Iraqi Shiite Militias Complicate Fight to Defeat ISIS in Mosul, Other Areas

(New York, NY) – The Counter Extremism Project (CEP) today released updated resources on three powerful Iraqi Shiite militias, as their involvement in the fight for the Sunni-dominated ISIS stronghold of Tal Afar, west of Mosul, is raising fears of the return of sectarian warfare to the area.

The three militias—the Badr Organization, Kata’ib Hezbollah, and Asaib Ahl al-Haq—are the most powerful among Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), a government-sanctioned umbrella group composed of predominantly Shiite fighters with strong military and financial ties to Iran.

In a July report, Human Rights Watch documented killings, disappearances, torture, and the destruction of homes by the groups during the fight to retake Fallujah and other Sunni-dominated areas from ISIS. The organization urged that Iraq prevent the Shiite militias from playing any role in the campaign to drive ISIS from Mosul.

The Badr Organization began in 1983 as the military wing of an Iraqi political party that sought to bring Iran’s Islamic Revolution to Iraq and fought alongside Iran during the Iran-Iraq War. The Badr Organization is run by Hadi al-Amiri, who has a history of instigating sectarian violence in Iraq. He has also been linked to a 1996 attack in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 U.S. Air Force servicemen.

Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH) is an Iranian-sponsored, anti-American Shiite militia that earned a reputation for targeting U.S. and coalition forces with roadside bombs and improvised rocket-assisted mortars. KH fought with the Assad regime in Syria at the behest of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). KH has remained virulently anti-American, repeatedly boycotting battles against ISIS in which U.S. airpower contributes. In 2009, the U.S. Treasury Department designated KH and its leader, Jamal Jaafar Ibrahimi (a.k.a. Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes), for threatening stability in Iraq, declaring that KH and Ibrahimi “committed, directed, supported, or posed a significant risk of committing acts of violence against Coalition and Iraqi Security Forces.”

Asaib Ahl al-Haq (AAH) has claimed responsibility for more than 6,000 attacks on American and Iraqi forces. Its founder and leader, Qais al-Khazali, reportedly led the January 2007 attack in Karbala that killed five U.S. soldiers. Today, AAH continues to commit sectarian violence, carry out homophobic attacks, and threaten the “interests” of Western countries participating in strikes in Syria. 


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On January 23, 2019, two car bombs exploded outside of a mosque in Benghazi, Libya, killing 41 people and injuring 80 others. No group claimed responsibility for the blast, but remnants suggested an ISIS affiliate was responsible.  

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