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Ben Wedeman: A day of mourning for Shiite cleric

CNN's Ben Wedeman
CNN's Ben Wedeman

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NAJAF, Iraq (CNN) -- Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis -- mostly Shiite Muslims -- gathered Tuesday in the south-central Iraqi city of Najaf to mourn Ayatollah Mohammad Baqir al-Hakim.

Hakim, a longtime Iraqi dissident, was among the 83 people killed in Friday's car bombing at the Imam Ali Mosque, the burial site of the prophet Muhammad's son-in-law and one of the most revered Shiite Muslim sites.

CNN Correspondent Ben Wedeman described Tuesday's scene in Najaf to CNN Anchor Bill Hemmer.

WEDEMAN: Hundreds of thousands of people made their way to Najaf, this Shiite holy city from throughout Iraq, from Baghdad, from Basra, from the entire Shiite parts of the country.

They have come here to mourn the assassinated leader Ayatollah Mohammad Baqir al-Hakim. He was the head of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq.

We watched as his coffin was brought into the city, surrounded by thousands and thousands of chanting followers.

They were shouting that they wanted to see the death of former members of the Iraqi Baath Party. That Baath Party [was] led of course by Saddam Hussein, a man widely reviled by Shiites [ who is] blamed for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people over his 30-year rule of the country.

They also called for more action against these Baath Party members, and in the last few days we have gotten many reports of attacks here in Najaf on some of the former officials.

Now, regarding the investigation, apparently the FBI is now going to be involved in that. Earlier [Tuesday], we heard Dr. Ahmed Chalabi, now the rotating head of the coalition-appointed Governing Council, describe the late ayatollah as a man who's widely respected by all Iraqis.

He said that he believes the investigation is eventually going to follow a trail that will lead to Saddam Hussein. [He also cited] the remnants of the Baath Party and what he described as foreign elements, who have entered the country since the fall of Saddam Hussein.

One last bit of news is that the Iraqi police have found in Najaf yet another car filled with explosives


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