Friday, August 29, 2003

Death toll rises to 82 killed and 229 hurt in the aftermath of a car bombing at Imam Ali mosque in Najaf which killed important Iraqi Shiite cleric Ayatollah Mohammed Baqer Al-Hakim during Friday prayers. Al-Hakim headed the biggest Iraqi Shiite party SAIRI - Supreme Assembly of the Islamic Revolution. Last week, his uncle, Ayatollah Seyed al Hakim, survived an assassination attempt, but his three bodyguards were killed. Al-Hakim was the key to post-war calm in the majority Shiite community of Iraq since he returned from Iran exile, where he had stayed for the last 20 years. His brother, Abd al Aziz al-Hakim, is member of US-appointed governing council. Rumors are that Al Qaeda are behind the attacks on Shiite leaders to stir up Shiite-Sunni strife in Iraq.

Al-Hakim was born in 1939 in the holy city of Najaf in southern Iraq to a family steeped in Shi'a religious scholarship. In 1977 he was arrested, together with thousands others, and accused of instigating disturbances against the government and was sentenced to prison for life. Together with other political prisoners, Baqir Al-Hakim was pardoned a year later. He escaped and went to Iran during the beginning of the Iran-Iraq war. In Iran, he organized the "The Islamic Revolutionary Bureau in Iraq," which subsequently became "The Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI)."

UPDATE: From May of this year, by Xinhuanet:

"Iraq must be governed by Iraqis, not foreigners. The Iraqi people don't accept a government imposed on us. We are capable of doing so with the help of God. We want a democratic government, representing the Iraqi nation,the Iraqi people, the Muslims, Christians and all the minorities. We don't want extremist Islam, but an Islam of independence, justice and freedom. We have gone such a long way in such hard times, we are now on the road to security and stability. This is a jihad (holy war) of reconstruction after the destruction of the oppressors
[Edited by me so only quotes would appear.] His death is not only a great loss, but an ingredient for future instability and disaster. The usual suspects for today's assassination:

  • Al-Qaeda trying to create an all out Sunni-Shiite war in Iraq.

  • Opposing Shiite factions: Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali al-Sistani and Muqtada al-Sadr, two of the most senior Shiite leaders.

  • Ba'ath Party loyalists either working alone, with Ansar al-Islam, or with jihadists to create the usual mayhem. Most unlikely

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