Logo for the Hezbollah Brigades from a propaganda video released on the Internet.
Ten people have been reported killed after Iraqi and US forces clashed with an Iranian-backed Shia terror group in a southern Iraqi province on the border with Iran.
The battle began after US and Iraqi forces conducted a raid against the Hezbollah Brigades in the village of Duwayjat, north of the city of Amarah in Maysan province. Fighters from the Iranian-backed Hezbollah Brigades waited in ambush for the joint US and Iraqi force to enter the village.
“The joint security team was fired upon by individuals dispersed in multiple residential buildings,” according to a statement released by US Forces – Iraq, a part of which was reprinted by Reuters. “Members of the security team returned fire, killing individuals assessed to be enemy combatants,” the military said in a statement. It is unclear if those killed were civilians or Hezbollah Brigades fighters.
“While the number of casualties has not yet been confirmed, initial reports indicate five individuals were killed,” the US Forces – Iraq statement read.
Rafia Abduljabar, the Governor of Maysan, claimed that 10 Iraqis were killed and five more were wounded. Twelve people were also detained. Abduljabar did not say if those killed were Hezbollah Brigades fighters, civilians, or both.
“The Maysan council will hold an urgent meeting this afternoon to discuss the incident,” Abduljabar told Voices of Iraq.
In a related operation, Iraqi security forces detained 22 Hezbollah Brigades fighters during raids in the same area along the border with Iran. “The operations relied on intelligence tip-offs,” Nadir Suleiman, a US Forces – Iraq media adviser told Voices of Iraq.
In the past, Maysan province and the city of Amarah have been strategic ground for Iran’s Qods Force and the Ramazan Corps, the Iranian military command set up by Qods Force to direct operations inside Iraq. Before Iraqi forces went on the offensive to break the Iranian networks during the summer of 2008, Amarah served as the Qods Force-Ramazan Corps forward command and control center inside Iraq as well as one of the major distribution points for weapons in southern Iraq.
Background on the Hezbollah Brigades
The Hezbollah Brigades, or Kata’ib Hezbollah, is a Shia terror group that receives funding, training, logistics, guidance, and material support from the Qods Force.
Since 2007, the Hezbollah Brigades has been active in and around Baghdad. The group has a strong presence in Sadr City and in Shia strongholds in northeastern Baghdad
The Hezbollah Brigades has increased its profile by conducting attacks against US and Iraqi forces, using the deadly explosively-formed penetrator roadside bombs, whose molten metal warheads cut through inches of armor, and the improvised rocket-assisted mortars, which have been described as flying improvised explosive devices. The Hezbollah Brigades has posted videos of these attacks on the Internet.
In July 2009, the US Treasury Department designated the Hezbollah Brigades as an insurgent and militia entity that threatens to destabilize the security of Iraq. The Treasury also designated Abu Mahdi al Muhandis under Executive Order 13438 for his support of the Shia terror groups.
Muhandis is an adviser to Brigadier General Qassem Suleimani, the commander of Iran’s Qods Force, the special operations branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Qods Force backs terror groups such Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Mahdi Army and the assortment of Special Groups in Iraq, and Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the Palestinian Territories.
As a senior Qods Force operative, Muhandis created a group of trainers to support the Mahdi Army Special Groups, such as the Asaib al Haq, or the League of the Righteous. “The groups received training in guerilla warfare, handling bombs and explosives, and employing weapons–to include missiles, mortars, and sniper rifles,” according to the Treasury press release.