- Associated Press - Friday, January 17, 2020

KARBALA, Iraq (AP) - Iraq’s most powerful cleric was discharged Friday from a hospital following a risky surgery for a fractured bone and returned to his home in southern Iraq, medical officials said.

Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who turns 90 later this year, fractured a thigh bone when he slipped while bathing before evening prayers Wednesday night. The surgery was considered risky for his age and came amid ongoing tensions in Iraq following the U.S. killing of a top Iranian general and a popular protest movement against the country’s ruling elite.

Al-Sistani’s opinion is often sought during troubled times and news that his surgery was successful prompted a flurry of well-wishes from senior officials.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, “My prayers are extended along with the millions of Iraqis to whom he is a source of guidance and inspiration,” in a tweet early Friday.

Al-Sistani underwent surgery Thursday at the Kafeel hospital in Karbala and was sent home Friday, officials at the hospital said. He returned to his home in the holy city of Najaf. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to media.

The cleric 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 U.S. drone strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani.

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