MMP: Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada

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Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada

Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada (KSS), or “The Masters of the Martyrs Brigade,” is a Shiite militant organization operating in both Syria and Iraq.

Key Statistics

2013 First Recorded Activity
2013 First Attack
2019 Profile Last Updated

Profile Contents

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Overview

Narrative of the Organization's History

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Organization

Leadership, Name Changes, Size Estimates, Resources, Geographic Locations

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Strategy

Ideology, Aims, Political Activities, Targets, and Tactics

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Major Attacks

First Attacks, Largest Attacks, Notable Attacks

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Interactions

Foreign Designations and Listings, Community Relations, Relations with Other Groups, State Sponsors and External Influences

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Maps

Mapping relationships with other militant groups over time

Contact MMP

Send a message to the Mapping Militants team.

Download Full Profile as PDF

Last updated June 2019

How To Cite

Mapping Militant Organizations. "Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada." Stanford University. Last modified [July 2019]. [https://cisac.fsi.stanford.edu/mappingmilitants/profiles/Kataib-Sayyid-al-Shuhada]
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Organizational Overview

FORMED: May 2013

DISBANDED: Active

FIRST ATTACK: August 21, 2013: KSS is speculated to have been involved in the Assad regime’s chemical weapons attack on the Damascus suburb of East Ghouta.  Some sources have alleged that the regime used KSS soldiers to surround the area under attack to prevent the escape of any rebel fighters.  The group itself has not commented on these allegations (350-1,429 killed, unknown wounded).[1]

LAST ATTACK: January 2016: KSS fighters clashed with an Iraqi Army unit at a checkpoint in al-Tanoumah near Basra. Two were wounded in the fighting.  The circumstances precipitating the firefight remain unclear. Following the clashes, then Prime Minister Abadi responded by sending in an Iraqi armored brigade (0 killed, 2 wounded).[2]

 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada (KSS) is an Iranian-backed, Iraqi Shiite militant group founded in May 2013 that conducts operations in both Iraq and Syria.  In Iraq, the group is a member of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) and fights alongside the Iraqi Government and other Shiite paramilitaries against the Islamic State (IS).  In Syria, KSS is allied with the Assad regime, Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Hezbollah, and the other pro-Assad, predominantly Shiite militant groups operating against anti-government militias.

 

GROUP NARRATIVE

Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada (KSS), or “The Masters of the Martyrs Brigade,” is a Shiite militant organization operating in both Syria and Iraq.[3] The group was founded in May 2013, although the exact circumstances of its formation remain somewhat unclear. Some sources allege that KSS was created by two other Iraqi Shiite paramilitary organizations, Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH) and the Badr Organization, in order to recruit more Iraqi Shiites to fight in Syria. In contrast, other sources claim that KSS was formed by Abu Mustafa al-Sheibani and Falih Khazali after they broke away from KH.[4]Regardless, KSS remains close allies with both KH and the Badr Organization, as well as with the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), from which it receives a large portion of its funding.[5]

KSS first drew international attention in 2013 for its involvement in the Syrian Civil War, in which it has fought alongside the Assad regime and its allies.  When KSS first appeared in Syria in May 2013, its forces were primarily concentrated in the southern suburbs of Damascus.  The group claimed—and continues to claim—that the purpose of its participation in the Syrian Civil War is to protect the Zaynab Shrine, a major Shia religious site located in the southern suburbs of Damascus.[6] However, the group has increasingly expanded its operations in support of the Assad regime to other areas of Damascus as well as into southern Syria.[7] [8]

KSS has also been active in Iraq since 2013.  The group is a member of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), which is an umbrella organization comprised of Iraqi Shiite militias that work alongside the Iraqi Army to combat the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq.  KSS has been particularly active fighting IS in in several of the central and northern provinces of Iraq, most notably in the Salahadin Province.[9]

In August 2013, KSS came under international scrutiny for its possible involvement in the Assad regime’s chemical weapons attack on the Damascus suburb of East Ghouta on August 21, 2013.  Posts on KSS’s Facebook page confirm that the group was operating in East Ghouta as late as August 20, leading many observers to speculate that the Assad government used KSS to surround the area targeted in the attack to ensure that no rebel fighters escaped.  Others claim that the group’s presence in the area was unrelated to the attack and that KSS was simply stationed near East Ghouta in order to protect a strategically important, government-controlled rail station located in East Ghouta.  The group itself has not commented on the allegations, although it did announce on August 24 that eight KSS fighters had been killed in Syria in recent days.[10]

In September 2014, KSS fighters began efforts in Syria’s southern front and have been active there since. The group operated in rural areas between Deraa and Damascus. In November 2014, rebel forced advanced towards Damascus and encountered KSS near Sheikh Maskin. By January 2015, the rebel groups had captured territory in that area previously under KSS control.[11]

In mid-October 2014, KSS again made headlines as one of the most outspoken critics of Saudi Arabia’s decision to execute Saudi Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr on sedition charges. KSS called on the Iraqi Government to cut off diplomatic ties to Saudi Arabia. It also named “anything of Saudi origin,” whether human or material, as a legitimate future target for the group and threatened to “strike and destroy” Saudi Arabia.[12]

In February 2015, KSS participated in the Syrian Government’s southern offensive alongside the forces of the Assad Regime, Hezbollah, and the IRGC.  The offensive aimed to retake the southern governorates of Darnaa and Quneitra.  KSS’s participation in the offensive was chronicled in a documentary titled “The Men of God in Syria,” or Rijal al-allah fi Soorya in Arabic, that aired on Al-Anwar 2, an Iraqi news channel, in spring 2015.[13]

KSS again became the focus of regional attention in January 2016. In early January, KSS fighters clashed with an Iraqi Army unit at a checkpoint in al-Tanoumah near Basra. The cause of the conflict is unclear. At least two people were wounded in the firefight. The incident was widely cited as proof of rising criminality and tribal violence in Iraq’s southern provinces. The event was particularly notable due to the history of positive relations between KSS and the Iraqi Government. KSS has been allied with Iraqi forces and has fought alongside the Iraqi Army against the Islamic State (IS) in central and northern Iraq since 2013.  As a result of the clash, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi deployed an armored brigade of the Iraqi Army to Basra on January 17, 2016.  A number of Iranian backed, Shiite militias in the region, including the KSS, the Badr Organization, Kata’ib al-Imam Ali and the Nujaba Movement, formed the Council of the Islamic Resistance Factions in Basra on January 17 to protest the presence of the armored brigade.  The brigade withdrew on January 19.[14]

In August 2017, there was dispute over whether the U.S.-led coalition carried out an attack on KSS in At Tanf, Syria, near the border with Iraq and Jordan. KSS stated that 36 of its fighters were killed, and 75 were wounded in a U.S.-led attack. However, the U.S.-led coalition, which was targeting ISIS militants in Iraq and Syria, denied any attack and stated it was not in the area at that time. Later, ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack.[15]

On July 7, 2018, acting KSS secretary general Abu Ala al Walai announced he would send KSS militants to fight against government forces in Yemen.[16] He released a press statement proclaiming that he was “a soldier standing at the signal of Sayyid Abdelmalik al-Houthi.” By this, Walai meant that he would support Sayyid Abdelmalik al-Houthi’s Ansar Allah rebels, which were fighting the Saudi-supported Yemense government forces.[17]

 


[1][1] "Government Assessment of the Syrian Government's Use of Chemical Weapons on August 21, 2013". The White House, 30 August 2013. Web. 7 May 2016.; “SYRIA: REPORTED CHEMICAL WEAPONS USE" (PDF). U.K. Joint Intelligence Organisation. 29 August 2013. Web. 7 May 2016.; Gilbert, K. “The Rise of Shi’ite Militias and the Post-Arab Spring Sectarian Threat.” International Institute for Counter-Terrorism, October 2013. Web. May 2016.

[2] Martin, Patrick. “Iraq Situation Report: January 12-19, 2016.” Institute for the Study of War, 20 Jan. 2016. Web. 1 May 2016; Nada, Garrett, and Mattisan Rowan. “Part 2: Pro-Iran Militias in Iraq.” Wilson Center, 3 May 2018, www.wilsoncenter.org/article/part-2-pro-iran-militias-iraq.

[3] Smyth, Phillip. “All the Ayatollah’s Men.” Foreign Policy, 18 Sept. 2014. Web. 1 May 2016.

[4] Smyth, Phillip. “All the Ayatollah’s Men.” Foreign Policy, 18 Sept. 2014. Web. 1 May 2016.; Smyth, Phillip. “From Karbala to Sayyida Zaynab: Iraqi Fighters in Syria’s Shi’a Militias.” Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, 27 August 2013. Web. 1 May 2016.; Cigar, Norman. “Iraqi’s Shia Warlords and Their Militias.” Strategic Studies Institute, June 2015. Web. May 2016.

[5] Cigar, Norman. “Iraqi’s Shia Warlords and Their Militias.” Strategic Studies Institute, June 2015. Web. May 2016.; Smyth, Phillip. “All the Ayatollah’s Men.” Foreign Policy, 18 Sept. 2014. Web. 1 May 2016.

[6] “Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada.” Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium, date unknown. Web. 2 May 2016.

[7] Gilbert, K. “The Rise of Shi’ite Militias and the Post-Arab Spring Sectarian Threat.” International Institute for Counter-Terrorism, October 2013. Web. May 2016.

[8] Al-Tamimi, Aymenn Jawad. “The Return of Iraqi Shi’I Militias to Syria.” Middle East Institute, 16 Mar 2015. Web. 1 May 2016.

[9] Weiss, Caleb. “Iranian-backed militia seen with US tank in Iraq.” The Long War Journal, Threat Matrix, 8 February 2016. Web. 1 May 2016.; Al-Tamimi, Aymenn Jawad. “Kata'ib Sayyid al-Shuhada- Threats to Saudi Arabia: Translation and Analysis.” Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi, 17 Oct. 2014. Web. 1 May 2016.

[10] Gilbert, K. “The Rise of Shi’ite Militias and the Post-Arab Spring Sectarian Threat.” International Institute for Counter-Terrorism, October 2013. Web. May 2016.

[11] Smyth, Philip. “Iraqi Shiite Foreign Fighters on the Rise Again in Syria.” Iraqi Shiite Foreign Fighters on the Rise Again in Syria - The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 29 May 2015, www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/iraqi-shiite-foreign-fi....

[12] Al-Tamimi, Aymenn Jawad. “Kata'ib Sayyid al-Shuhada- Threats to Saudi Arabia: Translation and Analysis.” Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi, 17 Oct. 2014. Web. 1 May 2016; Nada, Garrett, and Mattisan Rowan. “Part 2: Pro-Iran Militias in Iraq.” Wilson Center, 3 May 2018, www.wilsoncenter.org/article/part-2-pro-iran-militias-iraq.

[13] Al-Tamimi, Aymenn Jawad. “The Return of Iraqi Shi’I Militias to Syria.” Middle East Institute, 16 Mar 2015. Web. 1 May 2016.

[14] Martin, Patrick. “Iraq Situation Report: January 12-19, 2016.” Institute for the Study of War, 20 Jan. 2016. Web. 1 May 2016.

[15] Reuters. “Coalition Denies Bombing Iraqi Shiite Militia.” Arab News, Arabnews, 8 Aug. 2017, www.arabnews.com/node/1141601/middle-east.

[16] Weiss, Caleb. “Iraqi Shia Militia 'Willing to Send Fighters to Yemen'.” FDD's Long War Journal, FDD's Long War Journal, 9 July 2018, www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2018/07/iraqi-shia-militia-willing-to-se....

[17] Blanche, Ed. “Iran’s Expansionist Designs Meet US Intrigue.” The Arab Weekly, 22 July 2018, thearabweekly.com/irans-expansionist-designs-meet-us-intrigue.

 

Organizational Structure

Leadership, Name Changes, Size Estimates, Resources, Geographic Locations

    Leadership
  • Leadership
  • Name Changes
  • Size Estimates
  • Resources
  • Geographic Locations

Leadership

There is some uncertainty about the leadership of KSS. Most sources name Abu Mustafa al-Sheibani as the group’s leader; however, many others point to Falah al-Khazali as the true head of the KSS. KSS itself has not commented on or clarified the confusion surrounding its leadership.[1]

Abu Mustafa al-Sheibani (May 2013-Present): Sheibani is believed to be the commander of KSS.[2] He is an Iraqi Shiite who has reportedly been affiliated with the Iranian Quds Force and the Badr Organization since the late 1980s.[3] Following his return to Iraq in 2003, he led a network of militants fighting against American, British, and Iraqi coalition forces.[4] There are also some sources that allege the Sheibani was a commander in the Shiite Iraqi militia Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH) before splitting away to form KSS.[5] Sheibani was listed by the U.S. government as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist in July 2008 for attacking American, British, and Iraqi government leaders in Iraq during the U.S. occupation.[6]

Falih Khazali (May 2013-Present): Falih Khazali, also known as Mustafa Khazali, was the secretary general of KSS, and some sources claim that he is actually the true founder and leader of the group.[7] Khazali is thought to have been a member of Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH) before splitting away to form or join KSS.[8] In April 2014, Khazali won a seat in the Iraqi parliament.[9] He was reelected for a second term in 2018.[10] As of December 2017, he was the official KSS spokesperson. [11]

Abu Ala al Walai (2014-Present): Abu Ala al Walai is the acting secretary general of KSS. He claims to have fought against Saddam Hussein. He fought in Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH) before joining and leading KSS.[12]


[1] Smyth, Phillip. “From Karbala to Sayyida Zaynab: Iraqi Fighters in Syria’s Shi’a Militias.” Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, 27 August 2013. Web. 1 May 2016.

[2] Knights, Michael. “Iran’s Foreign Legion: The Role of Iraqi Shiite Militias in Syria.” The Washington Institute for Near Eastern Policy, 27 June 2013. Web. 1 May 2016.

[3] Smyth, Phillip. “All the Ayatollah’s Men.” Foreign Policy, 18 Sept. 2014. Web. 1 May 2016.

[4] Nada, Garrett, and Mattisan Rowan. “Part 2: Pro-Iran Militias in Iraq.” Wilson Center, 3 May 2018, www.wilsoncenter.org/article/part-2-pro-iran-militias-iraq.

[5] Smyth, Phillip. “From Karbala to Sayyida Zaynab: Iraqi Fighters in Syria’s Shi’a Militias.” Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, 27 August 2013. Web. 1 May 2016.

[6] Weiss, Caleb. “Iranian-backed militia seen with US tank in Iraq.” The Long War Journal, Threat Matrix, 8 February 2016. Web. 1 May 2016.

[7] Smyth, Phillip. “From Karbala to Sayyida Zaynab: Iraqi Fighters in Syria’s Shi’a Militias.” Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, 27 August 2013. Web. 1 May 2016.

[8] Cigar, Norman. “Iraqi’s Shia Warlords and Their Militias.” Strategic Studies Institute, June 2015. Web. May 2016.

[9] Smyth, Phillip. “All the Ayatollah's Men.” Foreign Policy, Foreign Policy, 18 Sept. 2014, foreignpolicy.com/2014/09/18/all-the-ayatollahs-men/.

[10] Rasheed, Ahmed. “In Iraq's Parliament, Shi'ite Militia Leaders Plan to Call the Shots.” Reuters, Thomson Reuters, 13 Nov. 2018, www.reuters.com/article/us-iraq-militias-insight/in-iraqs-parliament-shi....

[11] Nada, Garrett, and Mattisan Rowan. “Part 2: Pro-Iran Militias in Iraq.” Wilson Center, 3 May 2018, www.wilsoncenter.org/article/part-2-pro-iran-militias-iraq.

[12] Nada, Garrett, and Mattisan Rowan. “Part 2: Pro-Iran Militias in Iraq.” Wilson Center, 3 May 2018, www.wilsoncenter.org/article/part-2-pro-iran-militias-iraq.

 

Name Changes

KSS has not changed its name.

Size Estimates

June 2013: 200 (The Washington Institute for Near East Policy)[1]

October 2013: 500 fighters in Syria (International Institute for Counter-Terrorism)[2]

August 2017: 2,723 (The Washington Institute)[3]



[1] Knights, Michael. “Iran’s Foreign Legion: The Role of Iraqi Shiite Militias in Syria.” The Washington Institute for Near Eastern Policy, 27 June 2013. Web. 1 May 2016.

[2] Gilbert, K. “The Rise of Shi’ite Militias and the Post-Arab Spring Sectarian Threat.” International Institute for Counter-Terrorism, October 2013. Web. May 2016.

[3] Knights, Michael, and Hamdi Malik. “The Al-Abbas Combat Division Model.” The Al-Abbas Combat Division Model - Reducing Iranian Influence in Iraq's Security Forces - The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 22 Aug. 2017, www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/the-al-abbas-combat-div....

 

Resources

Little is known with certainty about KSS’s funding and resource procurement patterns, although the group is believed to receive substantial aid from the Iranian government.[1] As part of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), KSS also receives funding and material aid from the Iraqi government. It is believed that at least some of the funding and equipment the KSS receives from the Iraqi government is provided by the United States.[2] For instance, reports surfaced in February 2016 that KSS was using a U.S.-made M1 Abrams tank in the fight against IS in central Iraq.[3] Regardless, the group remains adamantly opposed to the United States and its intervention in Iraq.[4]


[1] Weiss, Caleb. “Iranian-backed militia seen with US tank in Iraq.” The Long War Journal, Threat Matrix, 8 February 2016. Web. 1 May 2016.

[2] Roggio, Bill. “Popular Mobilization Committee Militia Threatens to ‘Strike and Destroy’ the Saudi Government.” The Long War Journal, 30 Oct. 2015. 7 May 2016.

[3] Weiss, Caleb. “Iranian-backed militia seen with US tank in Iraq.” The Long War Journal, Threat Matrix, 8 February 2016. Web. 1 May 2016.

[4] Cigar, Norman. “Iraqi’s Shia Warlords and Their Militias.” Strategic Studies Institute, June 2015. Web. May 2016.

 

Geographic Locations

Disclaimer: This is a partial list of where the militant organization has bases and where it operates. This does not include information on where the group conducts major attacks or has external influences.

KSS operates exclusively in Iraq and Syria. When KSS first appeared in Syria in May 2013, its forces were primarily concentrated in the southern suburbs of Damascus around the Zaynab Shrine.[1] However, the group has increasingly expanded its operations in support of the Assad regime to other areas of Damascus as well as into the southern Syrian provinces of Daraa and Quneitra.[2] [3]

In Iraq, the group is believed to draw the majority of its support from the Dhi Qar Province in Southern Iraq.[4] However, the group has also fought in several of the central and northern provinces of Iraq against the IS, most notably in the Salahadin Province.[5]



[1] “Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada.” Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium, date unknown. Web. 2 May 2016.

[2] Gilbert, K. “The Rise of Shi’ite Militias and the Post-Arab Spring Sectarian Threat.” International Institute for Counter-Terrorism, October 2013. Web. May 2016.

[3] Al-Tamimi, Aymenn Jawad. “The Return of Iraqi Shi’I Militias to Syria.” Middle East Institute, 16 Mar 2015. Web. 1 May 2016.

[4] Al-Tamimi, Aymenn Jawad. “Kata'ib Sayyid al-Shuhada- Threats to Saudi Arabia: Translation and Analysis.” Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi, 17 Oct. 2014. Web. 1 May 2016.

[5] Weiss, Caleb. “Iranian-backed militia seen with US tank in Iraq.” The Long War Journal, Threat Matrix, 8 February 2016. Web. 1 May 2016.

 

Strategy

Ideology, Aims, Political Activities, Targets and Tactics

    Ideology and Goals
  • Ideology and Goals
  • Political Activities
  • Targets and Tactics

Ideology and Goals

KSS is a Shiite militant group that openly recognizes Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei as God’s representative on earth.[1] The stated aim of the group is to protect Shia shrines and Mosques “around the globe.”  In particular, the group has dedicated itself to the protection of the Zaynab Shrine in southern Damascus. In addition, KSS has called for the liberation of Jerusalem and ending the occupation of “Zionist and Western” entities.[2] KSS has also publically announced that it seeks the preservation of Iraqi unity and an end to sectarian strife.[3] [4]


[1] Cigar, Norman. “Iraqi’s Shia Warlords and Their Militias.” Strategic Studies Institute, June 2015. Web. May 2016.

[2] Nada, Garrett, and Mattisan Rowan. “Part 2: Pro-Iran Militias in Iraq.” Wilson Center, 3 May 2018, www.wilsoncenter.org/article/part-2-pro-iran-militias-iraq.

[3] Smyth, Phillip. “From Karbala to Sayyida Zaynab: Iraqi Fighters in Syria’s Shi’a Militias.” Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, 27 August 2013. Web. 1 May 2016.

[4] “Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada.” Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium, date unknown. Web. 2 May 2016.

 

Political Activities

Although KSS is a member of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), a group of Shiite militia’s sponsored and ostensibly controlled by the Iraqi government, the group itself is does not participate in any political activities.[1] However, one of the group’s leaders, Falih Khazali, is a member of the Iraqi parliament.[2]


[1] Roggio, Bill. “Popular Mobilization Committee Militia Threatens to ‘Strike and Destroy’ the Saudi Government.” The Long War Journal, 30 Oct. 2015. 7 May 2016.

[2] Cigar, Norman. “Iraqi’s Shia Warlords and Their Militias.” Strategic Studies Institute, June 2015. Web. May 2016.

 

Targets and Tactics

In Syria, KSS’s primary targets are Jabhat al-Nusra, elements of the Free Syrian Army and other militant organizations operating in opposition to the Assad government.[1]

In Iraq, KSS primarily targets the Islamic State. Reports indicate that the group has been involved in a number of operations against IS in the Salahadin Province in particular.[2] Additionally, the group has also released statements claiming that it had “fought the U.S. occupation in Iraq.”[3] This, however, is unconfirmed, as the group was not founded until May 2013—almost two years after the U.S. pulled the bulk of its troops out of Iraq.

Very little is known about the weapon systems KSS has at its disposal.  There is speculation that the group was involved in the Syrian Government’s chemical weapons attack in East Ghouta in August 2013. Some sources have alleged that Assad forces used KSS soldiers to surround the targeted area to prevent the escape of any rebels.  This has not been confirmed by either Syrian Government forces or by KSS itself.[4] The group’s units in Iraq are also known to possess at least one U.S.-made M1-Abrams tank, most likely given to the group by the Iraqi government.[5]

Despite its use of American-made equipment, KSS is vehemently anti-U.S. in its rhetoric.  It has openly accused the U.S. of funding and backing IS and engineering the current crisis in the region.[6] Although the United States and KSS are both aligned with the Iraqi government, KSS has refused to cooperate with U.S. forces in Iraq and has threatened to abandon the front lines if more U.S. group forces are deployed to the country.[7]


[1] The Christian Science Monitor. "Syrian rebels' march on Damascus becomes fight for their survival (+video)". The Christian Science Monitor, 11 March 2015. Web. 9 May 2016. ; Leith Fadel. "Patience is a virtue; Syrian Army launches an offensive in Al-Quneitra". Al-Masdar News, 9 February 2015. Web. 9 May 2015.

[2] Weiss, Caleb. “Iranian-backed militia seen with US tank in Iraq.” The Long War Journal, Threat Matrix, 8 February 2016. Web. 1 May 2016.

[3] Smyth, Phillip. “From Karbala to Sayyida Zaynab: Iraqi Fighters in Syria’s Shi’a Militias.” Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, 27 August 2013. Web. 1 May 2016.

[4] Gilbert, K. “The Rise of Shi’ite Militias and the Post-Arab Spring Sectarian Threat.” International Institute for Counter-Terrorism, October 2013. Web. May 2016.

[5] Weiss, Caleb. “Iranian-backed militia seen with US tank in Iraq.” The Long War Journal, Threat Matrix, 8 February 2016. Web. 1 May 2016.

[6] Al-Tamimi, Aymenn Jawad. “Kata'ib Sayyid al-Shuhada- Threats to Saudi Arabia: Translation and Analysis.” Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi, 17 Oct. 2014. Web. 1 May 2016.

[7] Cigar, Norman. “Iraqi’s Shia Warlords and Their Militias.” Strategic Studies Institute, June 2015. Web. May 2016.

 

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Major Attacks

Disclaimer: These are some selected major attacks in the militant organization's history. It is not a comprehensive listing, but captures some of the most famous attacks or turning points during the campaign.

August 21, 2013: KSS is speculated to have been involved in the Assad Regime’s chemical weapons attack on the Damascus suburb of East Ghouta.  Some sources have alleged that the regime used KSS soldiers to surround the area under attack to prevent the escape of any rebel fighters. The group itself has not commented on these allegations  (350-1,429 killed, unknown wounded).[1]

February 2015: KSS participated in the Syrian Government’s offensive in the southern Syrian provinces, namely in Daraa and Quneitra. KSS fought alongside Assad regime troops, Hezbollah, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, and other Shiite militias against elements of the Free Syrian Army and Jabhat al-Nusra (63-400 killed, unknown wounded).[2]

January 2016: KSS fighters clashed with an Iraqi Army unit at a checkpoint in al-Tanoumah near Basra. Two were wounded in the fighting.  The circumstances precipitating the firefight remain unclear. Following the clashes, then Prime Minister Abadi responded by sending in an Iraqi armored brigade (0 killed, 2 wounded).[3]


[1] "Government Assessment of the Syrian Government's Use of Chemical Weapons on August 21, 2013". The White House, 30 August 2013. Web. 7 May 2016.; “SYRIA: REPORTED CHEMICAL WEAPONS USE" (PDF). U.K. Joint Intelligence Organisation. 29 August 2013. Web. 7 May 2016.; Gilbert, K. “The Rise of Shi’ite Militias and the Post-Arab Spring Sectarian Threat.” International Institute for Counter-Terrorism, October 2013. Web. May 2016.

[2] The Christian Science Monitor. "Syrian rebels' march on Damascus becomes fight for their survival (+video)". The Christian Science Monitor, 11 March 2015. Web. 9 May 2016.; Leith Fadel. "Patience is a virtue; Syrian Army launches an offensive in Al-Quneitra". Al-Masdar News, 9 February 2015. Web. 9 May 2015.; "Iran mourns 7 Afghans killed fighting for Syria's Assad". Middle East Eye, 5 March 2015. Web. 9 May 2016.

[3] Martin, Patrick. “Iraq Situation Report: January 12-19, 2016.” Institute for the Study of War, 20 Jan. 2016. Web. 1 May 2016; Nada, Garrett, and Mattisan Rowan. “Part 2: Pro-Iran Militias in Iraq.” Wilson Center, 3 May 2018, www.wilsoncenter.org/article/part-2-pro-iran-militias-iraq.

 

Interactions

Foreign Designations and Listings, Community Relations, Relations with Other Groups, State Sponsors and External Influences

    Designated/Listed
  • Designated/Listed
  • Community Relations
  • Relationships with Other Groups
  • State Sponsors and External Influences

Designated/Listed

KSS has not been designated as a foreign terrorist organization by any nation or major international organization.  However, Abu Mustafa al-Sheibani, the presumed leader of KSS, was listed by the U.S. Government as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist in July 2008 for attacking American, British, and Iraqi government leaders in Iraq during the U.S. occupation.[1]


[1] Weiss, Caleb. “Iranian-backed militia seen with US tank in Iraq.” The Long War Journal, Threat Matrix, 8 February 2016. Web. 1 May 2016.

 

Community Relations

Little is known about KSS’s relations with the communities in which it operates.

Relationships with Other Groups

KSS is closely aligned with the other Iranian-backed Iraqi Shiite paramilitaries, including Katai’b Hezbollah (KH), Asai’ib Ahl al-Haq (AAH), and the Badr Organization, which are all members of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) along with KSS.[1] The PMF is an umbrella organization of roughly 40 Shiite Iraqi militias formed by the Iraqi Government to fight IS.  The PMF is ostensibly controlled by the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior.[2]

KSS also cooperates with KH and AAH in Syria, where the groups are fighting alongside the forces of the Assad regime, Hezbollah, and the Iranian IRGC against the IS, Jabhat al-Nusra, the Free Syrian Army, and other militant opposition groups.  KSS also cooperates with Liwa Abu Fadl al-Abbas (LAFA) in Syria.  LAFA is another Shiite militant group fighting alongside the Assad government.  Some sources indicate that KSS actually sends fighters from Iraq to fight as an intrinsic part of LAFA, which also is based around the Zaynab Shrine in southern Damascus. However, other sources describe the groups as two separate entities that merely coordinate with one another.[3] [4]


[1] Martin, Patrick. “Iraq Situation Report: January 12-19, 2016.” Institute for the Study of War, 20 Jan. 2016. Web. 1 May 2016.; Qaidaari, Abbas. “Comparing Iraq’s Shiite Forces to Iran’s Basij.” Al-Monitor, 11 May 2015. Web. 10 May 2016.; Smyth, Phillip. “All the Ayatollah’s Men.” Foreign Policy, 18 Sept. 2014. Web. 1 May 2016.

[2] “Hashid Shaabi (Popular Mobilisation Committees).” Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium, date unknown. Web. 2 May 2016.

[3] “Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada.” Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium, date unknown. Web. 2 May 2016.

[4] Knights, Michael. “Iran’s Foreign Legion: The Role of Iraqi Shiite Militias in Syria.” The Washington Institute for Near Eastern Policy, 27 June 2013. Web. 1 May 2016.

 

State Sponsors and External Influences

KSS is closely aligned with the Islamic Republic of Iran and is widely considered an Iranian proxy organization.  The Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC-QF) of Iran is believed to provide funding, material assistance, and possibly training to KSS.[1] KSS has worked with General Soleimani, the Qods Force commander.[2] The group openly recognizes Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei as God’s representative on earth.[3]

KSS is also a member of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), an umbrella organization of roughly 40 Shiite Iraqi militias formed by the Iraqi government to help the Iraqi Army fight IS.  The PMF is ostensibly controlled by the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior.[4] As a member of the PMF, KSS receives funding from the Iraqi government and has cooperated with the Iraqi Security Forces against IS in Iraq.[5] [6] [7]


[1] Weiss, Caleb. “Iranian-backed militia seen with US tank in Iraq.” The Long War Journal, Threat Matrix, 8 February 2016. Web. 1 May 2016.; Cigar, Norman. “Iraqi’s Shia Warlords and Their Militias.” Strategic Studies Institute, June 2015. Web. May 2016.; Smyth, Phillip. “All the Ayatollah’s Men.” Foreign Policy, 18 Sept. 2014. Web. 1 May 2016.

[2] Nada, Garrett, and Mattisan Rowan. “Part 2: Pro-Iran Militias in Iraq.” Wilson Center, 3 May 2018, www.wilsoncenter.org/article/part-2-pro-iran-militias-iraq.

[3]  Cigar, Norman. “Iraqi’s Shia Warlords and Their Militias.” Strategic Studies Institute, June 2015. Web. May 2016.

[4] “Hashid Shaabi (Popular Mobilisation Committees).” Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium, date unknown. Web. 2 May 2016.

[5] Martin, Patrick. “Iraq Situation Report: January 12-19, 2016.” Institute for the Study of War, 20 Jan. 2016. Web. 1 May 2016.

[6] Qaidaari, Abbas. “Comparing Iraq’s Shiite Forces to Iran’s Basij.” Al-Monitor, 11 May 2015. Web. 10 May 2016.

[7] Smyth, Phillip. “All the Ayatollah’s Men.” Foreign Policy, 18 Sept. 2014. Web. 1 May 2016.

 

Maps

The project develops a series of interactive diagrams that “map” relationships among groups and show how those relationships change over time. The user can change map settings to display different features (e.g., leadership changes), adjust the time scale, and trace individual groups.