Published on : 2017-04-17 20:31:59

He dismissed criticism that such talk emphasizes sectarianism. He told of how a flying bird gave away the location of an is sniper atop a date palm. Many shiites trumpet the hashed as champions bringing their community out of centuries of oppression and embodying a belief central to shiism - that victory will come from martyrdom. They say he took the shiite tradition of travelling on foot to holy sites for pilgrimage to a punishing extreme: when other pilgrims rested at night, he walked all day and all night, only resting at his final destination. In the early 1970s, he graduated from a snipers school in belarus. At a recent gathering of hundreds of shiites in karbala, a poet recited a verse telling imam mahdi he didn t bother bringing an army with him because the hashed was ready. Al-salhi s real life has intertwined with the hagiography, making it difficult to confirm the stories told of him. The hashed, supporters say, will be that army. We will not stay speechless any longer, chants singer muhanad al-mowali, alluding to centuries of oppression of shiites since hussein s martyrdom. The fervor surrounding him points to the near messianic mystique that has grown up around iraq s shiite militias in tandem with their increasing political and military might after they helped defeat the islamic state group. It s a stark contrast to the sunni muslim minority s view of the fighters. Poems in his honor have been read to mournful crowds. His rifle, with which he s said to have killed nearly 400 is militants, is now in a museum in the holiest shiite city, karbala. Tens of thousands heeded the call, enlisting in multiple militia factions. On the day he died, al-salhi picked off four is fighters, bringing his kill tally to 384, according to his commander at the ali al-akbar brigade, haidar mukhtar.

The hashed is accused of abuses of the sunni population in areas it seized from is, and sunnis see the militias as a tool for shiite powerhouse iran to dominate iraq. The hashed intensely publicizes the deaths of its commanders, announcing their martyrdom on giant street posters. After victory, the mix of religious tradition and pop culture, poetry and song has become even more passionate iraqdating community. His family and hashed comrades tell of his intense piety. We fight to win freedom for the iraqi people and for humanity, he said in one of multiple tv interviews he gave as his fame grew. The hashed emerged after iraq s top shiite cleric, grand ayatollah ali al-sistani, called for volunteers in june 2014 to join jihad against is militants. The popular aura further buttresses the hashed as it stands poised to play a major role in post-is iraq iraqdating community. Al-salhi has been held up as the ideal pious shiite. He lost a brother to saddam hussein s executioners in the 1991 shiite uprising in southern iraq. One bakery even sells cakes with his face. Another, mahdi al-aboodi, sings that he wishes the hashed was at the battle of karbala to fight on the side of hussein. The militiamen are seen as the successors to one of the faith s most revered figures, imam hussein, a grandson of the prophet muhammad who was killed in the 7th century by rival muslims at karbala, in what is now southern iraq, in a battle that led to the sunni-shiite split. Mukhtar retrieved one final relic of al-salhi: the casing from the last bullet he fired. He was then vaulted into legend, virtually becoming a new saint for the shiite community. He often told of a duel with a female is sniper.

But then he and two other snipers were surrounded by the militants and killed. Supernatural stories circulate among hashed supporters on social media. What harm could come from invoking the name of imam somebody with the same birthday.
. One video purports to show imam mahdi himself backing militiamen defending a shiite shrine in the city of samarra. After trading shots for an hour, i finally killed her when i tricked her into thinking i was dead and she rose from her hiding place, he said, adding that he then killed two fighters trying to retrieve her body. When the time comes for the reappearance of imam mahdi, we will be ready and honored to be among his soldiers, sajad al-mubarkaa, head of the hashed s indoctrination department, told the ap at his baghdad office. Known as the popular mobilization forces or hashed in arabic, the militias - many of them backed by iran - have emerged from the war with an image among iraq s shiite majority as virtually a holy force. During his career in the iraqi army, he fought alongside syrian forces in the golan heights against israel in the 1973 middle east war; against kurdish separatists in iraq s north; and against iran in the 1980-1988 war. Some even speak of the hashed in apocalyptic terms, linking them to imam mahdi, a shiite religious leader said to have vanished 1,100 years ago and expected to return leading an army to defeat evil in the world. What harm could come if we are inspired by the sacrifice of imam hussein. Thousands attended his funeral in the holy city of najaf, where he was laid to rest in the valley of peace, a vast shiite cemetery near the shrine of imam ali, the shiites most revered figure. In 2014, al-salhi answered al-sistani s call to fight is and went on to take part in hashed s biggest battles. In another story, a hashed fighter says the imam saved his life by washing his wounds, telling him, i am by your side. Posters of al-salhi adorn storefronts, homes and car windows in his home city of basra and other shiite areas. .

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