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Iraq: Thousands Demonstrate Following Al-Najaf Bombing

Al-Najaf, 30 August 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Several thousand people demonstrated today in the streets of Iraq's southern city of Al-Najaf, where a bombing yesterday killed at least 80 people, including Iraq's leading Shi'ite Muslim cleric. Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim died when a powerful car bomb exploded outside a mosque during Friday prayers. More than 140 people were wounded. Al-Hakim was the leader of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI).

No one has claimed responsibility for the bombing. Many blamed the attack on Sunni Muslim supporters of ousted President Saddam Hussein, although there has been inter-Shi'ite violence recently in Iraq.

Several thousand men gathered today outside the Imam Ali Mosque in Al-Najaf to vent their anger at al-Hakim's death. The demonstrators also shouted anti-U.S. slogans.

In the southern city of Al-Basrah, several thousand people marched from the local SCIRI office to a mosque in the city center.

A funeral service for al-Hakim and other blast victims is to be held later today.