U.S. adds Iranian-backed militia, five commanders, and an IRGC operative to list of designated terrorists

The U.S. government added Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada, an Iranian proxy militia, its secretary general, five members of terrorist organization Hezbollah Brigades, and an Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps operative to its list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists. Both militias are responsible for attacking U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria, and both are part of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces, an official, independent military arm of the Iraqi government.

Designation of Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada

The U.S. Department of State added Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada (KSS) and its Secretary General, Hashim Finyan Rahim al-Saraji to the list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists on Nov. 17. Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada is an Iranian proxy that was formed in 2013 supposedly to protect Shia shrines in Iraq when the Islamic State was rampaging throughout the country.

“KSS terrorist activity has threatened the lives of both U.S. and Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS personnel in Iraq and Syria,” State noted in its press release. “KSS, working at times with other U.S.-designated organizations, including KH [Kata’ib Hezbollah, or Hezbollah Brigades] and Harakat al-Nujaba, has planned and supported attacks against U.S. personnel.”

Two key leaders of KSS are Abu Mustafa al-Sheibani and Abu Ala al-Walai, both who are closely allied with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and the Badr Corps, another Iranian proxy. Al-Sheibani, a dangerous and influential commander amongst the Shia militias, is one of the key IRGC agents who was responsible for the creation of the Iraqi militias. Al-Sheibani was listed by the US government as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist in January 2008 for attacking U.S. and British forces as well as Iraqi political and military leaders.

Designation of five Hezbollah Brigades leaders and an IRGC agent

In its designation of Hezbollah Brigades commanders, Treasury noted that the group is “Trained, funded, and supported by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF)” and “is behind a spate of recent attacks against the United States and partners in Iraq and Syria following the horrific attacks by Hamas against Israel.”

Hezbollah Brigades is a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization and is led by Ahmad al-Hamidawi. Hezbollah Brigades was founded Abu Mahdi al Muhandis, who was listed by the US government as a specially designated global terrorist in July 2009 and was described as “an advisor to” former Qods Force commander Qassem Soleimani. Muhandis, along with Qaiz Khazali, played a key role in the Shia militias’ formation and subsequent attacks on U.S., Coalition, and Iraqi forces. The U.S. killed Muhandis and Soleimani in an airstrike in Baghdad in 2020. Hezbollah Brigades received training, funds, weapons, intelligence and other key aid from the Qods Force. The terror group is responsible for killing hundreds of American soldiers in Iraq.

The five Hezbollah Brigades commanders who were listd as Specially Designated Global Terrorists are Imad Naji al-Bahadli, Habib Hasan Mughamis Darraji, Ja’afar al-Husayni, Khalid Kadhim Jasim al-Skeni, and Basim Mohammad Hasab al-Majidi. The IRGC operative was identified as Mojtaba Jahandust.

Al-Bahadli is “a member of KH’s governing Shura Council” who previously was “responsible for KH’s operational elements involved in conducting attacks and kidnappings.” Additionally, at the direction of Iran’s IRGC and Hezbollah Brigades Secretary General Ahmad al-Hamidawi, “al-Bahadli made plans to intimidate Iraqi politicians who did not support the removal of U.S. forces from Iraq and other KH political priorities.”

Al-Bahadli also “sought to identify U.S. military installations and U.S. companies that could serve as targets for future KH attacks, which would be launched on the orders of the IRGC-QF. In preparation for these attacks on U.S. interests, al-Bahadli sent KH militants to train in Lebanon with U.S.-designated terrorist organization Lebanese Hizballah, where he himself had been trained.”

Darraji “serves as KH’s foreign affairs chief” who “has coordinated the training of KH fighters in Iran with the IRGC and facilitated the smuggling of goods from Iran to KH members in Iraq.” Al-Husayni is a spokesman for Hezbollah Brigades “and has coordinated with KH fighters planning attacks against U.S. military personnel in Iraq.” Al-Skeni “is a senior KH military commander who has worked with the IRGC to train KH fighters.” Al-Majidi is the “commercial development chief” for Hezbollah Brigades who also served as a propaganda chief for the group. Jahandust “is an IRGC-QF official who facilitates the travel and training of KH fighters in Iran.”

Hezbollah Brigades and Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada are two of the Iranian-backed militias that have launched scores of attacks on U.S. bases in Iraq and Syria since Oct. 17. The attacks are claimed under the guise of the Islamic Resistance in Iraq. The U.S. military has launched three airstrikes against the militias and IRGC infrastructure in response to the militia attacks. Iran and the militias seek to drive the U.S. from its bases in Iraq and Syria, as well as demonstrate that it is supporting Hamas and its allies as they battle Israel.

For more information on the militias in Iraq, Syria, and beyond, see LWJ report: Profiles of 15 Iranian-backed militias in the Middle East.

Joe Truzman is a research analyst at FDD's Long War Journal focused primarily on Palestinian militant groups and Hezbollah. Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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