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Family obtains visas to bury Flushing soldier slain in Iraq

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Spc. Azhar Ali was killed instantly when a roadside bomb exploded near his Humvee outside Baghdad.

"He's a hero - not only for my family, the United States, but the whole world," his brother, Zulfiqar Ali, 33, said during a news conference in Flushing Tuesday. Ali's good friend and fellow Queens resident, Spc. Mai Lwin, 27, of Douglaston, was also killed in the blast. Both troops were deployed in October with New York's famous National Guard unit, the 69th Infantry Regiment. While Lwin was buried Saturday, bureaucratic and political complications delayed his comrade's funeral. The Alis wanted a service in Azhar's native Pakistan. But that fell through when the military failed to notify the family within the 24-hour burial period called for under Muslim beliefs. The family opted for burial in New York, where Azhar immigrated when he was a teen, to avoid a potential political fallout after the Pakistani media caught wind of the complications with the U.S. Army, Zulfiqar Ali said. Azhar was the second youngest of nine children. Four of his brothers live in Flushing and his four other siblings live in Pakistan with his mother and father. While his parents had the necessary paperwork to enter the United States, his brothers and sisters in Pakistan did not. The entire immediate family was reunited Tuesday after City Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing) and U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) helped the four Pakistani siblings get passports and visas to enter the country. A handful of family members expressed their gratitude to the politicians during the news conference in Liu's office. "Now we can put Azhar's soul at peace," said Sunny Sharif, 25, Azhar's cousin."He was a very loving son. He will always be remembered and he will always be among us," added Mubarak Ali, 60, his father. A wake was scheduled for March 17 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. and March 18 from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the Islamic Burial funeral home at 76-02 Rockaway Blvd. in Woodhaven. His funeral was to be held at 11:45 a.m. March 18 at the Moslem Center at 88-37 168th St. in Jamaica and his burial was scheduled for later that afternoon at the Washington Memorial Park at 866 Canal Road in Coram, L.I. Reach reporter Matthew Monks by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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