On Sunday, Coalition forces in Iraq killed about 250-450 'cult members', at the behest of the Iraqi government. We, the British, contributed to the massacre, which, in relative-population terms, was equivalent to an Iraqi 9/11.
American Apache attack helicopters and F-16s, as well as British fighter jets, flew low over the farms where the enemy had set up its encampments and attacked, dropping 500-pound bombs on the encampments. [NYT]
Women and children are believed to have lived and died at the encampment. Reports yesterday suggested the leader, who was believed to be a herald of the Imam Mahdi, had been killed along with this followers - but the NYT is not so sure.
Iraqi officials said Monday that they had killed the leader of the militia in the weekend fighting, identifying him as a man who went by the name Ahmed Hassan al-Yamani, but whose real name was Diyah Abdul Zahraa Khadom. However, a Shiite cleric who has had contact with the group said the real leader was Ahmad bin al-Hassan al-Basri. The cleric said he believed that Mr. Basri was alive and probably hiding near Karbala.
I would have thought that, when faced with an apocalyptic cult, the last strategy to try would be to wreak apocalyptic violence upon its followers - it sort of reinforces the beliefs of the survivors. In addition, targeting religious groups, such as the Soldiers of Heaven, is considered genocide under international law. I'm lost for words.