Hezbollah Brigades, a US-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization, is deploying forces to the western provincial capital of Ramadi to fight off an Islamic State offensive. The Iranian-backed Shiite militia continues to promote past attacks against US forces on its official website.
Hezbollah Brigades has begun to release videos of its fighters operating in the western city, which has been contested for the past year. The Islamic State stepped up its offensive in Ramadi earlier this week. [See LWJ report, Islamic State launches assault on Ramadi.]
One video, from April 12, shows Hezbollah Brigade artillery units launching rockets against Islamic State forces in the Sijariyah district in eastern Ramadi. The district is considered to be under Islamic State control.
It is unclear how many Hezbollah Brigade fighters have deployed to Ramadi. More than 3,000 Shiite fighters from the so-called Popular Mobilization Committee, or Hashid Shaabi, are being dispatched to the city, according to RFE/RL.
The Popular Mobilization Committee was created by former Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki to combat the Islamic State after the Iraqi military collapsed during the summer of 2014. The militia committee, which includes groups that have attacked US forces in the past, is led by Abu Mahdi al Muhandis, a Specially Designated Global Terrorist. The US government has described Muhandis, whose real name is Jamal Jaafar Mohammed, as “an advisor to Qassem Soleimani,” the commander of the Qods Force, the external operations wing of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps. [See LWJ report, US sanctions Iraqi Hezbollah Brigades and Qods Force adviser.]
Hezbollah Brigades and other Iranian-backed Shiite militias who have attacked US forces in the past have been the beneficiary of US air support during the Iraqi government and militia offensives in Amerli, Jurf al Sakhar, and most recently in Tikrit. These militias committed war crimes in Amerli after ejecting the Islamic State, according to Human Rights Watch, and are accused of doing the same in Tikrit. [See LWJ report, Iranian-backed militias rampaged in central Iraq after freeing town: HRW.]
Despite the US air support, Hezbollah Brigades routinely publicizes its attacks on US forces during the occupation of Iraq from 2006 until the end of 2011.
On the front page of Hezbollah Brigade’s official website, the group promotes a section that publicizes videos of attacks on US forces. One video, from 2007, shows US troops being ambushed in an IED attack in Baghdad. Also, an article on the front page claims that the group captured a Kuwaiti CIA agent who was “spying” on Hezbollah Brigades.
The US military launched airstrikes in Tikrit despite the fact that Hezbollah Brigades and other Iranian-backed groups such as Asaib al Haq led the ground assault.
Hezbollah Brigades was designated by the US State Department as a terrorist organization in July 2009. In that designation, State described the militia as “a radical Shia Islamist group with an anti-Western establishment and jihadist ideology that has conducted attacks against Iraqi, US, and Coalition targets in Iraq.” State also reported that the militia receives funding, training, logistics, guidance, and material support from Qods Force.
Hezbollah Brigades and Asaib al Haq are two of Shiite terrorist groups that the US military used to call the “Special Groups.” These militias are responsible for killing and maiming hundreds of US and Coalition troops up until US forces withdrew from Iraq in December 2011. Hezbollah Brigades deployed the deadly explosively formed penetrators, or EFPs, as well as IEDs and improvised rockets against Coalition forces, and also launched ambushes and other attacks.
A screen shot of Hezbollah Brigades’ website. The section featuring attacks on US troops is in the upper left hand part of the page.
A compilation video of Hezbollah Brigade attacks on US forces: