Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq

Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq
Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq
Participant in the Iraq War
Active July 2006 - Present
Leaders Qais al-Khazali
Akram al-Kabi
Headquarters Sadr City, Baghdad
Area of
operations
Mainly Baghdad and Southern Iraq; also active in Iraq's Central regions.
Strength 3,000 (March 2007)[1]
Part of Special Groups
Originated as Mahdi Army
Allies Kata'ib Hezbollah, Promised Day Brigades, Other Special Groups
Opponents  United States and MultinationalForce-IraqDUI.svg Coalition
Battles/wars Iraq War:
Karbala provincial headquarters raid, Operation Together Forward, Siege of Sadr City, Siege of U.K. bases in Basra, Iraq spring fighting of 2008, Battle of Basra (2008)

Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq (AAH) (Arabic: عصائب أهل الحق, English: League of the Righteous) also known as the Khazali Network and previously known as Ahl al-Kahf (English: The People of the Cave) is a Shi'a Insurgent group in Iraq and is known as the country's largest Special Group. Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq is alleged to receive Iranian funding and have links to the Iranian Quds Force.[2] The group has claimed responsibility for over 6,000 attacks on US, Coalition and Iraqi Forces.[3]

The groups strength was estimated at some 3,000 fighters in March 2007.[1] 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.[4]

Contents

History

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.[5] In November 2008 when Sadr created a new group to succeeded the Mahdi Army, named the Promised Day Brigades he Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq (and other Special Groups) to join, however they declined.[6]

The group has claimed responsibility for over 6,000 attacks[3] 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.[7] Their most known attack however, is the January 20, 2007 Karbala provincial headquarters raid where they infiltrated the US army's headquarters in Karbala, killed 1 soldier, then abducted and killed 4 more US soldiers. After the raid, the US 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.[5] 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.[5]

In February 2010 the group kidnapped US military contractor Issa T. Salomi a US citizen of Iraqi origin. 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.[8] 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.[9] Prior to Qazali's release, security forces had already released over 100 of the group's members including Laith al-Khazali.[10] Salomi was released in March 2010 return for the release of 4 of their fighters, being held in US custody.[11] 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.[12]

On July 21, 2010 General Ray Odierno said Iran is supporting three Shiite extremist groups in Iraq that have been attempting to attack US bases, General Ray Odierno, said Wednesday. One of the groups is Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq and the other two are Promise Day Brigade and Ketaib Hezbollah.[13]

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.[14] Iranian Grand Ayatollah Kazem al-Haeri was identified as the group's spiritual leader.[15]

Funding

The Organisation is alleged to receive training and weapons from Iran's Revolutionary Guards' Quds Force as well as Iranian-backed Lebanse 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[16] a former Mahdi Army commander, mostly active in Maysan Governorate.[17]

Organisational structure

As of 2006 Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq had at least four major operational branches:[5]

References


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