of the last pro-regime militias of Iraqi origin who has appeared in
Syria is Liwa al-Assad Allah Ghaleb (LAAG).
LAAG was officially born in December 2013 when its leader, Abu Fatima
al-Mussawi, makes the announcement in a video filmed at Damascus
International Airport. Abu Fatima al-Mussawi served in Liwa Abu Fadl
al-Abbas (LAFA), the oldest and probably the largest Iraqi Shiite
militia that fought alongside the Syrian regime, since the second
half of 2012, and which was then gradually fueled by pro-Iranian
Iraqi militias as Asaib Ahl al-Haqq or Kata'ib Hezbollah. Came back
in Iraq, where he gained a moral and financial support, Abu Fatima
al-Mussawi began recruiting to form his own militia.
al-Tai'i is the spiritual leader of LAAG but also of the Iraqi branch
of LAFA recently established in January 2014. He is a Shiite cleric
in Najaf which is one of the founders of the Sadrist movement. He has
participated in several failed uprising against Saddam Hussein and
was imprisoned by the Iraqi regime. He also has ties with Iran which
he adopted the concept of f velayat-e faqih (rule by the
Prey to the hostility of Moqtada al-Sadr, he returns to the front of
the stage with the war in Syria, militanting early to encourage
voluntary departures of Shiites in Damascus. Thus he sponsors the
formation of LAFA. He also traveled several times to Syria to meet
the leaders of this militia. He opens an office the December 23,
2012 in al-Sayyida Zaynab neighborhood, south of Damascus, where is
the famous Shiite shrine whose defense is a pretext for sending Iraqi
Shiite militiamen. This office is headed by Ibrahim Dawa. Dawa, the
secretary of al-Ta'i, is the link between the religious leaders and
fighters. It was he who distributes financial assistance to the
families of killed fighters. Al-Tai'i used his influence to Shiite
Iraqis from pro-Iranian militias take control of LAFA, which
initially was a spontaneous creation in Syria, not necessarily
organized from outside. Foreign involvement has also created internal
armed clashes inside LAFA in summer 2013. Creating an Iraqi branch of
LAFA in January is the last phase of the process.
Qassim al-Tai'i, far
left, with turban.
al-Mussawi, better known in Syria under the « nom de guerre »
of Abu Fatima al-Mussawi, is the founder and chief of LAAG. He is an
Iraqi activist who was present in Syria since the beginning of LAFA.
After the death of Ahmad Kabara, Abu Fatima tries to create his own
militia in Syria by separating from LAFA but fails. He then returned
to Iraq. This is where he gets logistical and financial support to
al-Tai'i, allowing him to return to Syria and to announce the
formation of LAAG December 7, 2013. He becomes fast as prominent as
others Iraqi's militias chieftains.
|Abou Fatima al-Mussawi (screenshot).|
is the right arm of Mussawi. He appears in many photos and insurgents
accuse him of committing massacres in the southern districts of
Damascus and in Jobar, east of the capital. He can also be seen on a
photo observing the field in binocular next to a DShK 12.7 mm
machine gun. Muhammad Ali Mohyeddine (aka Dhu al-Faqar), another
leader LAAG, is a Syrian Shiite village Nubbol in the province of
Aleppo. He was killed May 11, 2014 during the fighting in Mleha in
eastern Ghouta. Formed by the Republican Guard of the Syrian regime,
he fought around Damascus, in western and eastern Ghouta. On the
pictures of the group, he is often seen with his cousin, Makaren.
Hassan Mohyeddine is a Shi'a cleric from the village of Nubbol, who
officers Syrian Shiite militia volunteers who come from two Shiite
villages near Aleppo, Nubbol and al-Zahra'a, besieged by
LAAG has expanded its recruitment effect with Shiite and Druze
Syrians, some of which, for these, come from the town of Jaramana,
|Qassim a-Maamouri, le bras droit d'Abou Fatima.|
emblem chosen by LAAG is very interesting.
Instantly we can see recognizable affiliation with LAFA, noting the
presence in the background of the golden dome of Zaynab. The two
swords on both sides are probably Zulfiqar, the sword of Ali, with
two points. The central figure is probably Abbas ibn Ali, the
companion of Husayn in Karbala, a central battle for Shiite memory,
which gives its name to LAFA. In addition to the group name on the
banner at the bottom, of course we recognize the Syrian flag. One can
note the similarity with the recent emblem of the Iraqi branch of
LAFA. A video dated from May 1, 2014 and probably filmed in Mleha,
shows a patch on the back of a militiaman, which is that of the
Syrian regime, evidence of close links between the Iraqi volunteers
to it. Fighters from LAAG also feature in several videos a shoulder
patch, different from the symbol of the group, which allows easy
Emblem of the Iraqi
branch of LAFA.
A militiaman of LAAG
with Syrian coat of arms in the back.
We can see on this
LAAG's fighter the shoulder patch, different from the emblem.
Fighters of LAAG who
listen tactical advises from their leader before entering in Mleha.
Note the shoulder patch on the soldiers at far left and far right.
A Syrian rebel shows
the shoulder patch taken from a body of a militiaman of LAAG, in
Two fighters of LAAG
with each carries a flag of the group on the back.
its beginning, LAAG was first engaged in the district of Daraya,
south of Damascus, then in the rest of the Ghouta. The militia also
fought along the Damascus-Deraa highway and in the al-Qadam area
which is close. Currently, the brigade participated in the attempt of
the regime to regain Mleha in eastern Ghouta. It received her
training from Syrian Republican Guard in the camp near Qatana, and
also in those of the 4th Armored Division, in the al-Mazzeh mountain,
not far from the presidential palace in Damascus. The training was
provided by Iranian Pasdaran advisors. It is difficult to assess the
number of LAAG but they should not be significant. We know it has
suffered fairly heavy losses in its first commitments before
accumulating some expérience.
The fighting in Mleha are also particularly hard (the battle lasted
several months), as many videos and photos of insurgents show LAAG
militiamen killed, which we can recognize with their patchs on
sleeves. It can be estimated, based on videos of the group, there are
several dozen men at least, maybe a hundred, but probably not much
more. LAAG is certainly not the most extensive foreign pro-regime
militia, especially since it is still recent.
A map from a pro-regime
blog about the battle in Mleha (June 9, 2014).
posted by LAAG confirm fairly well the representations of other older
Iraqi Shiite militias involved in Syria, alongside regime, since the
second half of 2012.
We can distinguish several recurring themes. The first is the
justification for the intervention of Iraqi Shiites in Syria,
including the defense of Zaynab shrine in southern Damascus. The
first video posted by the group on January 16, 2014, shows the golden
dome of Zaynab, illuminated, on a rainy night. Another video, which
is a montage of several sequences, is including the famous scene
shows where a combatttant of LAFA mounted on the dome of Zaynab,
which figures itself on the emblems of this militia. Finally, a
recent online video, dated from May 23, 2014, is filming Shiite
pilgrims coming to the shrine of Zaynab, symbolizing a sort of
"mission accomplished" for LAAG and justifying the
The Sayyida Zaynab holy
shrine, the first video posted by LAAG.
A pick-up used by
second dominant theme is that of the military activity of the
militia, in broad meaning. The second video, still on line January
16, shows the militia leader addressing his men. The third, also
posted on January 16, is the first to show the group in operation.
The faces are blurred (which strangely is not always the case, it is
usually key members clearly or who wish to remain discreet for
security reasons), and Iraqi militiamen defending positions in a
building in an urban context, including fireholes places in the
middle of stacks of sandbags to windows or other openings in the
building. The following videos show militia patrols ; one in
particular, film leaders heading back toward what appears to be the
headquarters of the group. LAAG leaders are often present in the
videos, and highlighted : the founder, Abu Fatima, but also his right
arm Qassim and Muhammad Ali Mohyeddine. The first videos showing
fights or crossfires, like other Iraqi militias, insist on certain
weapons : PK machine guns have been used from buildings and
barricades on the ground, sniper rifles (SVD Dragunov), RPG-7 rocket
launchers.. Snipers, here armed with Dragunov, are particularly
popular, as in others Iraqi pro-regime militias. A video a bit
longer, posted on February 25, shows the group patrol and fight
night. Wounded militiamen are treated in a hospital from the regime.
LAAG do not forget to celebrate its "martyrs" in the Shiite
tradition. A video posted on April 8 mentions several militiamen
killed in combat. Another video posted the same day shows the militia
operate in urban terrain, and then pose with their flag in front of a
ZSU 23/4 Shilka
which leads itself a column of armored vehicles, which shows the
close links to between Iraqi militiamen and the forces of the Syrian
regime. Although militiamen fight sometimes with the support of
armored vehicles of the Syrian regime, LAAG also have their own
pick-ups. On May 6, the first video shows the use from LAAG, on the
front Mleha, of Volcano rockets provided by the Syrian regime. This
is the first time that the Iranian rockets Falaj, shaped in Syria,
which served to chemical attack of August 21, 2013, are assigned to a
foreign pro-regime militia. A video posted on May 8 shows longer the
fire of Volcano rockets.
A LAAG's fighter with A
RPG-7 in Mleha.
A PK machine gun used
by a LAAG militiaman.
Fighters of LAAG in
front of their flag, in front of a ZSU 23/4 Shilka from the Syrian
The Shilka is leading a
column of armored vehicles.
5 screenshots of LAAG's fighters with SVD Dragunov.
Poster who shows
"martyrs" of LAAG in Syria.
A truck with a
two-Volcano rockets launcher used by LAAG in Mleha.
Fire of a Volcano
Rocket by LAAG, Mleha.
other Iraqi militias, LAAG insists, finally, in its videos, on the
bodies of fallen enemies, which are a last theme in itself. Several
sequences linger on carcasses of Syrian insurgents who where killed
during its operations, sometimes literally bathing in their blood. In
one of them, you can even see some militiamen put the foot on their
victims, in the classic approach of "trophy hunting" as we
have already seen for other Iraqi militias.
One of the sequences, particularly hard, also shows the interrogation
of a man (an insurgent ?) captured, thrown to the ground and
threatened with a knife by an Iraqi militiaman.
A militiaman from LAAG
put the feet on the corpse of a Syrian rebel.
Another corpse of Syria
rebel filmed by LAAG.
Body of a killed Syrian
insurgent filmed by LAAG.
A man (an insurgent ?)
is wrestled to the ground and threatened with a knife by a LAAG