Sistani escapes assassination attempt

Iraq's Shia leader Grand Ayat Allah Ali al-Sistani has escaped an assassination attempt in the city of Najaf.

    Al-Sistani has survived previous assassination attempts

    A member of the US-appointed occupation administration confirmed the cleric was still in the Shia pilgrimage city on Thursday awaiting a UN mission that will review his political demands.

    His spokesman and Governing Council member, Muwaffaq al-Rubai, confirmed Wednesday's assassination attempt but said little else other than that al-Sistani is "safe and sound".

    Sistani's bureau in Najaf also confirmed that the cleric was well.

    Shia targets

    Speaking to Aljazeera, al-Rubai said: "We are not astonished that Ayat Allah Sayyid Ali al-Sistani, the revered Shia cleric, should be a target … he is calling for democracy and rebuilding a new Iraq."

    Last October, a similar assassination attempt was made when unknown assailants attacked with machine guns and hand grenades.

    The death of Ayat Allah Muhammad
    Baqir al-Hakim outraged thousands 

    It was not clear who was behind the attempts on the cleric's life, as sectarian clashes, resistance operations and attacks on civilian targets have been a common occurrence since April.

    In September 2003, Shia cleric Ayat Allah Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim – the former leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq – died in a Najaf car bombing along with 80 of his followers.

    Mortar attack

    Elsewhere in Iraq, a US soldier was killed on Thursday when four mortars struck a logistics base near Baghdad's airport. The attack also wounded another marine.

    Aljazeera's correspondent in Baghdad reported that an Iraqi citizen was killed on Thursday when a US military convoy, which had come under rocket attack by unidentified assailants, opened random fire at his car.

     

    "The Iraqi citizen was driving his car on the highway in al-Amiriyah district when he was shot dead.

     

    Witnesses at the scene said the firing had damaged a mosque and the frontages of neighbouring houses.

     

    The fatality raised the total number of US troops killed in Iraq to 529, 369 in combat and 160 in non-combat deaths.
       
    Unofficial war estimates put the Iraqi military toll at between five and six thousand, while a website run by academics and peace activists,

    www.iraqbodycount.net

    , puts the number of civilian deaths at around 9000.

    SOURCE: Aljazeera + Agencies


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