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Shia leader killed

Kuwait, April 10 (Reuters): Senior Iraqi Shia leader Abdul Majid al-Khoei and his aide were assassinated in an attack in the holiest shrine in the central Iraqi city of Najaf today, members of his family foundation said.

Ali Jabr of the London-based Khoei Foundation said Abdel Majid, son of the late leader of Iraq’s Shia majority, was killed this afternoon at the Grand Imam Ali Mosque in Najaf. Later, fellow Khoei foundation member Ghanem Jawad told al Jazeera television that Khoei’s aide Haidar Kelidar was also killed by what he described as a mob in the mosque attack.

Iraqi Opposition sources in Kuwait said Khoei’s assassination could trigger infighting among Iraqi Shias, who make up 60 per cent of the population, as the US tries to bring together rival groups in a post-Saddam Iraq. Dissidents say Abdul Majid’s rapid return to Iraq — and the US obvious backing for him — had sparked intense criticism from other Iraqi Shia dissidents keen to assert their authority after the fall of Saddam.

Abdul Majid’s critics also allege he was not as fiercely opposed to Saddam as he wanted his followers to believe. Supporters of Khoei said the US had given him the authority to administer Najaf — another sore point for other Shia groups.

A spokesman at US Central Command war headquarters in Qatar said he had heard reports about an incident in the Najaf area involving a local leader, but could not give details.

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