the ‘butcher of Karbala’

The Wahhabi sack of Karbala occurred on 21 April 1802 (1216 Hijri) (1801), under the rule of Abdul-Aziz bin Muhammad the second ruler of the First Saudi State. Approximately 12,000 Wahhabis from Najd attacked the city of Karbala. The attack coincided with the anniversary of Ghadir Khum event, or 10th Muharram.

Wahhabis killed 2,000–5,000 of the inhabitants and plundered the tomb of Husayn ibn Ali, grandson of Muhammad and son of Ali ibn Abi Talib, and destroyed its dome, seizing a large quantity of spoils, including gold, Persian carpets, money, pearls, and guns that had accumulated in the tomb, most of them donations. According to Mengin, the attack lasted for eight hours, after which the Wahhabis left the city with more than 4,000 camels carrying their plunder.

The leader of the attack, Saud bin Abdul-Aziz bin Muhammad bin Saud, has been known as the ‘butcher of Karbala’ since then. Fath-Ali Shah of Iran offered military help, which was rejected by the Ottomans, and instead he sent “500 Baluchi families to settle in Karbala and defend it”.

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