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Iraq: Hundreds Of Thousands Gather For Al-Hakim's Funeral

Baghdad, 2 September 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Hundreds of thousands of mourning Iraqis buried the symbolic remains of slain Shi'ite leader Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim in the center of the holy city of Al-Najaf today. Police said that the crowd in Al-Najaf had swelled to between 500,000 and a million people by midday.

Al-Hakim died on 29 August in a bomb blast in Al-Najaf at the Imam Ali shrine, Iraq's holiest Shi'ite site. The explosion killed at least 82 others.

Unable to recover Hakim's body after the blast, his family buried a coffin containing his watch, his pen, and his wedding ring.

In Baghdad today, a car bomb exploded at police headquarters, killing one policeman and wounding at least 14 other people.

Afterwards, the U.S. administrator for Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, said that plans are under way to increase dramatically the size of the Iraqi national police force.

"We have a program to increase the size of the Iraqi police force to 65,000 to 75,000. We would like to do that as quickly as we can, consistent with assuring that the police have a high standard of training, and that means training not just in police work, but training in human rights, respect for individual liberties, and the nonuse of torture and force in law enforcement."

In another incident today, a U.S. soldier died and another was injured in a helicopter accident near Baghdad.

About 150 U.S. soldiers have died in hostile attacks, accidents, or other circumstances since President George W. Bush declared major operations over on 1 May.