Sunday, July 22, 2007

Sistani aide stabbed to death in guarded office in Najaf: Slaying seen as warning

Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani is Iraq's most important Shi'ite religious figure, and a major power broker behind the scenes.

BAGHDAD -- A top aide to Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani was stabbed to death in what Sistani's supporters believe was a warning to Iraq's senior Shi'ite cleric, authorities said yesterday.

Abdullah Falaq was killed Friday in his office, adjacent to Sistani's home in the Shi'ite holy city of Najaf, about 100 miles south of Baghdad, according to an aide to the cleric. Sistani is considered one of the most influential Sh'iite leaders in Iraq, and Falaq was his chief adviser on matters of Islamic law.

Police said they had taken four suspects into custody. An officer said he could not comment on whether the men are part of any insurgent group. In January, an attempt to assassinate Sistani was foiled during a battle between US and Iraqi military forces and insurgents in Najaf.

A representative from Sistani's office said that he was concerned that an armed attacker had gained entrance to the heavily guarded compound with a weapon and that he suspects one of the cleric's bodyguards had aided the killer. He said officials close to Sistani interpreted the attack as a threat to the ayatollah and are considering moving him out of Najaf.

Read the rest at the Boston Globe