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13 “Cultists” Killed During Iraq Ashura Fest

From those defenders of the faith at BBC NEWS:

Thirteen die in Iraq cult clashes

Friday, 18 January 2008

At least 13 people have been killed in clashes between police and members of a Shia cult in the southern Iraqi cities of Nasiriya and Basra, police say.

The fierce fighting began after members of the Soldiers of Heaven launched apparently co-ordinated assaults on police positions and fellow Shia.

Clashes between the cult and Iraqi troops last year left 263 people dead.

The violence comes as thousands take part in the Ashura festival, one of the holiest events in the Shia calendar.

The ceremonies are due to reach a peak on Saturday with commemorations in the city of Karbala, where two million Shia are expected to congregate.

The fighting in Nasiriya, 230km (200 miles) south-east of Baghdad, began at around 1200 (0900 GMT) when mortars were fired at a police position in the city, police said.

The bombardment was followed up shortly afterwards by an assault by several members of the Soldiers of Heaven, who were armed with machine guns and carrying the cult’s yellow flags, they added.

At least 10 people were killed in the ensuing clashes, including the commander of the city’s police rapid reaction force and six other police officers, police said. A woman civilian and three militants also died.

Meanwhile in Basra, police said members of the cult were responsible for attacks on police and fellow Shia commemorating the killing of Imam Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, in 680 AD.

The city’s police chief, Maj Gen Abdul-Jalil Khalaf, said the leader of the cult in Basra, whom he identified as Abu Mustafa al-Ansari, had been killed in the fighting along with two police officers.

A mosque belonging to the cult was also set alight after people inside the building fired upon a police patrol, officials told the Associated Press.

The governor of Basra, Mohammed al-Waili, said police had surrounded gunmen in two areas of the city and that the situation was under control.

“These terrorist groups have opened fire randomly on citizens and Shia mourners and we are about to eliminate or arrest them,” he said.

Last year, more than 260 members of the Soldiers of Heaven were killed in clashes with US-backed Iraqi security forces after officials reportedly uncovered a plot to attack the holy city of Najaf and kill its religious leaders during Ashura.

The cult is said to believe that its leader, Dia Abdul-Zahra, who was killed in the fighting, was the Mahdi – a messiah who disappeared hundreds of years ago and whose return will usher in an era of peace and justice before the end of time…

Abdul-Zahra, Messianic leader of Jund al-Samaa (Soldiers of Heaven) who claimed to be the Hidden Mahdi.

Funny how the BBC is willing to call these people a “cult” and yet others.

But yes, it’s Ashura time again.

The Muslim calendar is just one bloody festival after another.

This article was posted by Steve on Friday, January 18th, 2008. Comments are currently closed.

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