NAJAF, Iraq, Aug. 29 (UPI) -- In one of the worst acts of terror in post-war Iraq, a car bomb blast in the Shiite holy city of Najaf Friday killed a top cleric and 74 others.
The blast also damaged the Imam Ali Mosque, and injured 200 others.
The Voice of America reported the blast killed Grand Ayatollah Mohamed Baqer al-Hakim, who had just delivered the Friday sermon at the mosque. Al-Hakim had recently returned to Iraq from exile in Iran.
Paul Bremer, head of the U.S.-led coalition authority,
denounced the bombing as the evil face of terrorism, and pledged cooperation in the investigation.
The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying the bombing was an attempt to further destabilize the situation.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan called for restraint by political and religious groups.
The bombing follows an attack last Sunday against a relative of Ayatollah al-Hakim, in which three of his guards were killed. Rival groups within the Shiite leadership are being blamed for the violence.
The cleric had been criticized by some for allowing followers to work with the coalition authority.
The latest incident also comes a week after a suicide bomber detonated a truckload of explosives at the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad, killing 22 people.