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Two held in Najaf blast suspected of al Qaeda links U.N. 'remains engaged' in Iraq despite staff reductions
NAJAF, Iraq (CNN) --Iraqi police have arrested two men believed to be Pakistanis -- with possible connections to al Qaeda -- who they suspect are tied to Friday's deadly car bombing at one of the Shiite Muslims' most revered mosques, the governor of Najaf said Saturday.
Police launched a wide-ranging investigation in the hours after the explosion in Najaf killed 126 people, including a leading cleric. At least 12 people have been detained, Iraqi police said. It was not known if any of those detained had been charged in the bombing.
The Ayatollah Mohammad Baqir al-Hakim, spiritual leader of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, was among the dead, Shiite officials said. They said more than 500 people were injured in the blast. (Profile: Mohammad Baqir al-Hakim)
The bomb went off outside the Imam Ali Mosque as people were filing out of the building after noon prayers.
Buildings 100 yards from the mosque showed extensive damage, and video revealed that part of the wall surrounding the front of the building had collapsed. However, the large mosque was largely intact.
Shiite leader leaves governing council The blast at the Imam Ali Mosque and Hakim's death have outraged Iraq's Shiites, many of whom said the U.S- led Coalition Provisional Authority has not done enough to increase security in Iraq.
Mohammed Baker al-Alum, a leading Shiite politician, announced Saturday that he was suspending his membership in the U.S.-appointed Iraq Governing Council in protest of the massacre at the Imam Ali Mosque.
Earlier, thousands of people gathered in the main square outside the mosque, near the spot where the bomb exploded. (Shiites: Attack kills leader) (Gallery: Scenes from the aftermath)
Shiites from Baghdad, Basra and other areas arrived by the truckload in Najaf overnight to participate in a three-day mourning period. (Map: Religious and ethnic groups in Iraq)
At least 2,000 people crowded the streets of Baghdad on Saturday to protest the bombing.
They made their way to the front of the U.S.-led coalition's headquarters, chanting slogans against the United States and the former Baath Party regime under Saddam Hussein.
Several waved banners saying, "Yes to Islam, Yes to al Hawza," the theological institution that governs Shiite Muslims.
An elaborate funeral procession is planned for Hakim once his remains are found. His bodyguards said only the cleric's ring, turban and watch have been found in the rubble. (Fears raised of sectarian violence)
The procession is scheduled to begin Sunday in a Shiite neighborhood in the Iraqi capital, before it goes to Karbala the next day and then to Najaf on Tuesday.
Funerals for many of the victims took place Saturday. (Shiites mourn bomb victims)
The International Committee of the Red Cross said Saturday that it had sent medical and surgical supplies -- including antibiotics, burn treatment equipment, anesthetics, drugs, cotton and gauze -- to the Najaf Teaching Hospital to help medical workers there treat the wounded.
Friday's bombing was the latest in a series of attacks on Shiite leaders.
On Sunday, a bomb set at the home of Grand Ayatollah Mohamad Sa'eed al-Hakim, the cleric's uncle, killed three bodyguards and wounded 10 others. The grand ayatollah suffered minor injuries. (Shiites march to protest Sunday's attack)
In April, just days after coalition forces captured Najaf, Sayed Abdul Majid al-Khoei returned from exile in London and was shot inside the mosque while attending a meeting attempting to reconcile rival Shiite factions. He was then dragged outside and stabbed to death.
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