Shia leader Fadlallah dies in Beirut

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Beirut, 5 July (AKI) – Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, Lebanon’s most influential Shia Muslim leader, died in Beirut on Sunday at the age of 75, one month after being admitted to hospital with internal bleeding.

Fadlallah was born in 1935 in Najaf, the centre of Shia scholarship in Iraq. He spent more than two decades studying Islam there before moving to Lebanon, where he spent most of his adult life.

During Lebanon’s 1975-90 civil war, he was linked to Iranian-backed Shia militants who kidnapped Americans and other Westerners, and was linked to the bombing of the US Embassy and Marine base in Lebanon, which killed more than 260 Americans.

Although he adamantly denied involvement in those events, he said these kind of terrorist acts were justified.

“When one fires a bullet at you, you cannot offer him roses,” he reportedly said.

He was known for his staunch anti-US stance and was one of the founders of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s governing Dawa Party and was believed to be its religious guide until the last days of his life.

Many of his sermons, widely distributed on audiotapes in Lebanon the 1980sm, provoked increased political awareness among Lebanon’s Shia Muslim population.

A steadfast critic of the US and Israel, Fadlallah condemned the 11 September attacks.