Did Muslim Sect Send 3 Britons to Their Deaths in Baghdad?
Three British pilgrims killed in Iraq were sent there to pray for the ailing leader of a religious sect.
They were told to go despite Foreign Office advice. Sefuddin Makai, 39, Yahya Gulamali, 60, and Husain Mohammedali, 50, died after a bus they were travelling in was ambushed by Sunni gunmen in Baghdad on 28 November.
Iraqi police say the bus was shot at by militants as it neared a checkpoint in the Dora neighbourhood.
The group of pilgrims belong to the Dawoodi Bohra community, a sect of Shia Muslims who revere a 93-year-old leader called the Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin.
There are around one million Dawoodi Bohras with at least 3,000 in the UK – half in London.
The Standard has learned that friends and relatives of the three men who died are angry at community leaders who advised the group to go to Iraq to pray for the health of the controversial Mumbai-based leader after he visited London last month. And family members have been told to stay silent to protect the controversial organisation.
One relative of Streatham businessman Mr Makai said: “We are not allowed to talk to the media or we will face sanctions.”
Mr Makai, a travel exchange owner and Mr Gulamali, from Greenford and Mr Mohammedali, from Harrow – who both ran double glazing companies – made the pilgrimage with two others, Miss Zehra Jafferji, 60, from Wembleyand Mr Ali Qayoom, 46, from Harrow, who were both wounded.
Leading reformist, India-based Dr Ali Asghar Engineer, told the Standard: “They will not speak for fear of the Syedna. We have been campaigning for several years to end this totalitarian regime, It has become reduced to a cult.”
In addition to his vast palatial estate in Mumbai, the Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin is thought to own property across the world, including London and New York. In 2000, reformist Bohras protested outside the Home Office to impose immigration restrictions on the High Priest.
Dr Engineer, who said he was attacked by the Syedna’s followers in February 2000, said: “These families have probably paid thousands of pounds to the Syedna, but I have my doubts as to whether the mosque will give money to the families affected.”