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Middle East

Leading Shiite cleric Fadlallah dies at age 75

Video by Kathryn STAPLEY

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2010-07-04

Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, Lebanon's leading Shiite cleric, died in Beirut on Sunday aged 75. Revered by the Shiite faithful, Fadlallah was once the spiritual guide of the militant group Hezbollah and branded a terrorist by the United States.

AFP - Lebanon's leading Shiite cleric Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, branded a "terrorist" by Washington and once regarded as Hezbollah's spiritual guide, died on Sunday aged 75, an aide told AFP.

Fadlallah died in a Beirut hospital where he was admitted on Friday for internal bleeding.

"Yes, Sayyed Fadlallah has died," a senior aide told AFP when asked to confirm reports that the top cleric, with followers mainly in Lebanon and Iraq, had passed away.

Fadlallah, who holds the title "sayyed" to denote direct lineage with the Prophet Mohammad, had been hospitalised several times over the past months. On Friday he was admitted to intensive care as his health deteriorated.

An AFP correspondent said all roads leading to Bahman hospital in Beirut's southern suburbs, where Fadlallah died, were closed to traffic as relatives of the cleric converged on the area.

Family members also began to receive condolences in the nearby Hassanein mosque, the correspondent added.

Hezbollah television, Manar, ran breaking news to announce Fadlallah's death and report that his media office will hold a news conference at 11:30 am (0830 GMT) to provide details on funeral arrangements.

Revered by the Shiite faithful, Fadlallah, who also holds the rank of "Grand Ayatollah" was born in 1935 in the Iraqi Shiite holy city of Najaf, where his parents emigrated from Lebanon to study theology.

He rose in the ranks of Lebanon's Shiite community decades ago and was considered the spiritual guide of militant group Hezbollah when it was founded in 1982 with the support of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard.

Fadlallah gained political leverage during Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war, but his ties to Hezbollah strained as the war progressed and he distanced himself from the party's ideological ties to Iran.

He nonetheless remained an advocate of suicide attacks as a means of fighting Israel, last year issuing a fatwa, or religious decree, forbidding the normalisation of ties with the Jewish state.

Along with Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, Fadlallah is blacklisted as a terrorist by the United States.

Date created : 2010-07-04

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