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Thursday, August 26, 2004

The New York Times > International > Middle East > Ayatollah Arrives in Najaf; Attack on Kufa Mosque Kills 27

The New York Times > International > Middle East > Ayatollah Arrives in Najaf; Attack on Kufa Mosque Kills 27: "August 26, 2004
Ayatollah Arrives in Najaf; Attack on Kufa Mosque Kills 27
By DEXTER FILKINS and ALEX BERENSON

NAJAF, Iraq, Aug. 26 - Accompanied by thousands of supporters, Iraq's most powerful Shiite cleric arrived today in Najaf, where American forces have been battling the militia of the rebel cleric, Moktada al-Sadr.
The cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, returned to the country on Wednesday from a hospital stay in London, calling for a mass demonstration here to end three weeks of fighting. Hours later, American forces made their way almost to the gate of the Shrine of Imam Ali, where Shiite insurgents had established a base.
Ayatollah Sistani, who commands the loyalty of millions of Shiite Muslims, came across the border in a convoy from Kuwait and left early Thursday morning from the southern city of Basra for Najaf, his home. He urged his followers, who began flocking toward Najaf from around the country late Wednesday, not to enter the city's gates until he arrives there. Today, a mortar barrage slammed into a mosque filled with Iraqis preparing to march on Najaf, killing 27 people and wounding 63 here, according to The Associated Press."

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