While helping Iraqi forces to break the Islamic State’s siege of Amerli, the US Air Force supported a deadly Shia militia that is responsible for killing hundreds of US soldiers. The Shia militia, known as Asaib al Haq, or the League of the Righteous, has also captured and executed US soldiers and British citizens in the past.
Iraqi forces, supported by “paramilitary forces” such as the League of the Righteous, advanced on Amerli late last week and reached the town by Aug. 31, The Washington Post reported. By Sept. 1, the siege, which lasted for more than two months, was lifted.
Na’im al Aboudi, the spokesman for the League of the Righteous, confirmed that his group is operating in Amerli and in surrounding villages.
As of Aug. 31, the US military launched four airstrikes against Islamic State forces in Amerli, according to US Central Command, or CENTCOM.
“At the request of the Government of Iraq, the US military conducted airstrikes in support of an operation to deliver humanitarian assistance to address the humanitarian crisis and protect the civilians trapped in Amerli, Iraq at approximately 8:30 p.m. EDT today [Aug. 30],” CENTCOM reported. Three airstrikes and a humanitarian aid drop were conducted on Aug. 30, and another on Aug. 31.
A seasoned Shia terror group
The League of the Righteous is not a newly-formed Shia militia that rose up in the wake of the Islamic State’s takeover of much of Western, central, and northern Iraq this year. The League of the Righteous was formed in 2006 as an offshoot of Muqtada al Sadr’s Mahdi Army. The militia was the largest and most powerful of what the US military called the Special Groups, or Shia militias backed by Iran. The group was at the forefront in using EFPs, or explosively formed penetrators, the deadly landmines that can penetrate US armored vehicles. Hundreds of US soldiers were killed in EFP attacks.
Asaib al Haq was directly implicated by General David Petraeus in the January 2007 attack on the Provincial Joint Coordination Center in Karbala. Five US soldiers were killed during the Karbala attack and subsequent kidnapping attempt. The US soldiers were executed by League of the Righteous fighters after US and Iraqi security forces closed in on the assault team.
The attack on the Karbala Provincial Joint Coordination Center was a complex, sophisticated operation. The assault team, led by tactical commander Azhar al Dulaimi, was trained in a mock-up of the center that was built in Iran. The unit had excellent intelligence and received equipment that made them appear to be US soldiers. Some of the members of the assault team are said to have spoken English.
Two months after the attack in Karbala, Qais Qazali, who leads the League of the Righteous, his brother Laith, and a senior Hezbollah military commander known as Musa Ali Daqduq were all captured during a raid in Basra. Qais and Laith were freed by the US in 2009 along with hundreds of members of the Asaib al Haq, in exchange for Peter Moore, a captured British hostage, and the remains of four Brits who were kidnapped and subsequently executed by the group. The US justified their release by claiming that the League of the Righteous was reconciling with the Iraqi government. After his release, Qais threatened to attack US interests in Iraq.
Trained by Iran, Hezbollah
Daqduq, who previously served as the head of Hezbollah’s special forces as well as the commander of Hassan Nasrallah’s guard, was listed by the US as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist in November 2012, less than a year after he was released from US custody. Daqduq was released to Iraqi custody in December 2011 as the US withdrew from Iraq with the promise that he would be tried for his war crimes. But in 2012, he was freed by the Iraqi government. US intelligence officials contacted by The Long War Journal said that Daqduq is involved with supporting Iraqi militias who are fighting in Syria.
In its designation of Daqduq as a global terrorist in November 2012, the US Treasury Department said that sometime in 2005, “Iran asked Hezbollah to form a group to train Iraqis to fight Coalition Forces in Iraq.” The designation stated: “In response, Hassan Nasrallah [Hezbollah’s leader] established a covert Hezbollah unit to train and advise Iraqi militants in Jaish al Mahdi (JAM) [or Mahdi Army] and JAM Special Groups, now known as Asaib Ahl al Haq [the League of the Righteous],” a Mahdi Army faction.
“As of 2006, Daqduq had been ordered by Hezbollah to work with IRGC-QF [Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps-Qods Force] to provide training and equipment to JAM Special Groups to augment their ability to inflict damage against US troops,” Treasury continued.
Three top leaders of the League of the Righteous are also on the US’ list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists.
Abu Dura, whose real name is Ismail Hafiz al Lami, is known as the “Shia Zarqawi” for his propensity to torture his captives. He was listed as a global terrorist in January 2008along with Ahmad Foruzandeh, the former commander of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force, for supporting the Iraqi insurgency.
Also designated with Abu Dura and Foruzandeh was Mustafa al Sheibani, who led the so-called Sheibani Network, which is part of the League of the Righteous.
Both Abu Dura and Sheibani are believed to have returned to Iraq in the summer of 2010. [See LWJ reports, Iran sends another dangerous Shia terror commander back to Iraq and ‘Shiite Zarqawi’ returns to Baghdad from Iran: report.]
Akram Abbas al Kabi, the current military commander of the League of the Righteous who served as the group’s leader while Qazali was in US custody, was added to the list of global terrorists in September 2008. Also designated with Kabi was Abdul Reza Shahlai, a deputy commander in Iran’s Qods Force who was involved in the planning and execution of the attack on the Karbala Joint Provincial Coordination Center. [ See LWJ report, US sanctions Iranian general for aiding Iraqi terror groups.]
Kabi directed attacks against US and Iraqi forces during the so-called Mahdi cease-fire imposed by Sadr in the spring of 2008. He provided weapons “for large-scale military operations against Coalition Forces” in early 2008. Kabi likely aided the Mahdi Army and other Shia terror groups in attacking US and Iraqi troops as they built the security barrier around a large segment of Sadr City. More than 1,000 Mahdi Army fighters were killed during the fighting in Baghdad from April until the Mahdi Army quit the fight in June of that year.
The Iraqi government, which targeted the Special Groups, including the League of the Righteous, in military operations from 2007 to 2009, began to soften its stance on the Iranian-backed groups as the US government and military began disengaging from Iraq. Then as the Syrian civil war heated up and the Islamic State of Iraq began regaining its strength, the government began to rely on the Shia militias to provide security in Shia areas. And as the Iraqi military melted away in the Islamic State’s June offensive in Ninewa, Salahaddin, and Diyala provinces, the Shia militias, including League of the Righteous, were critical in propping up Iraq’s security forces.