Saraya al Khorasani, an Iranian-backed Shiite militia that operates alongside the Iraqi military, released a short video advertising one of its training camps. The location of the facility is unknown, however, the beginning of the video includes an aerial shot in Iraq’s western province of Anbar.
The training camp is called the “Sheikh Hajj Hamid Taqavi training center.” It is named after Hamid Taqavi, an Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps – Qods Force general who was killed by an Islamic State sniper late last year. Taqavi served as a military adviser to Saraya al Khorasani when he was killed.
Taqavi was lauded by the Shiite militia after his death. Ali al Yasiri, the group’s leader, described Taqavi as “an expert at guerrilla war” and said that “People looked at him as magical,” Reuters reported. The militia also put up billboards praising Taqavi throughout Baghdad and published videos online to commemorate the Iranian general.
The latest video released by the group also includes appearancea by al Yasiri, as well as Hamid al Jaza’iri, who has been identified as the “deputy secretary general” of Saraya al Khorasani and the commander of its “18th Brigade.” In one shot, Yasiri and Jaza’iri are shown walking with an unidentified figure. The producers of the video attempt to distort his face to prevent him from being identified, however he can be seen for a split-second.
Saraya al Khorasani was one of several Iranian-backed Shiite militias that were involved in the operation that captured the central Iraqi city of Tikrit from the Islamic State earlier this year.
The Iraqi government has relied on Iranian-supported militias to oppose the Islamic State. In addition to Tikrit, these militias, many of which are led by US-listed Specially Designated Global Terrorists, have helped eject the Islamic State from Amerli, Jurf al Sakhar, and smaller towns and villages in Diyala and Salahaddin province. The Shiite militias are currently involved in the fighting in Fallujah and Ramadi in Anbar province, and Baiji in Salahaddin.
The Shiite militias fall under the command of the Popular Mobilization Committee, or Popular Mobilization Forces, which was created after the Islamic State took control of vast areas of northern and central Iraq in June 2014. The Popular Mobilization Committee is directed by Muhandis, who is closely tied to Iran and Soleimani. Many of the largest and most powerful Shiite militias in the Popular Mobilization Committee, such as Hezbollah Brigades, Asaib al Haq (the League of the Righteous), Saraya al Salam (Muqtada al Sadr’s Peace Brigades), Harakat Nujaba, and the Imam Ali Brigades remain actively hostile to the US to this day.
Qods Force has been instrumental in supporting Shiite militias inside Iran, and has done so since the US invaded Iraq in 2003. Qods Force, with the help of Hezbollah, helped establish militias such as the Mahdi Army, Asaib al Haq, and Hezbollah Brigades between 2003 and 2006. These militias, which the US military previously described as the “Special Groups,” are responsible for killing hundreds of US soldiers between 2004 and 2011. [See LWJ report, Iran’s Ramazan Corps and the ratlines into Iraq.]
Screenshots from the video:
Aerial shot in Anbar:
“Sheikh Hajj Hamid al Taqavi Training Center”:
Ali al Yasiri (far right), Hamid al Jaza’iri (center), and an unidentified figure (left) can be seen just before the latter’s face is blurred: