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Senior Shiite Party Member Assassinated in Baghdad - 2003-12-18

A member of Iraq's main Shi'ite political party has been assassinated in Baghdad. The party blames supporters of captured Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

A senior member of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the country's largest Shi'ite party, says Muhannad al-Hakim was gunned down on the street near his Baghdad home on Wednesday. The party blames supporters of Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath party for the assassination, saying the man had received death threats.

It is not the first time a member of the Supreme Council has been assassinated.

In August, a massive car bomb exploded at a mosque in the Shi'ite holy city of Najaf, killing the party's founder and one of Iraq's leading Shi'ite clerics, Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim, and at least 84 other people. The ayatollah was believed to be the main target of the bombing. His brother, Abdul Aziz Al-Hakim, now heads the party and also holds the rotating presidency of the Iraqi governing council.

One of the Supreme Council's founding members, Akram Al-Hakim, tells VOA he believes at least 70 party members and supporters have been killed since the fall of Saddam Hussein.

He says, absolutely, Ba'athists are behind these assassinations, and Arab foreigners.

The Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq is the country's largest and most organized political party. It has close ties with Iran, and represents many in the majority Shi'ite community, which was particularly repressed under Saddam Hussein.

Many Sunni Muslim religious leaders believe the party is connected to attacks on their mosques and clerics, and it has also been linked to assassinations of former Ba'ath party officials. The party's leaders deny those allegations.

Akram al-Hakim is unwilling to say exactly what role the slain man, Muhannad al-Hakim, played in the Supreme Council, saying simply that he cooperated with the party on security issues.

He says he made great, great achievements for the supreme council in the security area. He was able to identify a lot of terrorists, people who are related to the fallen regime.

Mr. al-Hakim's funeral has been held Thursday in the Shi'ite holy city of Najaf.