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Iraq's Sistani becomes top target as elections approach

Both militant and media efforts to undermine top Shiite cleric Ali al-Sistani are increasing, likely part of a campaign to reduce his influence and hold him and others accountable for corruption in the Iraqi government.

NAJAF, Iraq — The Jan. 26 attack on Sheikh Abdul Mahdi al-Karbalai, a representative of top Shiite cleric Ali al-Sistani, was no surprise. Those familiar with attacks on religious authorities in Iraq believe the incident, which took place while Karbalai delivered a Friday sermon, was orchestrated by Shiite groups that defected from the Najaf authority. Karbala Gov. Aqeel al-Turaihi stated Jan. 27, “Deviant groups were behind the attack."

Some Sunni media outlets interpreted the attack as a sign that Iraqis in general, both Shiites and Sunnis, are frustrated with Sistani and sectarianism.

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