Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq
|Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq (AAH)|
|عصائب أهل الحق
Participant in Iraq War
Syrian Civil War
Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq's logo
|Active||July 2006 – present|
Wilayat al Faqih
|Headquarters||Sadr City, Baghdad, Iraq|
|Area of operations||Mainly Baghdad and Southern Iraq; also active in Iraq's Central regions and Syria|
|Strength||3,000 (March 2007)|
|Part of||Popular Mobilization Forces|
|Originated as||Mahdi Army|
23px Kata'ib Hezbollah
Promised Day Brigades
Other Special Groups
Liwa Abu al-Fadhal al-Abbas
Multi-National Force – Iraq
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
Syrian Civil War:
Free Syrian Army
Authenticity and Development Front
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
|Battles and wars||Iraq War
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. According to The Guardian newspaper, Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq is controlled by Iran and operates under the patronage of General Qassem Suleimani of Iran's Quds Force.
Qais al-Khazali split from Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army after 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, Qais al-Khazali's faction continued fighting, during the battle Khazali was already issuing his own orders to militiamen without Muqtada al-Sadr's approval. The group's leadership which includes Qais Khazali, Abd al-Hadi al-Darraji (a politician in Muqtada al-Sadr's Sadr Movement) and Akram al-Kabi, however, reconciled with Muqtada 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 November 2008 when Sadr created a new group to succeed the Mahdi Army, named the Promised Day Brigade, he asked Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq (and other Special Groups) to join, however 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 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. The first high-profile kidnapping of a foreigner in Iraq since the kidnapping of British IT expert Peter Moore and his four bodyguards (which was also done by Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq). The group demanded release of all their fighters being imprisoned by the Iraqi authorities and US military in return for his release. In Peter Moore's case, 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. 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.
The group earned the respect of the Shia-dominated Iraqi government for some of their actions in Lebanon.
Syrian Civil War
According to a 2014 report by the Guardian on Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq's intervention in the Syrian civil war: "Hezbollah also claims its widespread intervention in Syria on the side of Assad is in defence of the Sayyidah Zainab shrine. So too does Kata'ib Hezbollah, another Iranian-backed Iraqi proxy, whose members are often buried alongside Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq fighters. Both Iraqi groups fight across Syria under the banner of Abu al-Fadl al-Abbas, which has been at the vanguard of attacks against the almost exclusively Sunni opposition across Syria.
They, along with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, are helping turn the tide in favour of the Assad government, which in late 2012 was losing control of Damascus to rebel groups who were finding serious cracks in the government's inner cordon. "Then came a strategic decision by all the Shia groups to defend Assad whatever the cost," said a regional ambassador previously based in the Syrian capital. "You could see the turnaround in Assad almost immediately. Even in his speeches, it was like 'we can do this.'"
Estimates of the numbers of Shia fighters in Syria range between 8,000 and 15,000. Whatever the true figure, the involvement of large numbers of Iraqis is not the secret it was in the early months of Syria's civil war, which is now being fought along a sectarian faultline."
2014 Iraq elections
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.
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.
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