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Iraq: Shi'ite Leader Reportedly Killed In Al-Najaf

Baghdad, 29 August 2003 (RFE/RL) - A car bomb exploded during Friday prayers in Al-Najaf today outside the Imam Ali Mosque, reportedly killing Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim (pictured), the head of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), and as many as 19 others. Dozens are reported to be injured at the mosque, which is the most holy shrine for Shi'ite Muslims in Iraq. The Dubai-based Al-Arabiyah network first reported five dead, but later raised the death toll to at least 17. Qatar-based Al-Jazeera said the bombing had killed five, AP reported.

The reports could not immediately be confirmed, although there has been considerable unrest among the religious factions in the holy city, 177 kilometers southwest of Baghdad.

Al-Hakim is the brother of Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim, who is a member of the Iraqi Governing Council. Baqir al-Hakim, who was 66 years old, returned to Iraq on 10 May after 23 years in exile in Iran.