Muhammad Ahmad bin Abd Allah declared himself Mahdi (saviour) of Muslim lands in 1881 and led a popular revolt. This swept through much of Sudan. People were outraged at the British domination of Egypt, which in turn dominated the region.
In Britain Muhammad Ahmad is popularly known as the “Mad Mahdi”.
The British leader General Gordon was killed during the capture of Khartoum and beheaded. In Britain this was reported as a terrible war crime that demanded revenge.
The British, now armed with machine guns, got their revenge in 1898 at the Battle of Omdurman. They killed at least 10,000 Mahdists and injured another 13,000.
GW Steevens, a Daily Mail journalist, wrote, “It was not a battle but an execution.
“The bodies were not in heaps—bodies hardly ever are; but they spread evenly over acres and acres.
“Some lay very composedly with their slippers placed under their heads for a last pillow; some knelt, cut short in the middle of a last prayer.
“Others were torn to pieces.”