Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq
Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq (AAH; Arabic: عصائب أهل الحق Aṣayib Ahl al-Haq, "League of the Righteous"), also known as the Khazali Network, is an Iraqi Shi'a paramilitary group active in the Iraqi insurgency and Syrian Civil War. During the Iraq War it was known as Iraq's largest "Special Group" (the Americans' term for Iran-backed Shia paramilitaries in Iraq), and claimed responsibility for over 6,000 attacks on American and Coalition forces. The group is currently fighting against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant as part of the Popular Moblization Forces. The group is funded and trained by Iran's Quds Force. In 2017, AAH created a party with the same name.
|National affiliation||Fatah Alliance|
|International affiliation||Axis of Resistance|
|Seats in the Council of Representatives:|
15 / 329
Qais al-Khazali split from Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army after the Shi'a uprising in 2004 to create his own Khazali network. When the Mahdi Army signed a cease-fire with the government and the Americans and the fighting stopped, Khazali continued fighting, and during the battle Khazali was already issuing his own orders to militiamen without Muqtada al-Sadr's approval. The group's leadership (which includes Khazali, Abd al-Hadi al-Darraji (a politician in Muqtada al-Sadr's Sadr Movement) and Akram al-Kaabi), however, reconciled with al-Sadr in mid-2005. In July 2006, Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq was founded and became one of the Special Groups which operated more independently from the rest of the Mahdi Army. It became a completely independent organisation after the Mahdi Army's disbanding after the 2008 Shi'a uprising. In July 2006, A part of AAH fought alongside Hezbollah in 2006 Lebanon War against Israel. In November 2008 when Sadr created the Promised Day Brigade to succeed the Mahdi Army, he asked AAH (and other Special Groups) to join, but they declined.
The group has claimed responsibility for over 6,000 attacks in Iraq including the October 10, 2006 attack on Camp Falcon, the assassination of the American military commander in Najaf, the May 6, 2006 downing of a British Lynx helicopter and the October 3, 2007 attack on the Polish ambassador. Their most known attack however, is the January 20, 2007 Karbala provincial headquarters raid where they infiltrated the U.S. Army's offices at Karbala, killed one soldier, then abducted and killed four more American soldiers. After the raid, the U.S. military launched a crackdown on the group and the raid's mastermind Azhar al-Dulaimi was killed in Baghdad, while much of the group's leadership including the brothers Qais and Laith al-Khazali and Lebanese Hezbollah member Ali Musa Daqduq who was Khazali's advisor was in charge of their relations with Hezbollah. After these arrests in 2007, Akram al-Kabi, who had been the military commander of the Mahdi Army until May 2007, led the organisation. In May 2007, the group kidnapped British IT expert Peter Moore and his four bodyguards. They demanded the release of all their fighters being imprisoned by the Iraqi authorities and US military in return for his release. His four bodyguards were killed, but Moore himself was released when the group's leader Qais al-Khazali was released in January 2010. Prior to Qazali's release, security forces had already released over 100 of the group's members including Laith al-Khazali. In 2008 many of the groups fighters and leaders fled to Iran after the Iraqi Army was allowed to re-take control of Sadr City and the Mahdi Army was disbanded. Here most fighters were re-trained in new tactics. It resulted in a major lull in the group's activity from May to July 2008.
In February 2010 the group kidnapped DoD civilian Issa T. Salomi, a naturalized American from Iraq. This was the first high-profile kidnapping of a foreigner in Iraq since the kidnapping of Peter Moore (which was also done by Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq). Salomi was released in March 2010 return for the release of 4 of their fighters being held in Iraqi custody. In total 450 members of the group have been handed over from US to Iraqi custody since the kidnapping of Peter Moore, over 250 of which have been released by the Iraqi authorities.
On July 21, 2010 General Ray Odierno said Iran was supporting three Shiite extremist groups in Iraq that had been attempting to attack US bases. One of the groups was Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq and the other two were the Promised Day Brigade and Ketaib Hezbollah.
In December 2010 it was reported that notorious Shi'a militia commanders such as Abu Deraa and Mustafa al-Sheibani were returning from Iran to work with Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq. Iranian Grand Ayatollah Kazem al-Haeri was identified as the group's spiritual leader.
In August and September 2012, Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq started a poster campaign in which they distributed over 20,000 posters of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei throughout Iraq. A senior official in Baghdad's local government said municipal workers were afraid to take the posters down in fear of retribution by Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq militiamen.
Syrian Civil WarEdit
The group's Syrian branch is called the Haidar al-Karar Brigades. It is led by Akram al-Kabi, AAH's military leader, who is stationed in Aleppo. The group initially fought under the banner of the al-Abbas Brigade (a mixed Syrian, Iraqi, & Lebanese Shia organization), but split in 2014 due to a dispute with al-Abbas's native Syrian fighters. Like other Iraqi Shia paramilitaries in Syria, they fight in defense of the Sayyidah Zainab shrine.
2014 Iraq electionsEdit
The organization had candidates running in the 2014 Iraqi parliamentary election under the banner of Al-Sadiqoun Bloc. However an electoral meeting of estimated 100,000 supporters of Al-Sadiqoun was marred by violence as a series of bombs exploded at the campaign rally held at the Industrial Stadium in eastern Baghdad killing at least 37 people and wounding scores others, according to Iraqi police said. The Shia group organizers had planned to announce at the rally the names of its candidates for the parliamentary election. The Al-Sadiquun Bloc ended up winning just one seat out of 328 seats in the Iraqi Parliament.
The group's strength was estimated at some 3,000 fighters in March 2007. In July 2011, however, officials estimated there were less than 1,000 Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq militiamen left in Iraq. The group is alleged to receive some $5 million worth of cash and weapons every month from Iran. In January 2012, following the American withdrawal from Iraq in December 2011, Qais al-Khazali declared the United States was defeated and that now the group was prepared to disarm and join the political process.
Since the beginning of the Iraqi war against ISIL, AAH has grown to around 10,000 members and been described as one of if not the most powerful members of the Popular Mobilization Forces. It has recruited hundreds of Sunni fighters to fight against ISIS.
The organisation is alleged to receive training and weapons from Iran's Revolutionary Guards' Quds Force as well as Iranian-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah. By March 2007, Iran was providing the network between $750,000 and $3 million in arms and financial support each month. Abu Mustafa al-Sheibani, a former Badr Brigades member who ran an important smuggling network known as the Sheibani Network played a key role in supplying the group. The group was also supplied by a smuggling network headed by Ahmad Sajad al-Gharawi a former Mahdi Army commander, mostly active in Maysan Governorate.
As of 2006 Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq had at least four major operational branches:
- The Imam al-Ali Brigade – Responsible for Southern Iraq (Iraq's 9 Shi'a governorates: Babil, al-Basrah, Dhi Qar, al-Karbala, Maysan, al-Muthanna, an Najaf, al-Qadisiyyah and Wasit Governorates)
- The Imam al-Kazem Brigade – Responsible for West-Baghdad (mainly the Shi'a Kadhimiya and Al Rashid districts but also some minor activity in the mixed Karkh district and the mainly Sunni Mansour district)
- The Imam al-Hadi Brigade – Responsible for East-Baghdad (mainly the Shi'a Thawra, Nissan and Karrada districts but with some minor activity in the mixed Rusafa district and the mainly Sunni Adhamiyah district)
- The Iman al-Askari Brigade – Responsible for Central Iraq (mainly active the Shi'a areas in Southern Diyala, Samarra City (in Salah ad-Din Governorate) and some Shi'a enclaves in Ninawa and Kerkuk Governorates)
- The Haidar al-Karar Brigades – Responsible for Syria, mainly Southern Damascus and West Aleppo.
- "www.counterextremism.com/sites/default/files/threat_pdf/Asaib%20Ahl%20al-Haq-04072016.pdf" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 7 May 2016. Retrieved 8 June 2016.
- Hilburn, Matthew (15 March 2015). "One-time US Prisoner Now Key in Battling IS". BBC News. Retrieved 2 May 2016.
- Bowen, Jeremy (7 July 2014). "The fearsome Iraqi militia vowing to vanquish Isis". BBC News. Retrieved 1 May 2016.
- Bill Roggio (2 September 2014). "US airstrikes in Amerli supported deadly Shia terror group". The Long War Journal. Retrieved 8 June 2016.
- Kirkpatrick, David (10 April 2013). "Shiite Militias Pose Challenge for U.S. in Iraq". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 May 2016.
- "Iraqi forces press to secure Shiite south before religious observances believed to be target of Islamic State". The Washington Post. Retrieved 8 June 2016.
- "Iraqi Shiites warily greet new year, watch for suicide bombers". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 8 June 2016.
- Caleb Weiss (10 March 2015). "In pictures: Shiite militias operating near Tikrit". The Long War Journal. Retrieved 8 June 2016.
- Sly, Liz (15 February 2015). "Pro-Iran militias' success in Iraq could undermine U.S." The Washington Post. Retrieved 10 April 2015.
- al-Salhy, Suadad (10 April 2013). "Iraqi Shi'ite militants start to acknowledge role in Syria". Reuters. Retrieved 10 April 2015.
- ""The Insurgency," Operation New Dawn, Official Website of the United States Force-Iraq". Archived from the original on 29 November 2014. Retrieved 17 November 2014.
- "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-04-09. Retrieved 2016-03-29.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
- Cassman, Daniel. "Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq - Mapping Militant Organizations". Retrieved 8 June 2016.
- Controlled by Iran, the deadly militia recruiting Iraq's men to die in Syria, The Guardian, 12 March 2014
- Asaib Ahl al Haq and the Khazali Special Groups Network Archived April 1, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
- "Iraq's 'Promised Day Brigade' - the reforming of the Shiite Militia". 15 November 2008. Archived from the original on 28 September 2012.
- "The People of Righteousness: Iraq's Shi'a Insurgents Issue Demands for Hostages". The Jamestown Foundation. Retrieved 17 November 2014.
- "Iraqi militants post video of kidnapped US citizen". Press TV. 6 February 2010. Archived from the original on May 31, 2012. Retrieved 25 April 2014.
- Martin TChulov (3 January 2010). "Cleric freed in move expected to prompt handover of kidnapped Briton's body". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 April 2014.
- Bill Roggio (1 October 2009). "Iraqi police detain Hezbollah Brigades leader". The Long War Journal. Retrieved 25 April 2014.
- Julie Watson (12 August 2010). "San Diego man recounts Iraq kidnapping". UT San Diego. Retrieved 25 April 2014.
- The Washington Post U.S. failure to neutralize Shiite militia in Iraq threatens to snarl pullout
-  Archived February 19, 2014, at the Wayback Machine
- "In Iraq, Iran's Special Groups to flourish". UPI. 23 December 2010. Retrieved 25 April 2014.
- "Religious Allegiances among Pro-Iranian Special Groups in Iraq". Retrieved 17 November 2014.
- Yahoo News Iran ayatollah is poster boy for influence in Iraq, September 25, 2012
- Omar al-Jaffal (29 October 2013). "Iraqi Shiites join Syria war". Al-Monitor. Retrieved 25 April 2014.
- "Iraqi Shi'ites flock to Assad's side as sectarian split widens". Reuters. 19 June 2013. Retrieved 18 September 2014.
- "Dozens killed as blasts hit Iraq poll rally". Al Jazeera English. 25 April 2014. Retrieved 25 April 2014.
- Fox News Insurgents Who Killed Five GIs in Brazen Karbala Attack Captured
- "US officials name 3 Iraqi militias armed by Iran to kill Yanks". Iran Times. Retrieved 17 November 2014.
- Iraq Shi’ite militia says U.S. has ‘failed,’ pledges to lay down arms in wake of Sunni bombings, National Post, January 5, 2012
- "Iraq's Popular Mobilization Forces will join offensive to retake Mosul". Retrieved 8 June 2016.
- "Iraqi Sunnis join Shia militias to fight IS militants". Retrieved 8 June 2016.
- "Iran's Hard Power Influence in Iraq". Retrieved 17 November 2014.
- The New York Times "The Struggle For Iraq", 27 March 2007