Heavy clashes between Iraqi security forces and gunmen from a Shi’ite cult in southern Iraq have claimed dozens of lives. Fighters from the Soldiers of Heaven, once led by a man claiming to be a messiah, reportedly opened fire on security forces in both cities.
It is reported he was killed during the fighting. Meanwhile, in the central city of Kerbala, pilgrims from all over the Middle East and the Gulf have been gathering all week for Ashura. This event commemorates the death of Imam Hussein, the grandson of the prophet Mohamed.
His death in 680 entrenched the schism between Shi’ites and Sunnis. Kerbala has been the scene of violent clashes between rival Shi’ites factions and others in recent years, resulting in hundreds of deaths.