Najaf: Thousands of Iraqis took to the
streets of Najaf today for the funeral of powerful Shiite
politician Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, as his body arrived in the
southern shrine city.
Hakim`s coffin, draped in an Iraqi flag, was earlier
paraded in the nearby holy Shiite city of Karbala, where
crowds also gathered ahead of a funeral ceremony expected to
take place in Najaf around 3.00 pm (1730 IST).
Hakim, 60, who died in a Tehran hospital on Wednesday
after a 28-month battle against lung cancer, was hailed as
"leader of the fight" against the tyrannical reign of ousted
dictator Saddam Hussein, when his body arrived home yesterday.
The former head of the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council
(SIIC), Iraq`s largest Shiite political party, was one of the
principal leaders in exile of the opposition to Saddam, who
waged a devastating 1980-88 war against Iran.
In 1982, Hakim helped to establish an opposition
movement in Iran against Saddam`s Sunni-dominated regime and
only returned to Iraq following the US-led invasion of 2003.
A scion of one of the traditional leading families
among Iraq`s Shiite majority, Hakim took over the leadership
of his party in August 2003 after his brother Ayatollah
Mohammed Baqr al-Hakim was assassinated in Najaf.
Their father, Grand Ayatollah Mohsen al-Hakim, was one
of Shiite Islam`s top spiritual leaders between 1955 and 1970.