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Middle East
Iraqi Shia leader buried in Najaf
Al-Hakim's burial comes amid violence in Iraq's north that left 15 people dead.
Last Modified: 29 Aug 2009 19:55 GMT

The funeral procession for al-Hakim  in Iraq started in Baghdad on Saturday amid violence  [EPA]

Thousands of mourners in Iraq's holy Shia city of Najaf have paid their final respects to one of the country's most powerful leaders.

Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, was buried in Najaf on Saturday, three days after his death of lung cancer in a Tehran hospital.

Al-Hakim's son and potential successor, Ammar, read out portions of the Iraqi political leader's will, in which he called for coexistence among Iraq's fractured sects.

He also warned that loyalists to Saddam Hussein, the executed former Iraqi leader, and Sunni extremists, were trying to target national unity in the country, The Associated Press news agency reported.

"They see that the only way to achieve their victory is by creating sedition between Iraqi Shias and Sunnis," al-Hakim wrote.

Mourning tour

Saturday's ceremony and the arrival of the casket in Najaf marked the end of a three-day mourning tour that started in Iran and went on to Baghdad and other parts of Iraq's predominately Shia areas.

In depth

  Obituary: Abdul Aziz al-Hakim
  Video: Rift appears among Iraq Shia

Wailing crowds touched the Shia leader's coffin as it was carried through Baghdad amid tight security following an official ceremony on Friday.

Al-Hakim was a power broker who helped pave the path for the re-emergence of Iraq's Shia political majority after decades of oppression under Saddam Hussein's Sunni-dominated government.

Although he was seen as the Iraqi politician with the closest ties to Iran, where he lived in exile for 20 years, he also managed to build a rapport with the US.

But his death has sparked fears of political instability ahead of national polls that many fear may be marred by violence.

Bombing attacks

His burial followed two bomb attacks in northern Iraq that killed at least 15 people and wounded more than 30 others.

In one attack on Saturday, a suicide car bomber killed at least nine people and wounded 11 others at a police station in the town of Shirqat, 300km north of Baghdad, in Salahuddin province.

The other bombing killed six people and wounded 20 others in the town of Sinjar, 390km northwest of Baghdad, which is home to Yazidis, members of a pre-Islamic Kurdish sect.

A surge in violence in the past two months has raised doubts about the durability of security gains, including lorry bombings that killed almost 100 people at government ministries on August 19.

Source:
Agencies
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