NAJAF, Iraq, April 14 (UPI) -- Gunmen assassinated a senior aide to Moqtada Sadr in Najaf, Iraq, following the cleric's secret return to Iraq under Iranian orders, a report says.
Anonymous Iraqi sources for the London-based Asharq al-Awsat newspaper said Iranian authorities ordered Sadr to leave his clerical studies in Qom because his presence "affect(ed) the course of relations between Tehran and Baghdad."
The same sources said the aide to Sadr, Riyadh al-Nouri, was implicated in the assassination of prominent cleric Abdul-Majid al-Khoei, who was stabbed to death 24 hours after the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime. Abdul-Majid is the son of Grand Ayatollah Abul-Qassim al-Khoei, who was once one of Saddam's most influential opponents.
A statement on the Arabic language Web site Barutha news said Friday Jalal al-Dein al-Saghier, a key official in the Supreme Islamic Iraq Council, escaped an assassination attempt shortly before Nouri was gunned down. It was unclear if the two incidents were related.
Media reports from Iraq said fighters loyal to Moqtada Sadr were engaged in tit-for-tat assassination attempts on members of the SIIC.