Iraq's top cleric recovering from surgery after accident
Iraq's most revered Shiite cleric is recovering from surgery for a fractured bone following an accident in his home, officials said Thursday. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who turns 90 later this year and whose opinion is often sought during troubled times, fractured a thigh bone when he slipped while bathing before evening prayers on Wednesday night, according to two officials close to the cleric, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss details with the media.
"The operation was successful," said one official, adding that al-Sistani had regained consciousness following the surgery. The surgery was considered risky for his age and came amid ongoing tensions in Iraq following the US killing of a top Iranian general and a popular protest movement against the country's ruling elite.
Al-Sistani was taken to a hospital in southern Iraq outside of his home in the holy city of Najaf on Thursday morning to undergo the operation, raising concern among his followers. "The problem is not with the operation, the problem is with old age," said one official.
News of the surgery sparked a flurry of well-wishes on social media and from Iraqi and diplomatic officials. Caretaker Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi said that the government was at al-Sistani's disposal to provide him with necessary care "inside or outside Iraq immediately," according to a statement from his office.
The US embassy in Baghdad said it has received "with great joy" news of al-Sistani's successful surgery, noting his "ever-lasting stabilizing role." "He will be in our prayers during the recovery period, we hope it will be a speedy one," the embassy said in a statement.
Al-Sistani, who's opinion holds sway over many Iraqis, has been critical in calming tensions in recent months as the country faced crisis after crisis beginning with mass protests seeking to unseat the political establishment and the recent US drone strike that killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani. The subtle messaging in his weekly sermons and commentary have steered politics during the difficult times.
When the Islamic State group overran vast swathes of Iraqi territory in the summer of 2014, al-Sistani issued a fatwa calling on all able-bodied men from across sectarian divides to take up arms and fight the group. Recently, he emerged as a key supporter of the protest movement, calling for electoral reforms and the rights of the people.
His withdrawal of support for Abdul-Mahdi's government triggered the premier's resignation in December. (AP) IND
(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)
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