BAGHDAD, Iraq – Reports of an assassination attempt Thursday against Iraq's most powerful Shiite Muslim clergyman are untrue, a Shiite group close to the top cleric said.
Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani (search) was described by associates as being in good health. Bodyguards and political allies told The Associated Press there was no attempt on his life, dismissing Arab media reports.
"We have contacted the office of his eminence, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani, in Najaf and it transpired that the report is a lie and the whole issue is fabricated and baseless," the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (search) said.
The council works closely with al-Sistani in promoting Shiite political interests.
An AP reporter who visited the cleric's house in the southern city of Najaf at midday Thursday saw no sign of extra security or unusual activity.
The Arabic TV station Al-Jazeera had reported that unidentified gunmen fired on the ayatollah Thursday morning.
Reuters reported that attackers with guns injured an unspecified number of al-Sistani bodyguards during an attempt on the prominent cleric's life at about 10 a.m. The report gave no details on how seriously the bodyguards were injured or the fate of the attackers.
One of the ayatollah's guards, who identified himself as Abu Mohammed, told AP by telephone from Najaf that "there's no truth to this news" of an assassination attempt, adding "these are all lies.
"His eminence is in very good health and hasn't been subjected to any assassination attempts," he said. "There haven't been any threats ... He hasn't been out.... There has been no gunfire."
U.S.-led coalition spokesman Dan Senor, as well as Polish and Spanish troops in Najaf, told AP they had no information about an attack on al-Sistani.
A spokesman for top Governing Council member Abdel-Aziz al-Hakim said a very senior member of his party in Najaf denied there was any attack on the cleric.
Governing Council member Mouwafak al-Rubaie, who met with al-Sistani on Thursday afternoon, told the Lebanese television station Al-Hayat-LBC that the cleric was "in good health."
Al-Rubaie said he had no information about any alleged attempt but said, "I can say that his eminence Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani is in good health. He is in a safe place."