NAJAF, Iraq: Ten members of an Iraqi doomsday cult were sentenced to death yesterday and 394 jailed for their roles in a January rebellion against Iraqi and US troops that left hundreds dead, police said.
Najaf police chief Brigadier General Abdel Karim Mustapha said the court sentenced 10 leaders of the Soldiers of Heaven to death and released 54. “The rest were sentenced to jail terms ranging from 15 years to life.”
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 fighting left 263 sect followers dead.
Among the dead was their messianic leader Dhia Abdul Zahra Kadhim al-Krimawi, also known as Abu Kamar. He believed himself to be a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad.
The Iraqi security forces reportedly lost three soldiers and three policemen.
After the battle, police rounded up hundreds of sect members and put them on trial.
Abu Kamar has also claimed to be a descendant of the Imam Mahdi, an eighth century imam who vanished and whom Shias believe will return to bring justice to the world.
Najaf deputy governor Abdel Hussein Attan said at the time of the attack the group planned to attack senior Shia clerics and seize control of religious sites in Najaf, in a sign the Mahdi was about to reappear.