Sistani returns to Najaf as scores killed
Iraq's top Shiite cleric returned to Najaf at the head of a massive convoy Thursday hoping to end three weeks of fighting in this holy city.
As he came back, a group of thousands of marchers heading into Najaf from its sister-city Kufa came under fire from an Iraqi National Guard base. At least three people were killed and 46 wounded.
All in all, a total of 74 people were killed and 376 injured in a mortar attack on Kufa's mosque, and shooting on Shiite demonstrators, the Iraqi health ministry said, according to AFP.
"The Najaf hospital received 39 bodies and 255 wounded and the one in Kufa 25 bodies and 60 wounded," a ministry official said. The bodies of another eight people killed in the demonstration and 42 wounded people were transported to Diwaniya, about 50 kilometres east of Najaf.
Al Sistani arrived in Najaf just before 3 p.m. and went directly to one of his houses in the al-Sa'ad neighborhood, The AP reported.
Interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi declared a 24-hour cease-fire in Najaf from the time of al-Sistani's arrival "to reinforce our commitment to peace." (albawaba.com)
© 2004 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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