Soldiers of Heaven

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Soldiers of Heaven
جند السماء
ActiveUnknown-Unknown
IdeologyMillenarianism
LeadersDia Abdul Zahra Kadim 
Ahmad al-Hassan
Size1000
Allies Iran (Allegedly)
 al-Qaeda (Allegedly)
Iraqi Baath Party (Allegedly)
Jamaat Ansar al-Sunna (Allegedly)
Opponent(s) Iraq
 United States
 United Kingdom
Battles and war(s)Iraq War

The Soldiers of Heaven or Jund As-Samaa (Arabic: جند السماء‎), were an armed Iraqi Shi'a messianic sect which was led by Dia Abdul Zahra Kadim, who reportedly died in fighting in Basra, Iraq on 29 January 2007.[1] [2][3]

The group has been described as an apocalyptic Muslim cult and is reported to believe that spreading chaos will hasten the return of the 12th Imam.[4][5][6]

Leadership[edit]

A previous leader, Dia Abdul-Zahra, also known as Abu Kamar, claimed to be the Mahdi, a prophet or messiah-like figure in Islam.[7] Iraqi officials have claimed that Ahmed al-Hassan, another leader in the group involved in the fighting against American and Iraqi forces, and was also a participant in the fighting in Najaf, is actually a Sunni pretending to be a Shiite, with an Iraqi general from the Babil Governorate telling the New York Times in an interview, "He is a Wahhabi he is from a Sunni town". Two rival Shiite clerics also made these claims regarding Hassan denying he was a Shiite, however other Shiite clerics have stated Hassan studied at a Shiite seminary in Najaf but later broke off from it. Iraqi MP Jalal al-Din Ali al-Saghir said regarding Hassan "I am 100 percent sure that the group's deputy was a security officer with the old regime."[8]

Background[edit]

Speculations have hinted that Iran may be behind finances of the group however this has never been confirmed; some have also theorized the group may be affiliated with al-Qaeda, several Iraqi officials have also adopted this narrative regarding the group however this has also never been confirmed, this view has also been questioned given the sectarian difference between the two. The Iraqi government has also claimed that the group has been infiltrated by Baathists and loyalists to Saddam Hussein, including ex-intelligence officers.

Membership[edit]

The members of the group, which numbered around 1,000,[9] appeared to be mostly poor Shi'a farmers from an agricultural area 19 kilometres northeast of Najaf, but they also seemed to have been heavily armed. In spite of their poverty, the group appeared to have amassed a great deal of wealth;[10] some including Iraqi officials have also claimed that the group has former Iraqi personnel affiliated with Saddam Hussein's government and the Baath Party.

Activities[edit]

On January 28, 2007, the group apparently fought a bizarre battle with Iraqi and U.S. forces near Najaf where it is alleged about 200-300 of their members were killed, including its leader, and 300-400 were captured.[11] Asaad Abu Gilel, the governor of Najaf has claimed that members of the group, including women and children, planned to disguise themselves as pilgrims and kill leading Shi'a clerics during the Ashoura holiday.[12]

Significant questions remain regarding the group and the combat effectiveness it displayed, including shooting down an American AH-64 Apache helicopter gunship. Virtually all information about the group and the battle has come from Iraqi officials, who have released incomplete and sometimes contradictory accounts.[13] Iraqi officials, including Najaf deputy governor Abdel Hussein Attan, had claimed that the group had links with al-Qaeda, but given that Sunni jihadists are fiercely anti-Shia, this seemed unlikely.[14]

After the battle, Iraqi police rounded up hundreds of sect members and put them on trial. On September 2, 2007, the criminal court passed judgement on 458 accused. Ten leaders of the Soldiers of Heaven were sentenced to death, 54 members were released, and the rest were sentenced to jail terms ranging from 15 years to life, Najaf police chief Brigadier General Abdel Karim Mustapha said.[15]

On January 18, 2008 the Soldiers of Heaven were involved in fighting in Basra and Nassiriya.[16] [17]

Beliefs[edit]

The Soldiers of Heaven held the following beliefs:

  • Their former leader Dia Abdul Zahra Kadim was the Mahdi and he was the reincarnation of Imam Ali ibn Abu Talib.
  • Spreading chaos will hasten the return of the Hidden Imam.
  • They regarded the religious leadership in Najaf as illegitimate.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Zavis, Alexandra (2008-01-19). "80 killed in clashes in Iraq". Los Angeles Times.
  2. ^ Paley, Amit R. (2008-01-19). "Dozens Killed in Clashes In S. Iraq: Obscure Sect Presents First Major Challenge For Area's Iraqi Forces". Washington Post.
  3. ^ Fighters for Shiite Messiah Clash with Najaf Security, 250 Dead Over 60 Dead in Baghdad, Kirkuk Violence, Informed Comment, Juan Cole
  4. ^ DePillis, Lydia (2008-01-19). "Today's Papers: Kick in the Pants". Slate.
  5. ^ ."US-Iraqi Forces Kill 250 Militants in Najaf", The Age, 29 January 2007
  6. ^ Cult plotted attack on Shiite clerics, Iraqis say - CNN January 29, 2007
  7. ^ Iraqi cult and its 'messiah' destroyed near Najaf, Times Online UK, 29 January 2007
  8. ^ https://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/01/world/middleeast/01iraq.html?_r=2&ref=middleeast&oref=slogin&oref=slogin
  9. ^ "Using that self aggrandizing, self appointed title, al Hassan built up a force of a thousand men" The Hidden Imam's Dream - Sky News, January 30, 2007
  10. ^ "Earthly luxuries for Soldiers of Heaven", The Australian, February 1, 2007
  11. ^ Cult Leader is Killed - Sky News, January 29, 2007
  12. ^ Page 2, US, Iraqi forces kill 250 militants in Najaf, The Age, January 29, 2007
  13. ^ Analysis: Najaf battle raises questions - Yahoo! News, January 30, 2007
  14. ^ Bizarre tale of Shia messianic cult plot, BBC, 30 January 2007
  15. ^ 10 Iraqi cult members sentenced to death, Middle East Times, September 2, 2007
  16. ^ Troops clash with Shia cult in southern Iraq, Kim Game, Associated Press, reported in The Guardian, January 19, 2008
  17. ^ Violence on Ashura, reported in the BBC, January 19, 2008