MESOP FOCUS : A seasoned Shia terror group

 3-9-2014 – The League of the Righteous is not a newly-formed Shia militia that rose up in the wake of the Islamic State’s takeover of much of Western, central, and northern Iraq this year. The League of the Righteous was formed in 2006 as an offshoot of Muqtada al Sadr’s Mahdi Army. The militia was the largest and most powerful of what the US military called the Special Groups, or Shia militias backed by Iran.

Asaib al Haq was directly implicated by General David Petraeus in the January 2007 attack on the Provincial Joint Coordination Center in Karbala. Five US soldiers were killed during the Karbala attack and subsequent kidnapping attempt. The US soldiers were executed by League of the Righteous fighters after US and Iraqi security forces closed in on the assault team.

The attack on the Karbala Provincial Joint Coordination Center was a complex, sophisticated operation. The assault team, led by tactical commander Azhar al Dulaimi, was trained in a mock-up of the center that was built in Iran. The unit had excellent intelligence and received equipment that made them appear to be US soldiers. Some of the members of the assault team are said to have spoken English.

Two months after the attack in Karbala, Qais Qazali, who leads the League of the Righteous, his brother Laith, and a senior Hezbollah military commander known as Musa Ali Daqduq were all captured during a raid in Basra. Qais and Laith were freed by the US in 2009 along with hundreds of members of the Asaib al Haq, in exchange for Peter Moore, a captured British hostage, and the remains of four Brits who were kidnapped and subsequently executed by the group. The US justified their release by claiming that the League of the Righteous was reconciling with the Iraqi government. After his release, Qais threatened to attack US interests in Iraq.