TEHRAN (AFP) – Three people were killed in an assassination attempt on Grand Ayatollah Seyed Mohammed Said al-Hakim in the Iraqi holy city of Najaf, a leading Iraqi Shiite Muslim political group told AFP here. The Supreme Assembly of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SAIRI) said the top Shiite cleric was slightly wounded in a blast near his office. Two of his bodyguards and a driver were killed.
Another nine people were wounded in the attack, it said.
The explosion took place as Ayatollah Said Hakim returned to his office from midday prayers on Sunday, said Mohsen al-Hakim, advisor to Iraqi Governing Council member and SAIRI number two Abdul Aziz al-Hakim.
It was caused by a device connected to a gas canister placed next to a wall outside the grand ayatollah’s office.
“The primary suspects are former member of the Baath regime and supporters of (ousted Iraqi leader) Saddam Hussein that want to spark a war between Shiites and Sunnis,” Mohsen al-Hakim said.
“We hold American forces, which are occupying forces under international law, responsible for maintaining security,” he added.
The 67-year-old grand ayatollah is the uncle of Ayatollah Mohammed Baqer al-Hakim, the head of SAIRI, a formerly Iran-based movement, Iran’s official IRNA news agency said.
He is one of four top Iraqi Shiite spiritual leaders and has lived in Najaf, 180 kilometres (110 miles) south of Baghdad, for years.