Military Wiki
Special Groups
Participant in Iraq War
Active 2007–present

Muqtada al-Sadr
Qais al-Khazali (POW)
Akram al Kabi
Abu Mustafa al-Sheibani
Ahmad Sajad al-Gharawi
Abu Deraa
Arkan Hasnawi

Haydar al-Majidi
Headquarters Sadr City, Baghdad
Area of
Baghdad and southern Iraq
Strength 7,000+[1]
Part of Mahdi Army (until 2008)
Iraqi insurgency
Originated as Mahdi Army
Became Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq
Kata'ib Hezbollah
Promised Day Brigades
Allies Mahdi Army
Opponents Coalition (until 2009)
United States (until 2011)
Iraqi Security Forces
Sunni Insurgents
Free Syrian Army
Battles/wars Iraq War, Iraqi Civil War, Iraqi insurgency, Syrian Civil War

Special Groups (SGs) is a designation given by the American military to the cell-based Shi'a paramilitary organizations operating within Iraq, backed by Iran. According to the Americans these groups are funded, trained, and armed by the Iranian Quds Force, part of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

According to American General Kevin J. Bergner, the Special Groups receive between 750,000 and 3,000,000 dollars funding per month, from the Quds Force.[2] These groups are separate from although possibly connected with the Jaish al Mahdi or Mahdi Army, of Muqtada al-Sadr. A distinction between these groups and the Mahdi Army has been maintained more clearly since al-Sadr called for a ceasefire at the end of August 2007 following Mahdi Army clashes with Iraqi Security Forces in Karbala, Iraq but the Special Groups continued fighting. After the disbanding of the Mahdi Army in 2008 its successor was announced as a group called the Brigade of Promised Day; however the largest special group which emerged after the Iraq spring fighting of 2008 was a group called the Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq or Qazali Network. According to the Guardian newspaper in March 2014, Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq is controlled by Iran under Al-Quds Force General Hossein Sulieman.[3] Another large special group is Kata'ib Hezbollah (or Hezbollah Brigades) which started to operate independently from the Mahdi Army and the other Special Groups. Suspected leaders include Qais al-Khazali, Laith al-Khazali, Ali al-Lami, Azhar al Dulaimi, Akram al-Kabi, Abu Mustafa al-Sheibani, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and Abu Deraa.


Ever since the Islamic Revolution Iran has sought to back Shia Islamist paramilitary organizations across the Middle East. Many have been very close to the Iranian state particularly the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, like the Movement of Vanguard Missionaries and the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). During the Iran-Iraq War many of these groups fought for Iran, with SCIRI's Badr Brigade being led by Iranian officers. After the US overthrow of Saddam Hussein, these Iranian-led militia men returned to Iraq where they retained their autonomy and Iran continued to support Shia Islamist paramilitaries.

In February 2010, the League of the Righteous kidnapped U.S. contractor Issa T. Salomi, a naturalized American from Iraq. They released a video of him where he read their demands, calling for the release of all the group's members, including several of the group's leaders who are currently imprisoned.[4] Iran is supporting three Shiite extremist groups in Iraq that have been attempting to attack American bases, General Ray Odierno, the top U.S. commander in Iraq,said on July 21, 2010. The Iranians have "gone to a more sophisticated program with a smaller set of extremists" and are now focusing on three groups, which he identified as Ketaib Hezbollah, Asaib Ahl al-Haq (League of the Righteous), and the Promise Day Brigade.[5]

Among the Special Groups the Promised Day Brigades is said to be the largest with over 5,000 fighters, they are also believed to pose the biggest long-term security threat to Iraq, by American officials. Kata'ib Hezbollah is said to have around 1,000 fighters and is the most exclusively reliant on Iranian support. Asa'ib al-Haq is said to have less than 1,000 fighters as of 2011 and receives a reported 5 million every month in Iranian funding. The Promised Day Brigades is said to receive the least amount of Iranian funding and is the most independent of the three.[1]


Name Group Rank Status
Muqtada al-Sadr Promised Day Brigade Spiritual Leader In Iran,[6] since 2006. Returned to Iraq in January 2011.[7]
Qais al-Khazali Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq Leader Captured on March 20, 2007 in Basra,[8] released on January 5, 2010[9]
Laith al-Khazali Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq Deputy Leader Captured on March 20, 2007 in Basra,[8] released June 9, 2009[10]
Akram al-Kabi Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq Acting leader At large
Abu Mustafa al-Sheibani Sheibani Network Leader In Tehran, Iran, since 2008,[11] returned to Iraq in September 2010.[12]
Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis Kata'ib Hezbollah
Quds Force
Top Advisor to Kata'ib Hezbollah
and Iran's Quds Force
At large
Azhar al Dulaimi Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq Karbala Raid mastermind Killed May 18, 2007 by U.S. forces in Baghdad
Ali Musa Daqduq Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq
Top advisor to Qais al-Khazali
Head of Hezbollah operations in Iraq
Captured on March 20, 2007 in Basra,[8] handed over to Iraqi authorities on December 15, 2011[13]
Abu Yaser al-Sheibani Sheibani Network Deputy Leader Captured on April 20, 2007[8]
Ali Faisal al-Lami Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq
Senior Commander
Political leader
Captured on August 28, 2008,[14] released in August 2009[15]
Tahseen al Freiji[16] Promised Day Brigade Social Political Leader [4] At Large
Akran Hasnawi Hasnawi Network Leader Killed on May 3, 2008 in Sadr City[16]
Mahdi Khaddam Alawi al-Zirjawi[16] Promised Day Brigade SG Sadr City Commander [5] At Large
Baqir al-Sa'idi[16] Promised Day Brigade Training In Iran, possibly returned to Sadr City[17]
Jawad Kazim al Tulaybani Promised Day Brigade Rocket Specialist[16] At Large
Haydar Mehdi Khadum al-Fawadi Own Group[18] Leader At Large[19]
Sheikh Abd al-Hadi al-Darraji Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq
(Sadr Movement)
Political/Religious leader
Arrested January 10, 2007,[20] released 26 June 2009[21]
Abu Deraa Own Group
AAH since 2010
High-level commander
Fled to Iran in late 2008. Returned to Iraq in on 20 August 2010.[22]
Ahmad Abu Sajad al-Gharawi Own Group in Maysan Leader At Large[23]
Mohamed al-Zameli unknown Local commander (Wasit) Detained on 23 January 2009[24]
Muhammad al-Tabatabai Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq Cleric At large[25]

External links

  1. 1.0 1.1 [1]
  3. Controlled by Iran, the deadly militia recruiting Iraq's men to die in Syria, The Guardian, 12 March 2014
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 Press Briefing, July 2
  9. Iraq frees militant linked to British hostages
  10. US frees Shia militant linked to British hostages in Iraq
  11. United States Department of the Treasury Treasury Designates Individuals, Entity Fueling Iraqi Insurgency
  13. [2]
  14. Iraq official: U.S. forces arrest Ali al-Lami
  15. U.S. general: 2 Iraqi election chiefs linked to Iran
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 16.3 16.4 16.5 US military killed Mahdi Army commander Arkan Hasnawi in May 3 strike
  17. [3]
  18. US: Shiite 'Special Group' Responsible For Deadly Baghdad Car Bomb
  19. Rogue Iraq militia 'ordered bomb'
  20. U.S., Iraqi forces arrest top aide to al-Sadr
  21. Sadrists Deny Negotiating with US
  23. Ahmad Abu Sajad al-Gharawi Iraqi insurgency Cell Leader

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