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Iraq: Thousands Gather For Funerals After Attack On Cleric

Baghdad, 25 August 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Thousands of Shi'a Muslims gathered today in the holy city of Al-Najaf for the funerals of the three men killed in an assassination attempt on a leading Shi'a cleric yesterday. The three men killed in a bomb attack were employees of one of the most influential Iraq's Shi'a clerics, Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Sa'id al-Hakim.

The cleric was slightly wounded in the bomb attack at his office in Al-Najaf. Two of his bodyguards and a driver were killed. Nine people were wounded in the blast.

Al-Hakim is one of the top clerics in the Hawza, the highest religious authority of Iraq's Shi'a community, which makes some 60 percent of Iraq's population of 25 million.

In the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, a tense calm was reported yesterday after at least 12 people were killed in two days of clashes between Kurds and Turkomans in the area.