Safety of top Iraq cleric questioned

The safety of Iraq's Shiite cleric is in question after one of his close aides was stabbed to death in the Muslim leader's compound in the holy city of Najaf.

Safety of top Iraq cleric questioned

The safety of Iraq's Shiite cleric is in question after one of his close aides was stabbed to death in the Muslim leader's compound in the holy city of Najaf.

Najaf's police chief, Brig. Gen. Abdul-Karim al-Mayahi, said late Sunday that authorities had arrested the alleged killer — a security guard at the compound of the much-revered cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.

An official at the Iranian-born cleric's office said the person arrested may have only played a supporting role in the weekend killing of Sheik Abdullah Falak al-Basrawi. His death came a little over a month after another al-Sistani aide was killed in a drive-by shooting.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said al-Sistani's office will launch an independent investigation into the killing of al-Basrawi, a confidante of al-Sistani who was in his late 30s.

According to different police accounts, al-Basrawi was slain late Friday or early Saturday at his office, which is approximately 30 to 40 yards away from where al-Sistani works and lives.

Security at al-Sistani's compound has been stepped up, with more armed guards posted at the entrance, which lies off the city's storied Rasoul street close to the gold-domed shrine of Imam Ali. Routine body searches of visitors were markedly more thorough Sunday, and identity documents were examined more carefully, witnesses said.

Al-Basrawi ran an office that collected a Shiite religious tax known as "khoms," which is paid to al-Sistani and used to run his seminaries and charities.

Al-Sistani, who rarely leaves his compound and doesn't grant media interviews, has been the target of at least one assassination attempt since 2003. The cleric, who is in his 70s, commands the deep respect of Iraq's majority Shiites.


AP

Güncelleme Tarihi: 23 Temmuz 2007, 14:41
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