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Tens of Thousands Attend Funeral for Lebanese Cleric


Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah died Sunday in Beirut hospital after a long illness

Tens of thousands of mourners have turned out for the funeral of Lebanon's top Shiite cleric who was one of the sect's most revered religious authorities. Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah died Sunday in a Beirut hospital after a long illness. He was 75.

Fadlallah's followers converged in a Beirut suburb, Tuesday, to take part in his funeral procession. Thousands of chanting mourners swarmed around the cleric's draped casket as it was carried through the streets from his house to a mosque for burial. The government declared Tuesday a national day of mourning.

Fadlallah had strong followings in Lebanon and in Iraq, where he was born. He was a fierce critic of Israel and the United States, which formally labeled him a terrorist. Fadlallah was often described in Western media reports as the spiritual mentor of Hezbollah, formed with Iran's help after Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982, although he denied having such a role.

The United States accused Fadlallah of links to the radical Shi'ites who kidnapped Western hostages during the height of Lebanon's civil war in the 1980s, but he denied involvement.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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