A+ A-ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Influential Shiite cleric and leader of the Sadrist movement Muqtada al-Sadr on Saturday apologized for discontinuing his speech and leaving a ceremony marking the anniversary of his father’s death on Friday, explaining that he left in order to “preserve” the safety of the attendees as well as his own life.
Crowds of Shiite followers on Thursday attended a ceremony in Najaf to mark the anniversary of the assassination of Muhamed Sadiq al-Sadr, Sadr’s father, according to the Islamic Hijri calendar.
Sadr, who was expected to give a lengthy speech honoring his father, abruptly left the podium after a few minutes, following a number of unsuccessful, repeated calls to his audience asking them to quieten down.
The leader of the Sadrist bloc on Saturday apologized for abandoning the ceremony, implying that he was worried for the safety of the audience due to the large crowd.
“I offer my apologies for withdrawing from you during the speech in order to first preserve your safety, and second in order for my life to continue serving you,” read a statement from Sadr.
Sadr’s father, an outspoken critic of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, was shot in his car alongside two of his sons, Muamal and Mustafa, by unidentified assailants on February 19, 1999, corresponding to the fourth of Dhu al-Qidah month on the Hijri calendar. Unlike his two sons, the late Shiite cleric did not immediately meet his fate after the shooting, rather he was taken to a hospital for treatment where he was shot once more, leading to his death. Sadr was 24 when his father was killed.
Before cutting his speech short, Sadr stated that the “damned” Baath party was responsible for his father’s assassination, under the direct order of Hussein.
Hussein had publicly denied any involvement in the killing.
Updated at 3:40 pm