When President Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad launched Iran’s first domestically built telecommunications satellite into space on Sunday, he did so in the name of the last true Shia imam, Mohammed al-Mahdi.
The launch coincided with the end of festivities in Iran to mark the birthday of the imam, one of the holiest figures in Shia Islam, who is believed to have gone into hiding in the year 941 and will return to bring peace and justice to the world.
But this year’s festivities have proved unusually controversial because of claims that the imam is being exploited for commercial and political purposes.
The cult, Supporters of Mahdi — also called Soldiers of Heaven — believes that Imam Mahdi, who disappeared in the 9th century, is about to return and save the world.
In January, the militant sect, dubbing itself the Jund al-Samaa or “Soldiers of Heaven”, clashed with US and Iraqi forces outside this holy city, three days before the Shia Ashura festival.
The ruins of the Soldiers of Heaven compound in Najaf yielded evidence Tuesday that the group had amassed huge wealth and weapons storehouses virtually under the noses of the Iraqi and U.S. militaries.
Accounts of the bloody battle near Najaf have produced more questions than answers, raising doubts about Iraqi security forces’ performance and concern over tensions within the majority Shiite community.
In an era beset by war and confusion, a purported messiah rises from the sands of the desert promising to deliver the end of time. On the outskirts of a holy city, he gathers his fighters for the apocalypse. But his plan is betrayed. By dawn, government forces surround the messiah and his followers, killing him and hundreds of others.
Women and children with the fighters of the Soldiers of Heaven outside Najaf were believed to be among those killed after coming under sustained fire from warplanes, helicopter gunships and tanks.
The leader of an Iraqi cult who claimed to be the Mahdi, a messiah-like figure in Islam, was killed in a battle on Sunday near Najaf with hundreds of his followers, Iraq’s national security minister said on Monday.
United States and Iraqi forces killed 250 gunmen from an apocalyptic Muslim cult whose followers wore headbands declaring themselves a Soldier of Heaven.
The key to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s hardline policies may not be hidden in his revolutionary past, or in any of the nuclear facilities dispersed across Iran, but in a small farming village near the holy city of Qom. Here, in what was until only a few years ago a shabby local mosque, Iran’s new radical […]
Many, including the president, pray for the Mahdi’s return to defeat evil. Western critics fear such beliefs may lead to irrational policies. JAMKARAN, Iran — Each Tuesday, thousands of people arrive here at dusk by car and bus. Beneath the twinkling lights of the blue-tiled mosque, they sit on carpets, following prayers broadcast over loudspeakers: […]