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Huge Crowds Turn Out For Erbakan's Funeral


People carry the coffin of former Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan during a funeral prayer.

People carry the coffin of former Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan during a funeral prayer.

Tens of thousands of people gathered in Istanbul today for the funeral of Necmettin Erbakan, Turkey's former prime minister and leading Islamist politician.

Erbakan died on February 28 of heart failure at the age of 84.

He led the country for about a year until 1997, when the military forced him to resign over concern he wanted to raise the profile of Islam in social life and seek closer links with countries like Iran and Libya.

President Abdullah Gul and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan -- both former disciples of Erbakan -- were to attend funeral prayers at Istanbul's Fatih Mosque.

Crowds of mourners packed the mosque courtyard and streets ahead of the funeral. Hundreds of police were deployed and snipers placed on rooftops to watch the crowds.

Erbakan was to be buried in an Istanbul cemetery later today. He had specifically requested not to be given a state funeral.
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