Najaf (al-Najaf in the Arabic language) is a city in Iraq, about 160 km south of Baghdad, located at 31.99°N 44.33°E. The estimated population for 2003 was 585,600 people. It is the capital of An Najaf Province.
Najaf is a great center of pilgrimage from throughout the Islamic world. Most important is the shrine of Imam Ali bin Abi Talib, housed in a grand structure with a gilded dome and many precious objects in the walls. Nearby is the Wadi-us-Salaam (Valley of Peace), the world's second largest cemetery, containing the tombs of several other prophets including Ibrahim and Ishaq. Many of the devout from other lands aspire to be buried here.
The clerical authorities of the Shiite enclave of Saddam City in Baghdad, which took autonomy in April 2003 after the fall of Baghdad, claimed to be taking their orders from senior Shiite clerics in Najaf.
On August 29 2003 a car bomb exploded during prayers outside the holiest shrine for Shiites, Imam Ali Mosque (Tomb of Ali), just as main weekly prayers were ending and more than 80 people were killed, including the influential cleric Ayatollah Sayed Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim, the Shiite leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), and dozens were injured.