Friday, February 06, 2004

Sorry for the confusion

There either has or has not been a recent assassination attempt on Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the "most influential religious leader" in Iraq:

Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, Iraq's most influential religious leader, survived an assassination attempt Thursday in the sacred Shiite Muslim city of Najaf, an aide said.

The incident was shrouded in conflicting reports and denials, reflecting the intense interest that Iraqis and foreigners have in Sistani, a pivotal figure in the country's transition from U.S. occupation to Iraqi rule. The reclusive cleric serves as the supreme religious authority for Iraq's Shiites, who account for a majority of the country's 25 million people, and has emerged as a pivotal figure in its politics.

"Sayyid Sistani is very well and in very good health," said Jaffar Bassam, a representative of Sistani's office in London, referring to the ayatollah with an Arabic honorific that means leader or chief.

Bassam, reached by telephone, said he could not confirm the attempt on Sistani's life and was awaiting more information. But a security official with Sistani's office in Najaf, who identified himself only as Abu Abdullah, said the attempt occurred between 11:30 a.m. and noon. Sistani, who has not appeared in public in more than six years, was outside of his home when he was fired on with AK-47 assault rifles, Abu Abdullah said.

A second official, Ali Waad, said four suspects were captured and that some people were wounded in an exchange of gunfire.


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