FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

US Soldiers Kill 250 Men from "Apocalyptic Cult"

by PATRICK COCKBURN

 

Baghdad.

American and Iraqi troops killed about 250 armed men alleged to belong to an apocalyptic Islamic cult who were planning to attack the religious leadership of the Shia in the holy city of Najaf, according to Iraqi political, military and police sources.

The battle took place in the orchards around Najaf and a US helicopter was shot down during the fighting, killing two crewmen. Hundreds of fighters drawn from the Sunni and Shia communities who gathered amid the date palms were followers of Ahmed Hassani al-Yemeni who claims to be the vanguard of the Messiah according to Iraqi politicians. His office in Najaf had been closed 10 days ago.

Details of what happened are sketchy. The US forces used tanks and F-16 fighter bombers. An Iraqi military source said the dead wore headbands declaring them to be “Soldiers of Heaven”. The Najaf governor Asaad Abu Gilel said the authorities had discovered a conspiracy to kill some of the senior clergy.

Anarchic violence reached new heights across Iraq. Mortar bombs exploding in the courtyard of a girls’ school in west Baghdad killed five children and wounded 21 in the latest atrocity in the escalating sectarian civil war between Sunni and Shia.

“The shrapnel hit her in the eyes and there was blood all over her face … she was dead,” said Ban Ismet, a 15-year-old girl wounded in the legs, speaking in hospital of her friend Maha who was killed by the bomb.

The mortaring of the Kholoud Secondary School in the Adil district was the latest tit-for-tat attack between Shia and Sunni in this highly contested area. The school is Sunni and the killing of the children was most likely carried out by Shia militiamen who have been attacking Adil from the north. Sunni in Baghdad are increasingly being driven into the south-west quadrant of the city.

The school headmistress Faziya Swadi said that two mortar bombs exploded in the courtyard of the school, breaking the windows and spraying the pupils with broken glass as well as shrapnel. The stone steps and pathways were smeared with blood. Hours later weeping parents were placing bodies of their children in wooden coffins.

Wherever Sunni and Shia districts are close together in Baghdad there are frequent killings. Each community sees itself as being the victim of unprovoked aggression. Sectarian animosities are particularly high because the Shia rite of Ashura takes place tomorrow when they commemorate the martyrdom of the Imam Hussein at the Battle of Kerbala in AD680. Hundreds of thousands of Shia are making the three-day pilgrimage on foot from Baghdad to Kerbala.

Seven people were killed yesterday by three bombs, two left in markets and one on a bus, in Shia neighbourhoods.

Some 150 people, mostly Shia, have been killed by bomb attacks in Baghdad over the past week. But probably a majority of the 25 to 50 dead bodies, often bearing marks of torture, that are found by police every morning in the capital are Sunni. This is because the police and police commandos are Shia and often detain and kill Sunni at their checkpoints.

Mixed neighbourhoods are disappearing in the capital. The sectarian cleansing started in 2005 and gathered pace after the destruction of the Shia al-Askarai shrine in Samarra in February 2006. Bomb attacks on Sadr City on 23 November last year killed 215 and wounded 250 more. Shia retaliation led to another mass flight of Sunni. Since there are no Sunni safe havens in Iraq, either in Baghdad or outside, many members of the community are fleeing to Jordan and Syria.

In a sign of the unreliability of the security forces some 1,500 policemen have been sacked in the province of Diyala north-west of Baghdad. The new police chief Ghanim al-Qureishi said the men were fired because they fled instead of fighting when insurgents attacked the provincial capital Baquba in November.

PATRICK COCKBURN is the author of ‘The Occupation: War, resistance and daily life in Iraq‘, a finalist for the National Book Critics’ Circle Award for best non-fiction book of 2006.

 

Patrick Cockburn is the author of  The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

May 24, 2017
Binoy Kampmark
Return to Realpolitik: Trump in Saudi Arabia
Vern Loomis
The NRA: the Dragon in Our Midst
May 23, 2017
John Wight
Manchester Attacks: What Price Hypocrisy?
Patrick Cockburn
A Gathering of Autocrats: Trump Puts US on Sunni Muslim Side of Bitter Sectarian War with Shias
Shamus Cooke
Can Trump Salvage His Presidency in Syria’s War?
Thomas S. Harrington
“Risk”: a Sad Comedown for Laura Poitras
Josh White
Towards the Corbyn Doctrine
Mike Whitney
Rosenstein and Mueller: the Regime Change Tag-Team
Jan Oberg
Trump in Riyadh: an Arab NATO Against Syria and Iran
Susan Babbitt
The Most Dangerous Spy You’ve Never Heard Of: Ana Belén Montes
Rannie Amiri
Al-Awamiya: City of Resistance
Dimitris Konstantakopoulos
The European Left and the Greek Tragedy
Laura Leigh
This Land is Your Land, Except If You’re a Wild Horse Advocate
Hervé Kempf
Macron, Old World President
Michael J. Sainato
Devos Takes Out Her Hatchet
L. Ali Khan
I’m a Human and I’m a Cartoon
May 22, 2017
Diana Johnstone
All Power to the Banks! The Winners-Take-All Regime of Emmanuel Macron
Robert Fisk
Hypocrisy and Condescension: Trump’s Speech to the Middle East
John Grant
Jeff Sessions, Jesus Christ and the Return of Reefer Madness
Nozomi Hayase
Trump and the Resurgence of Colonial Racism
Rev. William Alberts
The Normalizing of Authoritarianism in America
Frank Stricker
Getting Full Employment: the Fake Way and the Right Way 
Jamie Davidson
Red Terror: Anti-Corbynism and Double Standards
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange, Sweden, and Continuing Battles
Robert Jensen
Beyond Liberal Pieties: the Radical Challenge for Journalism
Patrick Cockburn
Trump’s Extravagant Saudi Trip Distracts from His Crisis at Home
Angie Beeman
Gig Economy or Odd Jobs: What May Seem Trendy to Privileged City Dwellers and Suburbanites is as Old as Poverty
Colin Todhunter
The Public Or The Agrochemical Industry: Who Does The European Chemicals Agency Serve?
Jerrod A. Laber
Somalia’s Worsening Drought: Blowback From US Policy
Michael J. Sainato
Police Claimed Black Man Who Died in Custody Was Faking It
Clancy Sigal
I’m a Trump Guy, So What?
Gerry Condon
In Defense of Tulsi Gabbard
Weekend Edition
May 19, 2017
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
Getting Assange: the Untold Story
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Secret Sharer
Charles Pierson
Trump’s First Hundred Days of War Crimes
Paul Street
How Russia Became “Our Adversary” Again
Andrew Levine
Legitimation Crises
Mike Whitney
Seth Rich, Craig Murray and the Sinister Stewards of the National Security State 
Robert Hunziker
Early-Stage Antarctica Death Rattle Sparks NY Times Journalists Trip
Ken Levy
Why – How – Do They Still Love Trump?
Bruce E. Levine
“Hegemony How-To”: Rethinking Activism and Embracing Power
Robert Fisk
The Real Aim of Trump’s Trip to Saudi Arabia
Christiane Saliba
Slavery Now: Migrant Labor in the Persian Gulf and Saudi Arabia
Chris Gilbert
The Chávez Hypothesis: Vicissitudes of a Strategic Project
Howard Lisnoff
Pay No Attention to That Man Behind the Curtain
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail