken place in central London to mark 10 years of the conflict in Afghanistan.

The Stop The War Coalition said up to 5,000 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 1,000 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 106-year-old anti-war campaigner Hetty Bower.

'Bring troops home'

Earlier, campaigners held a Naming the Dead Ceremony, in which 120 names of British soldiers and Afghan civilians who have died in the 10 years since the war began were read out. The same number of balloons was released.

Image caption The Stop The War Coalition said there had been a good turnout

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 10 years of war in Afghanistan, more than 100,000 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 382.

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