BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) — An influential Shiite cleric in Iraq called Israel’s targeted killing of the spiritual leader of Hamas a “dirty crime against Islam” and the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, “a miracle from God.”
Moqtada al-Sadr delivered a charged sermon Friday at a mosque near the holy city of Najaf, blasting Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon for the killing of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, founder of Hamas.
On Monday, Israeli helicopters fired rockets at Yassin as he left a mosque in Gaza City. Yassin and seven others were killed in the attack on the leader of what Israel, the United States and the European Union consider a terrorist group.
Hamas’ military wing has claimed responsibility for terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians as well as attacks against the Israeli military.
But Friday, al-Sadr called Sharon the “biggest terrorist of all.”
“He has committed this dirty crime and killed one of the greatest of Islamic mujahedeen,” al-Sadr told hundreds of worshippers at the Kufa mosque. “This was once again a dirty crime against Islam.”
He accused the United States of complicity in Yassin’s killing and said Iraqis should react “in the way that satisfies God.”
Al-Sadr led the worshippers in chants: “No, no Israel! No, no to the Jews! No, no America! No, no to terrorism!”
Al-Sadr railed against the United States’ occupation of Iraq.
“I seek the spread of freedom and democracy in the way that satisfies God,” he said. “They have planned and paved the ways for a long time, but it is God who is the real planner — and the proof of this is the fall of the American twin towers.”
He then referred to the September 11 attacks as “a miracle from God.”
“As we say, ‘The rain starts with a drop,’ ” he said.