Special Groups (Iraq)
This article needs to be updated.May 2016)(
Special Groups (SGs) is a designation given by the American military to the cell-based Shi'a paramilitary organizations operating within Iraq, backed by Iran. According to the Americans these groups are funded, trained, and armed by the Iranian Quds Force, part of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. According to the Pentagon, 603 American troops in total were confirmed to have been killed by IRGC-backed Shia militias (Special Groups) during the Iraq War.
|Participant in Iraq War|
|Headquarters||Sadr City, Baghdad|
|Area of operations||Baghdad and southern Iraq|
|Part of||Mahdi Army (until 2008)|
Iran (claimed by US)
Hezbollah (claimed by US)
|Opponent(s)|| Coalition (until 2009)|
United States (until 2011)
Iraqi Security Forces (until 2011)
Free Syrian Army
|Battles and war(s)||Iraq War, Iraqi Civil War, Iraqi insurgency, Syrian Civil War|
According to American General Kevin J. Bergner, the Special Groups receive between 750,000 and 3,000,000 dollars funding per month from the Quds Force. These groups are separate from but allied with the Mahdi Army of Muqtada al-Sadr. The distinction between these groups and the Mahdi Army became more clear when al-Sadr called for a ceasefire at the end of August 2007 following Mahdi Army clashes with Iraqi Security Forces in Karbala but the Special Groups continued fighting. After the Mahdi Army's disbandment in 2008, the Promised Day Brigades emerged as its successor; however, the largest special group to emerge after the Iraq spring fighting of 2008 was Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq (also known as the Qazali Network). According to the Guardian newspaper in March 2014, Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq is controlled by Iran under Quds Force General Qasem Soleimani. Another large special group is Kata'ib Hezbollah (or Hezbollah Brigades) which started to operate independently from the Mahdi Army and the other Special Groups. Suspected leaders include Qais al-Khazali, Laith al-Khazali, Ali al-Lami, Azhar al Dulaimi, Akram al-Kabi, Abu Mustafa al-Sheibani, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and Abu Deraa.
Ever since the Islamic Revolution, Iran has sought to back Shia Islamist paramilitary organizations across the Middle East. Many have been very close to the Iranian state, particularly the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, like the Movement of Vanguard Missionaries and the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). During the Iran–Iraq War many of these groups fought for Iran, with SCIRI's Badr Brigade being led by Iranian officers. After the US overthrow of Saddam Hussein, these Iranian-led militia men returned to Iraq where they retained their autonomy and Iran continued to support Shia Islamist paramilitaries.
In February 2010, Asaib Ahl al-Haq kidnapped U.S. contractor Issa T. Salomi, a naturalized American from Iraq. They released a video of him where he read their demands, calling for the release of all the group's members, including several of the group's leaders who are currently imprisoned. Iran is supporting three Shiite extremist groups in Iraq that have been attempting to attack American bases, General Ray Odierno, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, said on July 21, 2010. The Iranians have "gone to a more sophisticated program with a smaller set of extremists" and are now focusing on three groups, which he identified as Kataib Hezbollah, Asaib Ahl al-Haq (League of the Righteous), and the Promised Day Brigade.
As of 2011, according to American officials, the Promised Day Brigades is the largest, with over 5,000 fighters, and pose the biggest long-term security threat to Iraq. Kata'ib Hezbollah is said to have around 1,000 fighters and is the most exclusively reliant on Iranian support. Asa'ib al-Haq is said to have less than 1,000 fighters as of 2011 and receives a reported 5 million per month in Iranian funding. The Promised Day Brigades is said to receive the least amount of Iranian funding and is the most independent of the three.
|Muqtada al-Sadr||Promised Day Brigade||Spiritual Leader||In Iran, since 2006. Returned to Iraq in January 2011.|
|Qais al-Khazali||Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq||Leader||Captured on March 20, 2007 in Basra, released on January 5, 2010|
|Laith al-Khazali||Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq||Deputy Leader||Captured on March 20, 2007 in Basra, released June 9, 2009|
|Akram al-Kabi||Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq||Acting leader||At large|
|Abu Mustafa al-Sheibani||Sheibani Network||Leader||In Tehran, Iran, since 2008. Returned to Iraq in September 2010.|
|Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis||Kata'ib Hezbollah
|Top Advisor to Kata'ib Hezbollah
and Iran's Quds Force
|Azhar al Dulaimi||Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq||Karbala Raid mastermind||Killed May 18, 2007 by U.S. forces in Baghdad|
|Ali Musa Daqduq||Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq
|Top advisor to Qais al-Khazali
Head of Hezbollah operations in Iraq
|Captured on March 20, 2007 in Basra, handed over to Iraqi authorities on December 15, 2011 Released November 2012.|
|Abu Yaser al-Sheibani||Sheibani Network||Deputy Leader||Captured on April 20, 2007|
|Ali Faisal al-Lami||Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq
|Captured on August 28, 2008, released in August 2009|
|Tahseen al Freiji||Promised Day Brigade||Social Political Leader||At Large|
|Akran Hasnawi||Hasnawi Network||Leader||Killed on May 3, 2008 in Sadr City|
|Mahdi Khaddam Alawi al-Zirjawi||Promised Day Brigade||SG Sadr City Commander||At Large|
|Baqir al-Sa'idi||Promised Day Brigade||Training||In Iran, possibly returned to Sadr City|
|Jawad Kazim al Tulaybani||Promised Day Brigade||Rocket Specialist||At Large|
|Haydar Mehdi Khadum al-Fawadi||Own Group||Leader||At Large|
|Sheikh Abd al-Hadi al-Darraji||Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq
|Arrested January 10, 2007, released 26 June 2009|
|Abu Deraa||Own Group
AAH since 2010
|Fled to Iran in late 2008. Returned to Iraq in on 20 August 2010.|
|Ahmad Abu Sajad al-Gharawi||Own Group in Maysan||Leader||At Large|
|Mohamed al-Zameli||unknown||Local commander (Wasit)||Detained on 23 January 2009|
|Muhammad al-Tabatabai||Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq||Cleric||At large|
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Special Group Member.|
- Coalition forces target Special Groups leader, 49 criminals killed - 21 Oct 2007
- Raid in Baghdad's Sadr City kills 49 Special Groups operatives - 21 Oct 2007
- DoD News Briefing with Maj. Gen. Sherlock from the Pentagon - 04 Oct 2007
- Cooling The Clash With Iran - 16 Sep 2007
- Gen. Petraeus Opening Remarks to Congress - 11 Sep 2007
- Two Suspected Secret Cell Terrorists Detained by Coalition Forces - 12 Jul 2007
- MNF-I spokesman details secret cell involvement in Iraq - 02 Jul 2007
-  - 15 Nov 2008
-  - 26 Apr 2009
- Special Groups training
- Recent Attacks in Iraq: Al-Qaeda in Iraq or Special Groups?