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Iraq’s Grand Ayatollah Hakim dies at 87 in Najaf

Iraq’s Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Muhammad Saeed Al-Hakim, a leading Shiite religious authority, has died of a sudden heart attack, his office announced on Friday.

Hakim died at the age of 87 at Al-Hayat Hospital in the holy city of Najaf of a sudden heart attack, reported state media.

However, an unnamed source close to the deceased’s office told AFP that Hakim died after undergoing a surgery three days ago.

President Barham Salih offered his condolences on Twitter, saying that Hakim was “one of the most prominent [figures] of the Islamic nation who combined knowledge with work in consolidating the values of justice, faith, love and peace.”

The US embassy in Baghdad described the figure as “a symbol of peace, love, and harmony across the region.”

“Grand Ayatollah Hakim was one of the four elite clerics of Najaf. He was considered by many to be the leading candidate for succeeding Grand Ayatollah Sistani, and his death will raise many questions about succession in the Hawza,” tweeted Iraqi researcher Marsin al-Shamary.