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Aide to Shiite Militia Leader Killed in Iraq

Nouri's detention in May 2004 by American forces was part of a series of events that outraged Sadrists and triggered a Shiite uprising that left thousands dead. U.S. officials arrested him on charges of taking part in the April 10, 2003, killing of a moderate Shiite cleric, Abdul-Majid Khoei, but Nouri was later released. Noting that he was killed almost exactly five years after Khoei's death, some in Najaf speculated that Nouri's killing might have been retributive.

About 1,000 mourners alternately blamed the U.S. military, Maliki and Supreme Council leader Abdul Aziz al-Hakim.

"God willing, the tails of the occupier -- like Maliki and Abdul Aziz al-Hakim -- they will be gone, and they will be finished," said Mohammed Ali Jouwad, 27, a university student from Najaf. "As for the Americans, I don't want them to leave my country so we can finish them and smash them to pieces."

But Jouwad said he would follow Sadr's order to refrain from violence, as did Sadr followers interviewed in Basra and Sadr City.

Less than an hour after the killing, a Katyusha rocket slammed into the Palestine Hotel in central Baghdad, home to several Western news organizations. The angle of the impact suggested that it had been fired from Sadr City and aimed at the U.S. Embassy in the fortified Green Zone. Witnesses said the attack caused no casualties. Sadr officials denied any role.

"We believe that this crime has come in order to provoke the Sadrists to do something violent in order to give the government an excuse to continue the pressure and the campaign against us," said Obaidi, Sadr's spokesman, referring to Nouri's killing. "But we will not allow this to happen. We will remain calm."

Staff writer Ann Scott Tyson at the Pentagon and special correspondents Saad Sarhan in Najaf, Aahad Ali in Basra and Zaid Sabah, Naseer Nouri and Saad al-Izzi in Baghdad contributed to this report.

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