Ahmad al-Hamidawi is the secretary-general of Iran-backed Iraqi militia Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH). The U.S. government designated Hamidawi as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist on February 26, 2020.“State Department Terrorist Designation of Ahmad al-Hamidawi,” U.S. Department of State, February 26, 2020, https://www.state.gov/state-department-terrorist-designation-of-ahmad-al-hamidawi/. Hamidawi reportedly joined KH in 2007, shortly after the group’s founding.Dilshad Al-Dalawi, “بعد إدراجه بقوائم الإرهاب.. "الحميداوي" سجل حافل بالجرائم في العراق,” al-Ain, February 28, 2020, https://al-ain.com/article/terrorism-al-hamidawi-iraq. He received political, military, and intelligence training from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and was soon promoted to the KH’s Shura Council.Dilshad Al-Dalawi, “بعد إدراجه بقوائم الإرهاب.. "الحميداوي" سجل حافل بالجرائم في العراق,” al-Ain, February 28, 2020, https://al-ain.com/article/terrorism-al-hamidawi-iraq. As a commander within KH, Hamidawi played a central role in planning attacks against American and Iraqi government security forces between 2007 and 2011.Dilshad Al-Dalawi, “بعد إدراجه بقوائم الإرهاب.. "الحميداوي" سجل حافل بالجرائم في العراق,” al-Ain, February 28, 2020, https://al-ain.com/article/terrorism-al-hamidawi-iraq.
Between 2011 and 2014, Hamidawi led KH contingents in Syria where the group fought on the behalf of Bashar al-Assad.Dilshad Al-Dalawi, “بعد إدراجه بقوائم الإرهاب.. "الحميداوي" سجل حافل بالجرائم في العراق,” al-Ain, February 28, 2020, https://al-ain.com/article/terrorism-al-hamidawi-iraq. Since returning to Iraq in 2014, Hamidawi and his fighters oversaw the Jurf Sakhar region.Dilshad Al-Dalawi, “بعد إدراجه بقوائم الإرهاب.. "الحميداوي" سجل حافل بالجرائم في العراق,” al-Ain, February 28, 2020, https://al-ain.com/article/terrorism-al-hamidawi-iraq. Human Rights Watch and other organizations have accused KH of committing crimes against the local Sunni population—including kidnapping, mass illegal detention, and extortion.Michael Knights, “Exposing and Sanctioning Human Rights Violations by Iraqi Militias,” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, October 22, 2019, https://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/exposing-and-sanctioning-human-rights-violations-by-iraqi-militias; “’Life Without a Father is Meaningless’ Arbitrary Arrests and Enforced Disappearances in Iraq 2014-2017,” Human Rights Watch, September 27, 2018, https://www.hrw.org/report/2018/09/27/life-without-father-meaningless/arbitrary-arrests-and-enforced-disappearances-iraq.
KH is an Iranian-sponsored, anti-American Shiite militia operating in Iraq with ancillary operations throughout Syria.Farnaz Fassihi, Jay Solomon, and Sam Dagher, “Iranians Dial Up Presence in Syria,” Wall Street Journal, September 16, 2013, http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424127887323864604579067382861808984; Ned Parker and Raheem Salman, “In defense of Baghdad, Iraq turns to Shi'ite militias,” Reuters, June 14, 2014, http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/06/14/us-iraq-security-volunteers-idUSKBN0EP0O920140614; Associated Press, “Assad relies on foreign fighters in push to retake Aleppo,” Fox News, December 10, 2016, http://www.foxnews.com/world/2016/12/10/assad-relies-on-foreign-fighters-in-push-to-retake-aleppo.html. KH is supported by the Quds Force, the expeditionary arm of Iran’s IRGC. During the U.S.-led war in Iraq that began in 2003, KH earned a reputation for planting deadly roadside bombs and using improvised rocket-assisted mortars (IRAMs) to attack U.S. and coalition forces.“Treasury Designates Individual, Entity Posing Threat to Stability in Iraq,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, July 2, 2009, http://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/tg195.aspx; Terrorist Groups in Syria: Hearing Before the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade of the Committee on Foreign Affairs House of Representatives, 113th Cong. 17-24 (2013) (statement of Phillip Smyth, Middle East research analyst, University of Maryland), http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CHRG-113hhrg85643/pdf/CHRG-113hhrg85643.pdf. According to U.S. diplomat Ali Khedery, KH is responsible for “some of the most lethal attacks against U.S. and coalition forces throughout the [U.S.-led war in Iraq].”Ali Khedery, “Iran’s Shiite Militias Are Running Amok in Iraq,” Foreign Policy, February 19, 2015, http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/02/19/irans-shiite-militias-are-running-amok-in-iraq/.
The U.S. government blames KH for leading protests at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad from December 29, 2019, to January 1, 2020, during which protesters attempted to storm the embassy. Demonstrators threw stones and torched a security post. The militia supporters withdrew from the embassy at the behest of KH leaders.Ghassan Adnan, Isabel Coles, and Michael Gordon, “Trump Blames Iran After Militia Supporters Try to Storm U.S. Embassy in Baghdad,” Wall Street Journal, December 31, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/protesters-attempt-to-storm-u-s-embassy-in-baghdad-11577787978; Ahmed Rasheed, “Trump blames Iran as protests erupt outside U.S. embassy in Iraq,” Reuters, December 31, 2019, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-iraq-security-usa/trump-blames-iran-as-protests-erupt-outside-u-s-embassy-in-iraq-idUSKBN1YZ0IO; Falih Hassan and Alissa J. Rubin, “Pro-Iranian Protesters End Siege of U.S. Embassy in Baghdad,” New York Times, January 1, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/01/world/middleeast/us-embassy-baghdad-iraq.html; Mustafa Salim and Liz Sly, “Supporters of Iranian-backed militia end siege of U.S. Embassy in Baghdad,” Washington Post, January 1, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/supporters-of-iranian-backed-militia-start-withdrawing-from-besieged-us-embassy-in-baghdad-following-militia-orders/2020/01/01/8280cb34-2c9e-11ea-9b60-817cc18cf173_story.html.
On January 3, 2020, a U.S. airstrike near Baghdad International Airport killed KH leader Jamal Jaafar Ibrahimi, a.k.a. Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes, and Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani.
The U.S. Department of State designated KH as a Foreign Terrorist Organization in 2009. The State Department designated Hamidawi under Executive Order 13224, which President Donald Trump amended in 2019 to allow for the designation of terrorist group leaders not linked to specific acts of terrorism. According to the State Department, Hamidawi “has committed, or poses a significant risk of committing, acts of terrorism.”“State Department Terrorist Designation of Ahmad al-Hamidawi,” U.S. Department of State, February 26, 2020, https://www.state.gov/state-department-terrorist-designation-of-ahmad-al-hamidawi/.
The U.S. Department of State designated Ahmad al-Hamidawi a Specially Designated Global Terrorist on February 26, 2020.“State Department Terrorist Designation of Ahmad al-Hamidawi,” U.S. Department of State, February 26, 2020, https://www.state.gov/state-department-terrorist-designation-of-ahmad-al-hamidawi/.