Iraq’s ex-President Talabani laid to rest in Kurdish region

  • FILE - In this Dec. 14, 2008 file photo, then U.S. President George W. Bush, right, walks with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani in Baghdad, Iraq. Talabani, a lifelong fighter for Iraq’s Kurds who rose to become the country’s president, presenting himself as a unifying father figure to temper the potentially explosive hatreds among Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis has died in a Berlin hospital at the age of 83. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File) Evan Vucci

  • FILE - In this Aug. 17, 2007 file photo, then Iraqi President Jalal Talabani talks to reporters in Baghdad, Iraq. Iraqi leaders and world dignitaries are gathered at Iraqi Kurdistan’s Suleimaniyeh airport to pay their respects to the late Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, who died three days ago in Germany. (AP Photo/ Hadi Mizban, File) Hadi Mizban

Associated Press
Friday, October 06, 2017

Thousands of Iraqi Kurdish mourners, along with Iraqi officials and world dignitaries attended on Friday the funeral of Jalal Talabani, the country’s first president in a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq and once a symbol on national unity.

Talabani was laid to rest in Sulaimaniyah, the second-largest city in Iraq’s Kurdish region, after his casket – draped in the Kurdish flag – was flown back from Berlin where he died at a hospital earlier this week.

From the airport in Suleimaniyah, a motorcade carried the casket to a nearby hill for burial. Crowds poured into the streets, following the funeral procession on foot, carrying flags and posters bearing Talabani’s image and the emblem of the political party he founded more than three decades ago, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan.

Many threw flowers on top of the coffin.

While Talabani traces his roots to a small village in Iraq, Sulaimaniyah is the seat of his political power.

A long-time champion of Kurdish self-rule, Talabani, also established himself as a national statesman after accepting the largely symbolic office of the presidency two years after the 2003 U.S. invasion toppled Saddam.

He held the post from 2005 to 2014, but faded from Iraqi political life after suffering a debilitating stroke in 2012.

During his time as president, Talabani was seen as a symbol of unity, a politician able to manage tensions between Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds that in Iraq often erupt into violence.