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The background of the Destruction of Korhal lies in the original Rebellion of Korhal. Senator Angus Mengsk of Korhal, frustrated at how the Terran Confederacy mistreated its colonies, convinced Umojan ambassador Ailin Pasteur to aid an armed rebellion against the Confederacy. The Umojans covertly provided military equipment, which Mengsk used in terrorist attacks against the Confederacy.
As the Guild Wars came to a close, Mengsk abandoned secrecy and declared Korhal independent. The Confederacy responded with ghosts, which murdered him, his wife, and his daughter. His son, former Confederate marine colonel Arcturus Mengsk, had been visiting Umoja at the time, taking care of a family matter.
Arcturus Mengsk was incensed by the attack on his family. He collaborated with Ailin Pasteur and his government, which had now created the Umojan Protectorate, and continued the underground rebellion. Arcturus Mengsk, who had become the leader of the Rebellion with Pasteur's support, was more effective than his father in choosing Confederate targets; his attacks cost the Confederacy billions of credits in men, machines and equipment. The Confederacy, in turn, tried to kill what remained of Mengsk's family.
The Confederacy Council and military believed the Rebellion of Korhal required an extreme solution—the bombing. The Old Families took the side of the Council, although at least one member, Constantino Terra, argued strenuously against it.
Arcturus Mengsk was at Umoja, spending time at their Spy Deck with Ailin Pasteur. He had just been presented with a new battlecruiser, the Hyperion, which the Umojans had "stolen" from the Confederacy a year previously (along with its crew). Mengsk was recruiting non-Korhalians for the Rebellion. A secret tip, believed to have originated from the Confederacy itself, was delivered to the Umojan Protectorate. The Spy Deck detected numerous objects in orbit over Korhal.
The second-in-command of the Rebellion, Achton Feld, presided over the defense of Korhal. He expected a conventional battle and invasion. However, his forces detected Apocalypse-class nuclear missiles instead. He was killed in the explosion.
The attacks made the Terran Confederacy even less popular. The rebellion also survived; it reorganized as the Sons of Korhal formed around thirty rebels who were off world at the time. The new organization immediately gained new recruits.