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Iraq blast kills 82, including leading Shia Gareth Smyth in Baghdad Published: August 29 2003 15:03 | Last Updated: August 29 2003 16:41 Financial Times http://news.ft.com/servlet/ContentServer?pagename=FT.com/StoryFT/FullStory&c=StoryFT&cid=1059479423163&p=1012571727092 A bomb in the holy city of Najaf has killed 82 people, including ayatollah Mohammed Baqr al-Hakim, one of Iraq's leading Shia religious and political leaders, and injured 229 others. The blast went off just after the end of Friday prayers near the shrine of Imam Ali, son-in-law of the prophet Mohammed. Cars and nearby shops were destroyed and the shrine itself was reportedly damaged. The assassination of ayatollah Hakim came less than a week after a bomb injured another senior cleric, ayatollah Mohammed Said Hakim, and killed three of his bodyguards. His death will send deep shockwaves across the Shia community internationally. Iraqi political leaders have already pointed the finger of blame at loyalists to the regime of Saddam Hussein. In one of his last interviews, ayatollah Mohammed Baqr Hakim told the Financial Times that measures taken by the US forces against Saddam loyalists were "not very real". He called for Iraqis themselves to be given a greater role in ensuring security. Ayatollah Hakim said that religious leaders had an important role to play in the reconstruction of Iraq. "The clergy are part of their society," he said. "They have to be involved in political affairs." Born in Najaf in 1939, ayatollah Hakim was the sixth son of ayatollah Muhsin al-Hakim, a religious leader who supported the al-Dawaa party, then the major Shia Islamist party in Iraq. Imprisoned three times under the Baathist regime, ayatollah Mohammed Baqr Hakim fled to Iran in 1980, supported Iran against Iraq in the 1980-88 and in 1982 formed Majlis, or the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (Sciri). Ayatollah Hakim returned to Najaf amid scenes of jubilation after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in the US-led invasion, but celebrations of the end of the Baathist regime soon turned sour in the holy city. On April 10, a Najaf mob murdered Abdelmajid al-Khoi, son of the late grand ayatollah Abu al-Qassem al-Khoi. Some blamed the killing on Moqtada Sadr, a young militant cleric, although Mr Sadr has strenuously denied the charge. The US presence in the city was stepped up today as injured were taken from the Imam Ali shrine to the main hospital. Since April, the Americans have barely set foot in Najaf, apparently in fear of upsetting Shia sensibilities. But Majlis says that the US has turned down its request to set up an independent security. During the March-April war, Donald Rumsfeld, US defence secretary, warned Majlis that if its armed forces, known as the Badr brigade, took any role in the fighting they would be regarded as "combatants" by the US. The Badr brigade subsequently gave up its heavy weapons in response to a US request, and Abdul-Aziz Hakim, brother of ayatollah Mohammed Baqr Hakim and Majlis security chief, joined the US-appointed governing council. Ayatollah Hakim told his followers on many occasions that while they opposed US occupation, they should work to end it peacefully and should not resort to violence. _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email firstname.lastname@example.org All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk