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Former Iraqi President Talabani Buried in Kurdish Home Region


Jalal Talabani, whose presidency of post-Saddam Iraq symbolized the resurgence of the country’s long-oppressed Kurdish people, was brought home on Friday and borne to his burial through streets crowded with tens of thousands of mourners, Reuters reports.

Iraqi and Kurdish TV showed the Iraqi Airways plane which carried Talabani’s coffin from Germany, where he died on Tuesday at the age of 83, landing in Sulaimaniya, his home city in northern Iraq.

A 21-gunshot salute was given for the coffin, draped in the red, white and green Kurdish flag stamped with a golden sun. A military band played the Iraqi national anthem, “Mawtini” (my nation), and Chopin’s funeral march.

The Kurdish flag on the coffin triggered a wave of protests on media close to Shi‘ite political groups which support the Iraqi government. Al-Etejah TV interrupted its broadcast “because the coffin was not draped by the Iraqi flag”.

The plane that brought the body home was given special exemption from a ban on international flights to the Kurdish region imposed a week ago by the Iraqi government, in retaliation for a Kurdish referendum on independence.

Talabani, a veteran leader of the Kurdish struggle for self-determination, became Iraq’s president in 2005, the first person to hold the job after the overthrow of dictator Saddam Hussein in a U.S.-led invasion.

Talabani stepped down as president in 2014 after a long period of treatment following a stroke in 2012. His successor, Fuad Musam, also a Kurd, presided over the ceremony at the airport on Friday.

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