In 1255 Kublai Khan appointed his brother, Hülegü Khan (c. 1218–1265), to launch a series of campaigns throughout western Asia. Beginning at Samarkand, Hülegü Khan destroyed the Alamut fortress of the Assassins, a militant Islamic sect, and went on to execute the last of the Abbasid caliphs. Historians believe that the caliph was rolled up in a rug and trampled to death by horses. Hülegü Khan became ruler of Iran and founded the Il-Khanid dynasty after sacking Baghdad in 1258. He conquered Syria and advanced south, reaching Jerusalem. The Egyptian Mamluk army routed the Mongol aggressor in 1260 and Hülegü Khan was forced to retreat to Iran. Here he became embroiled in a civil war with his Mongol-Caucasian rival, Berke Khan. Hülegü had laid the foundations of the Il-Khanid, opening up Iran to eastern and western influences, and ultimately paving the way for the Safavid Empire.
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