Hizballah Cavalcade: Hizballah al-Abrar: The Latest Hizballah Franchise in Iraq

NOTE: For prior parts in the Hizballah Cavalcade series you can view an archive of it all here.
 

Hizballah al-Abrar: The Latest Hizballah Franchise in Iraq
By Phillip Smyth
Hizballah al-Abrar Jihadology
Figure 1: Hizballah al-Abrar
Hizballah al-Abrar (HAA or the Party of God of the Righteous) follows in the footsteps of a long line of new Shia militia organizations which have been announced in Iraq since June 2014. These groups often model their symbolism, organizational structures, and ideological profile on Lebanese Hizballah. Additionally, these groups commonly have strong links and at times have shared commanders with other established Shia militia proxies of Iran.
HAA is no exception, utilizing the official logo of Lebanese Hizballah with the addition of a stylized map of Iraq in the globe section of the symbol. The group, mirroring other Iranian proxy Shia groups in Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria, also refers to itself as “al-Muqawama al-Islamiyya fi al-Iraq” (The Islamic Resistance in Iraq). HAA has done little to hide its connections to Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq (AAH). If anything, HAA actually promotes the links. Furthermore, its connections to other organizations promoting Iran’s Khomeinist ideology have been featured in other photos.
HAA’s secretary general, Sheikh Fadhel al-Khaz’ali, has been prominently featured in the group’s propaganda releases and has been used to show the group’s links to Iran’s Iraqi proxy groups. In one photo, Khaz’ali is shown receiving an award from the Imam Khomeini Relief Foundation. In others, Khaz’ali is shown standing under the AAH banner.
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Figure 2: This photo claims to show Sheikh Fadhel al-Khaz’ali recieving an award from the Imam Khomeini Relief Foundation.
Following a social media model which had been replicated by other newer Shia militias in Syria and Iraq, HAA initially published easily created images showing the group’s new symbol. Later, photos claiming to show fighters from the group, a more official looking fighting force, complete with patches, flags, and official statements began to appear after the group’s initial appearance on Facebook in August.
Hizballah al-Abrar Jihadology3
Figure 3: A HAA fighter holding the group’s flag. This picture claimed to show HAA fighters heading to the Battle of Amerli.
In terms of combat deployments, the group has claimed it sent fighters to Amerli, Diyala, Baghdad, and the key battlefront of Jurf al-Sakhr. In a video released on October 28, 2014, HAA combatants waved the group’s flag along with that of Karbala-based Shia militia, Firqat al-‘Abbas al-Qataliya – al-Dafa’ ‘an Muqadisat al-Iraq (The Abbas Fighting Group – Defenders of the Iraqi Holy Sites) in what appeared to be an impromptu celebration commemorating recent victories in Jurf al-Sakhr.

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Figure 4: Two HAA fighters, Yasir al-Khazarji and Amir Sa’adi pose together under AAH and Shia religious banners. Note the HAA-specific arm patches.
Despite the fact that HAA has claimed to be positioned across diverse sections of Iraq, it has not stated the size of its force. Furthermore, the group’s quickly paced attempt to appear more professional online may demonstrate that the group will be further developed within Iraq’s Shia militia and political sphere. In fact, Sheikh al-Khaz’ali was pictured in an undated photograph with former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and other leaders from Iraq’s internal security forces and army.
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Figure 5(Right): Sheikh Khaz’ali is shown with a stylized Hizballah and Iraqi national flag.
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Figure 6 (Left): Sheikh Fadhel al-Khaz’ali poses with former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and others.
Thus far, the group has released a number of official statements. Below, a translated version of one statement dealing with “rumors” about ISIS penetrations of Baghdad, gives insight into the group’s worldview, including their anti-U.S. positions and opinions on fighting ISIS.
Hizballah al-Abrar Jihadology7
Figure 7: HAA fighters gather for a photograph.
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Figure 8: AAH and HAA leaders are pictured together.
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Figure 9: HAA central leadership and combatants pose under Shia religious and an AAH banner.
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Figure 10: HAA announcement released on social media on October 18, 2014.
Translation of HAA’s October 18, 2014 Announcement*:
There are rumors on social media websites that ISIS is close to entering Baghdad and that there are tens of thousands [of ISIS fighters] steps away from the heart of the capital, while thousands of others are standing behind the gates. Rumors about Baghdad Airport being under fire, that the Americans were able to kick ISIS groups out from the outskirts of the airport, rumors that the belt of Baghdad will close up on the Sadr City and Al-Shu’ala, rumors that millions of residents will become refugees, and that the flag of ISIS will be set up in Khazimiya, in Sayyid Idris [an important Shia shrine south of Najaf] and in the area of Khamsa [a Baghdad neighborhood], Khamsin, or in Muzzafar Square [a central square in Sadr City]. Despite all of these rumors, the clowns, murderers, and killers from ISIS are not close to entering Baghdad. None of them [the rumors] represents a grain of truth.
These [rumors] represent a lost bet that aims to spread chaos, frustration, and misery among the majority of the Iraqi people. This fear mongering is an old method of psychological warfare, it also serves to allow certain material and symbolic games. Regarding the theory of ISIS closing up on Baghdad, the Americans might be the party that is the most excited along with ISIS, Arab countries, and members of the Sunni minority. What are the possibilities this gang will enter the capital and is there a possibility to achieve this?
By reviewing ground data in places where the terrorist organization has entered, such as Mosul, Anbar, some regions of Salah Ad-Din [province], and limited regions of Diyala, we find that it is impossible for ISIS to enter Baghdad, because Baghdad has taken the necessary security steps. Second, because the forces of the popular [militias] and jihadists groups, especially the Islamic Resistance in Iraq Hizballah al-Abrar in Baghdad, can send the terrorists back to hell within hours not days. The most important thing is that those who foster terror and sleeper cells in Baghdad, even if they move along with ISIS’s movement, will not be able to offer full strategic and security coverage for them, because those who foster these cells are based in limited areas which are under surveillance and observation.
Entering Baghdad is not easy and there is no way to be convinced that it will happen quickly and easily. Especially if we want to keep in mind all of the facts on the ground and take into consideration the strength of the defending group, especially since there is proof that crushing ISIS is a likelihood. As is the case in Amerli, Samarra, and areas inhabited by most of the Iraqi people, the main factors which helped ISIS to reach Nineveh [Province] and Ramadi and some regions here and there, is not the strength of ISIS but because of [their sneaky behavior] betrayal. They are betraying these regions by conspiring with murderers and criminals under sectarian and vengeful pretexts. ISIS cannot come close to the walls of Baghdad because the forces which are defending Baghdad and consisting of Hizballah al-Abrar, the forces of the popular movements, and the holy warriors in all jihadist cells, along with governmental and security forces, supported by the heroes of Iraqi Air Force, can confront any attempt to take Baghdad. The fate of ISIS will be failure, especially because the defenders of Baghdad have more privileges than the attackers…we ask God to protect us and the Iraqi people.
* Some sections have been edited so there is better flow in English. Additionally, ISIS is referred to as “Da’ish” in the original statement.

Hizballah Cavalcade: IRGC's First Martyr vs. ISIS in Iraq?

NOTE: For prior parts in the Hizballah Cavalcade series you can view an archive of it all here.

IRGC’s First Martyr vs. ISIS in Iraq?

By Phillip Smyth
Is This Iran IRGC martyr5
Figure 1: Post claiming the IRGC member was killed fighting in Samarra.
According to Iranian media outlets Ali Reza Moshajari, a member of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), was reportedly killed in an accident on June 14, 2014.1 In another article written by the IRGC-linked Tasnim News, Moshajari was killed in “Western Iran” while on “a mission.” In all of the articles he is described as a “martyr” or “hero martyr.” However, his death was not such an open and shut case. In fact, Moshajari’s death may be further evidence of direct IRGC presence in Iraq.
Is This Iran IRGC martyr2
Figure 2: Moshajari in his IRGC uniform.
Before official announcements were made by groups such as Kata’ib Hizballah or Lebanese Hizballah stating they were both involved in fighting in Syria, both organizations would give vague explanations for the funerals of their members. The former would claim members had died due to illness or for other non-combat related reasons. Lebanese Hizballah would often only state that their fallen fighter had been “killed doing his jihadist duty.” Nevertheless, on social media run by many of these elements, it would be stated that the fallen fighters had in fact been killed in Syria. This may be the same type of structured announcement.
In some ways, this mirrors the announcements for the fallen IRGC member who was not only listed as a martyr for battle on a mission of some sort, but had competing accounts for how and where he died.
On Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-linked (often these pages are run directly by the IRGC for internal and narrative purposes) social media networks–which run the gambit from Twitter and Facebook to Google Plus and YouTube—have cast Moshajari as an IRGC fighter who had been “martyred” in the IRGC deployment to Iraq.
It is possible that Moshajari was actually killed in an accident while deploying with IRGC units to sections of Iraq bordering Iran. CNN reported that 500 IRGC had been deployed to Diyala, an Iraqi province on the border with Iran.2 In Diyala Province, Kata’ib Hizballah and other Iraqi Shia Islamist groups backed by Iran have also reported being engaged in combat against units belonging to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS).
Is This Iran IRGC martyr4
Figure 3: An IRGC Facebook page claiming Moshajari was the first IRGC martyr in Iraq while defending the shrines.
However, other Facebook-based sites with links to Iran’s regional Shia Islamist proxies and the IRGC also claimed that he had been involved in the “defense of Samarra.” Samarra has been a city of heavily publicized deployments by Iran’s Shi’a Islamist proxies within Iraq, mainly due to the fact that the holy Askari Shrine is located in the city.
Is This Iran IRGC martyr
Figure 4: Killed IRGC member’s martyrdom poster. The poster was circulated primarily on Facebook and Twitter. It claims he was an “Iranian defender of Karbala.”
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Figure 5: A photo of Moshajari’s face prior to his funeral.
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NOTES:

1 See: https://www.nividar.com/news/539c150e9c89e9747ba66d86, https://www.newsup.ir/578691/%D9%BE%D8%A7%D8%B3%D8%AF%D8%A7%D8%B1%DB%8C-%D8%AF%DB%8C%DA%AF%D8%B1-%D8%A8%D9%87-%D8%B4%D9%87%D8%A7%D8%AF%D8%AA-%D8%B1%D8%B3%DB%8C%D8%AF%D8%AA%D8%B5%D8%A7%D9%88%DB%8C%D8%B1/, www.tasnimnews.com/Home/Single/401002, www.khabarfarsi.com/n/9523567. 2 See: https://edition.cnn.com/2014/06/13/world/meast/iraq-violence/index.html.  

Hizballah Cavalcade: Singing Hizballah’s Tune in Manama: Why Are Bahrain’s Militants Using the Music of Iran’s Proxies?

NOTE: For prior parts in the Hizballah Cavalcade series you can view an archive of it all here.

Singing Hizballah’s Tune in Manama: Why Are Bahrain’s Militants Using the Music of Iran’s Proxies?
By Phillip Smyth
Singing Hizballahs Tune in Manama
Figure 1: A screenshot of a Hizballah musical band performing at the 2013 “Resistance and Liberation Festival”
Bahraini officials have repeatedly accused anti-government militants and protesters in the country of being supplied, trained, and supported by Iran and its numerous regional proxies. Still, the government of Bahrain has done little to bolster their claims of deep and intrinsic links between Bahraini militants and Tehran. Along with official Iranian denials, the issue of Iran-Bahraini militant links is still quite hazy. Nonetheless, this does not mean that within the material released by Bahraini militant organizations that there are not hints of some level of Iranian influence. One of the more intriguing pieces pointing to influence from Iranian-backed organizations comes from the utilization of specific types of music in the many propaganda videos released by Bahraini militants, their sympathizers, and amplifiers.
Numerous instances of Bahraini militants producing propaganda videos with different varieties of music created and utilized by Iranian-backed proxies could indicate a connection with Iran’s proxies. Nevertheless, this type of overlap should not be viewed as a “smoking gun” affirming Iranian involvement. However, it does assist in piecing together direct and indirect influences.
The pieces of music in question were originally developed and used by Iranian proxy organizations, particularly Lebanese Hizballah, Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq (AAH), and Kata’ib Hizballah. In fact, some of the songs that have been promoted fit a long standing media strategy employed by the aforementioned groups and Iran when manufacturing narratives and perceptions for themselves and other armed groups.
The use of music as a transferable propaganda medium follows a very formulaic strategy used by Iran and its “Islamic Resistance” proxy organizations for many years. Often, songs produced for one group are repackaged for newer organizations in other geographic locations. The songs are then altered in a way to make them appeal to the populations and target audience where the new group is located.
Possible Reasons for Using Specific Songs
Why would Bahraini militant groups utilize Hizballah and its Iraqi clones’ music and with such frequency? Some possible answers include:

  • Direct Iranian influence or assistance provided to the developing militant groups.
  • Video editing/production was offered to Bahraini militants by Iran and/or its proxies as a means to influence and shape militant organizations and to encourage the adoption of a more bellicose strategy to the broader (and more peaceful) protester audience.
  • Bahraini militants sympathize with Iranian-proxy groups, their exploits, and with the general concept of “Al-Muqawama al-Islamiyya” (“The Islamic Resistance”). The hope to be as successful, feared, and/or respected as those organizations has led them to adopt the same varieties of music.
  • Thumbing their nose at the government: With the government of Bahrain accusing protesters and militants of being Iranian proxies, militant groups may use the material as a way to subtly frighten or encourage speculation among Bahraini government and other observers.
  • Narrative Goals: One song by Lebanese Hizballah’s Ali al-Attar called “Wa’ad al-Asra” or “The Prisoner’s Promise” was written to celebrate the release of prisoners Hizballah sought to free during the 2006 Hizballah-Israel War. While the song makes clear references to Lebanese Hizballah and themes related to the 2006 war, the same song was employed by some Bahraini protesters (as background music for their uploaded clips) when they protested the government’s detention of key protest-leaders.

Auto-Tuning the Revolution: Examples of the Musical Overlap
In March 2014, a music video which was claimed to have been produced by “Saraya al-Bahrainiyya al-Muqawama” or the Bahraini Resistance Brigades, (which is likely another name used by The February 14 Youth Coalition’s Saraya al-Muqawama al-Sha’biya [Popular Resistance Brigades]) was posted by the popular Revolution Bahrain’s YouTube Channel. The video featured a montage of edited clips, which purported to show Bahraini militants engaged in training. The music video also included a number of videos of bombings orchestrated by militant Bahraini organizations.
Yet, the music used was strikingly familiar in the circles of Iranian-backed Shi’a Islamist groups. In fact, Iranian-backed Iraqi group, Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq had released the exact tune back in 2011 to commemorate attacks the group orchestrated against U.S. targets to demonstrate solidarity with Bahrain’s protesters. Later in 2011, when fellow Iranian proxy Kata’ib Hizballah released footage of attacks it had also launched in solidarity with Bahraini protesters, it too used the same song.



However, the song was neither originally Bahraini nor Iraqi, instead its origins were rooted father to the west, in Lebanon. The original song, “Risalat al-Thuwar” (“Message of the Rebels”), was performed by one of Lebanese Hizballah’s official bands, Firqat al-Fajr (The Dawn Band), following the 2006 Hizballah-Israel War. It first appeared on the band’s 2007 “Lahan al-Turab” or “Melody of the Soil” album. Still, the rendition dealing with Bahrain was not the only version of the song. Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq had their own Iraq/Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Muhammad Sadiq Sadr (as opposed to Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah) themed “Risalat Thuwar” produced in 2011.


“Risalat al-Thuwar” is not the only Hizballah song which has been adopted and rebranded by Bahraini militants and their amplifiers. Another song used by Bahraini militants also comes from Firqat al-Fajr. The song, “Ya Wa’ad Allah” (“O Promise of God”) can be found on the group’s 2008 album, “Sharit Wa’ad Allah” (“Take the Promise of God”). The song has been released in different formats, with more recent music video varieties showcasing the assassinated Hizballah terror-mastermind Imad Mughniyeh. The album also included an instrumental version of the song. Both versions have been prominent features on productions done by Hizballah’s Al-Manar TV network.
In Bahrain, “Ya Wa’ad Allah” was used as background for clips released to the popular (particularly with militant groups) Revolution Bahrain’s YouTube account. One of these videos included the firebombing of an armored car used by Bahraini government forces.


It is not just the polished music video-quality material finding its way into Bahraini militant propaganda productions. Bahraini militant group Saraya al-Mukhtar released a video of their April 2014 targeting of Bahraini police with an improvised explosive device. Another bomb attack in Bani Jamra also utilized the same background music.
The musical selection in the background matched with instrumentals used by Iraq’s Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq. This music was first featured on the AAH-affiliated Al-Ahad TV in the late summer/fall of 2013 to commemorate Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq members killed fighting in Syria. Further pointing to some level of Iranian or Iranian proxy influence, is highly unlikely that this particular musical element could find its way into so many pieces of released footage. This may indicate some Bahraini militant footage being sent abroad (possibly to Iraq) where the footage is re-edited and put back together for a later introduction.



Another similar instrumental used by Bahraini militants with Saraya al-Mukhtar and Saraya al-Ashtar was also the same exact tune utilized in a number of Kata’ib Hizballah video releases (see: 00.17-00.40 on “Kata’ib Hizballah Anti-America Video”).




The use of the last two instrumentals create further questions. Why would these groups, which have resorted to using a variety of improvised weapons, and exist under increasing heavy security crackdowns, spend the time to find, edit, and utilize background instrumentals which already have obscure points of origin. Why pick these two exact instrumentals, which have only been found in the repertoire of Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq and Kata’ib Hizballah? Other Bahraini protest organizations have utilized a variety of different musical accompaniments. Thus, the use of these particular musical pieces seem out of place when compared to the rest of what has been released.
Whatever the reasons, closely assessing the propaganda published by these organizations may provide insight into rather opaque organizations. While assessing the musical selections may appear to be a tangential escapade, AAH, Kata’ib Hizballah, and Lebanese Hizballah have all demonstrated their strategy of using this material as another method to push the narrative of the “Islamic Resistance.”

Hizballah Cavalcade: Saraya al-Mukhtar: A Bahraini Militant Group with Regional Goals

NOTE: For prior parts in the Hizballah Cavalcade series you can view an archive of it all here.

Saraya al-Mukhtar: A Bahraini Militant Group with Regional Goals
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Figure 1: Saraya al-Mukhtar’s newest logo. The group’s name is on the bottom, a black zulfiqar style sword combines in with a a black roundel featuring a green fist and black barrel and forearm of a Kalashnikov-type rifle. On the left is a red map of Bahrain.
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Figure 2: Saraya al-Mukhtar’s first logo. The symbol appears to show two crossed bifurcated Zufiqar-type swords resting on a book (most likely the Quran). The organization’s name appears at the bottom of the logo.
First announcing itself to larger audiences online in a September 26, 2013 statement on Facebook (albeit, the statement itself was dated September 27), Saraya al-Mukhtar (The Mukhtar Brigade or SaM) has claimed numerous attacks on Bahraini security forces and has developed a sophisticated messaging strategy. At the time, the then new group promised to strike at the ruling Khalifa royal family and their security forces with, “operations of quality”. Despite the group’s September online appearance, it still claimed attacks since the summer of 2013. These operations have primarily included the use of crudely produced improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and types of arson attacks. SaM also has the unique distinction among Bahraini militant groups for claiming their first fallen member, or “martyr”, Ali al-Sayyid Ahmed al-Musawi. The group’s narrative on both a regional and potential religious-ideological level have also set it aside from other Bahraini armed organizations.
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Figure 3: Saraya al-Mukhtar’s martyrdom poster for Ali Sayyid Ahmed al-Musawi.
Save for the occasional mentions state-run Bahraini press organs and opposition reports on the situation in Bahrain, for the most part, the group has not received as much media scrutiny as militant groups such as Saraya al-Ashtar. Additionally, SaM appears to have escaped specific mention on Bahrain’s terror group list.[1]
The group calls their foes; The Khalifa royal family, Bahraini security forces, and Saudi Arabia, “a mafia/the Khalifa mafia”, “mercenaries/criminals”, and “occupiers”, respectively. In a November 3, 2013 announcement, SaM vowed to “crush the fascistic regime.” This type of discourse generally fits with most rhetoric issued by Bahraini militant groups. Though, SaM appears to be a bit more colorful when describing their enemies.
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Figure 4: SaM’s November 3, 2013 statement.
In terms of promoting the group’s goals, narrative, and attacks, Saraya al-Mukhtar has exhibited the most advanced strategy and online presence when compared to other Bahraini militant organizations. The group has Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts, among other modes of digital communication with supporters. On March 5, 2014, the group’s main Facebook was taken offline. Another page was quickly made in its place where the group claimed “the tyrant’s mercenaries” took the last page down. On YouTube, the group (or possibly loosely-linked supporters) started separate accounts which would upload one clip of an attack the group claimed and then become inactive. It is unclear whether this is done as an operational security method or for some other purpose. As with Saraya al-Ashtar, the group has also sent footage of its attacks to popular pro-revolution YouTube stations for broader dissemination.
Shia religiously-based rhetoric is a more established common feature in SaM’s releases, rhetoric and even the group’s name. The organization also calls itself, “Al-Muqawama al-Islamiyya al-Bahrania” or the “Bahraini Islamic Resistance.” Most Iranian-backed militant organizations also use this term as a self-descriptor.[2] However, it is possible this could be an example of mimicry, demonstrating the group respects the strength of those organizations and is attempting to adopt their rhetoric to appear more powerful.
Saraya al-Mukhtar’s moniker is likely a reference to Mukhtar al-Thaqafi. Mukhtar al-Thaqafi was a figure who launched a failed rebellion against the Umayyad’s in the 7th century. The rebellion was initiated in southern Iraq and executed in order to get revenge for the death of the third Shia imam, Husayn ibn Ali, who was killed by the Umayyads during the Battle of Karbala.[3]
Interestingly, the name of the group and its background history plays into the style of media campaigns and announcements made by SaM. Often, the group brands their attacks and those launched by other groups against internal security elements as “revenge.” On January 27, 2014 SaM launched the “Vengeance Has Been Achieved Media Campaign.” Until the time of this writing, the slogan, “Vengeance has been achieved” is still stamped onto the photos of injured (often in hospital) Bahraini police.
The recruitment and naturalization of foreigners (particularly from Sunni Muslim religious backgrounds) into Bahrain’s internal security forces has been a main objection for peaceful protesters and militants alike. This is a main reason why SaM, other Bahraini militants, and peaceful protesters have referred to these internal security elements as “mercenaries.” Tapping into this grievance, SaM regularly posts images of police officers with foreign backgrounds that the group has targeted.
Additionally, the motive of “revenge” may be another attempt to appeal to some younger portions of the protest movement. Due to numerous bloody crackdowns by the government, these elements have become fed-up with more traditional groups leading peaceful protests.[4] Thus, SaM likely sees them as a component which can be brought into to give some level of support (even passive) to the organization’s activities.
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Figure 5: On February 9, 2014, SaM claimed to kill Ahmed Rashid al-Moraysi, a Syrian working for the Bahraini police. “Vengence has been achieved” was stamped on the photo.
Claimed Militant Activities
Saraya al-Mukhtar has been quite prolific in the production of videos and the release of photographs to show off its attacks. In one November, 2013 attack on what the group claimed was a communications network station, photos and a video of the target being attacked (with what appears to be a crude incendiary device) were posted online.
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Following Saraya al-Ashtar’s claimed March 3 bomb attack against Bahraini police, Saraya al-Mukhtar praised the, “Bahraini Resistance.” On March 5 SaM released an edited photo showing the aftermath of the bombing and praising the action.
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Figure 6: Saraya al-Mukhtar’s image praising the bomb attack on March 3, 2014.
The group also claims to be in possession of a special sniper weapon they call the “Mukhtar 1”. It is unclear if the weapon is a firearm or some other improvised device. However, SaM has released video on March 4, 2014 of the Mukhtar 1 in use against Bahraini police forces. Like Saraya al-Ashtar, SaM’s videos were released through a combination of the group’s own YouTube pages.

Another uploaded Saraya al-Mukhtar video claimed to show a January IED attack against a Bahraini police checkpoint. This video was also sent into other YouTube stations in a possible effort to increase viewership.
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Figure 7: A Saraya al-Mukhtar released photo claiming a January attack against “mercenaries”.

Regional Outlook & Ideology
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Figure 8: Saraya al-Mukhtar’s February 20, 2014 post.
Saraya al-Mukhtar’s potential links with radical Shia Islamist ideology and the group’s regional aspirations were showcased in a small post made on their official Facebook page on February 20, 2014. The group appears to view the conflict in Bahrain as part of a larger regional conflagration involving Saudi Arabia. Their post read, “The cause of the people in the Eastern Region [of Saudi Arabia] and our defense is one…Resistance against Saudi occupation, our taklif, and our fate are united.”
The statement about Saudi Arabia’s “Eastern Region” is a direct reference to an area which not only borders Bahrain, but is main zone where much of the Saudi Shia Islamic community, 15 percent of the Saudi population, call home.[5] Saudi Shia have faced exclusion from politics, government positions, and many economic opportunities, not to mention suffering religious discrimination. Throughout 2013, Saudi Shia groups organized numerous protests—particularly in Qatif,