Iranian media announced the death of an Afghan militiaman in the vicinity of Tanf military base in southeastern Syria on Monday, where coalition forces are training Syrian insurgents fighting the Islamic State. Mohammad Hosseini aka “Salman” was the intelligence chief of the Fatemiyoun Division’s Hazrat-e Fatemeh Zahra Brigade, according to the media. He was reportedly killed after stepping on a mine during a reconnaissance mission. Iranian media have thus far released no further details.
Following last month’s strike, US jets struck yet another pro-regime convoy yesterday in the “deconfliction” area of Tanf. The base is located close to the Jordanian and Iraqi borders and a major crossing into Iraq. The Tehran-controlled, Iraqi Sayyida al Shuhada Brigades last month acknowledged casualties from the strike. Several Iranian-backed Lebanese, Iraqi and Syrian militias and Syrian regime forces are operating in that front. Hosseini’s death confirms the Fatemiyoun Division’s presence there.
The Revolutionary Guard’s Qods Force established the all-Shiite-Afghan Fatemiyoun Brigade in 2013 to fight for Syrian President Bashar al Assad under the banner of waging jihad to defend Shiite shrines. Two years later, militia figures and Iranian media claimed the group was promoted to a division. Shiite-Afghan fighters have been operating in Syria since the early days of the Syrian conflict, and for some time operated as an auxiliary to an Iraqi contingent until the Fatemiyoun’s establishment.
Fatemiyoun fighters are primarily recruited from the Hazara diaspora in Iran, as well as from Afghanistan. Some are passport holders of Europe and Canada, according to a former commander.
The Fatemiyoun Division’s founding nucleus consists of veterans of previous Iranian-backed Afghan proxies. Many of the group’s Afghan-national founding members fought in the Iran-Iraq War as part of the Abouzar Brigade and the Soviet-Afghan War as part of the Mohammad Corps in the 1980s. The latter remained active in Afghanistan into the 1990s and fought the Taliban until the 2001 US invasion, subsequently fleeing to Iran, when Iranian agents established ties with the Taliban around the same time. The Fatemiyoun Division’s founding leadership has since been wiped out.