Powerful Iraqi Shiite leader has died in Iran

BAGHDAD — Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, the scion of a revered clerical family who rode the rise of Shiite power in Iraq to become one of the country’s most powerful political figures but was deeply distrusted by Sunni Muslims as an ally of Iran, died Wednesday at the age of 59.

Two senior clerics from his party, Sheiks Humam Hamoudi and Jalaleddin al-Saghir, told The Associated Press that he died after being hospitalized in critical condition in Tehran where he was being treated for lung cancer. In a brief announcement, Iranian state television also reported al-Hakim’s death.

Al-Hakim wielded enormous influence since the 2003 U.S. invasion as head of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, maintaining close ties to both the Americans and his Iranian backers.

A longtime leader of a Shiite rebel group that fought Saddam’s rule, he was seen by many Shiites as the embodiment of the victory that ended decades of brutal repression under Saddam and restored what they see as their rightful place as the country’s leaders.

Al-Hakim was diagnosed with lung cancer in May 2007 after tests at the prestigious University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. He chose to receive his chemotherapy treatment in Iran.

His son and political heir, Ammar al-Hakim, said in a statement read on the party’s al-Forat television that his father “who spent decades in jihad and struggle has joined the ranks of the martyrs.”

Al-Forat placed… >>>

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