Group Name: Katayeb Imam Ali
Area of Activity: Syria and Iraq – currently 1,000 men in Syria
Date of Formation: May 2014
Group Leader: Sheikh Shebel al-Zeidi
Deputy: Ali Mousavi (Abu Hassanein)
In May 2014 under orders issued by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Quds Force, former Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki gathered those members of the Asaeb al-Haq and Katayeb Imam Ali unhappy about their wages from their own groups, organizing them under a single command unit. Their ranks and files numbered at 2,000 back then and under Quds Force advice Maliki appointed an individual by the name of Sheikh Shebel al-Zeidi as the commander of this unit. This individual had very close relations with Quds Force chief Qassem Suleimani.
This unit was first established to fight against ISIS. Shebel al-Zeidi was then linked to General Taleb Shaghati al-Kanani, commander of the Anti-Terrorism Force Taleb Shaghati was a member of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s military apparatus as a staff general and commander of joint operations.
Most militants joining the Katayeb Imam Ali unit had judiciary files and were wanted by the security apparatus in Iraq. However, Maliki had issued amnesty orders for them. The members of this group are all sectarian Shiites. Their forces were used against ISIS in battlegrounds such as Diyala, Ameril, Jarf al-Sukhur and Tikrit to cleanse locals in Sunni areas. Video footages and many pictures of the crimes committed by this group in various areas have been posted on the Internet.
All the weapons, equipment and salaries of this group is provided by the Quds Force. Therefore, this unit is completely at the Quds Force’s disposal and they are used to realize the operational objectives sought by the Quds Force.
This group has an office in Baghdad’s Karade district, and Ahmad Maliki (Nouri Maliki’s son) is one of the main officials of this group.
Sheikh Shebel was formerly a member of the Mahdi Army and he separated later. For some time he was a member of the Asaeb al-Haq and then began working as a contractor. This individual began his contracting work with Maliki’s government and sacked a huge amount of money through this end, literally becoming a millionaire. Sheikh Shebel was also involved in abducting rich merchants and demanding hostage money in return.
In the spring of 2015 when Bashar Assad’s troops were crumbling and his regime was steps away from being overthrown the Quds Force ordered this group to send half of its men to Syria, consisting of 1,000 men at that time.
In March 2015 after operations came to a close in Diyala Province, the Quds Force decided to provide training for a number of militant commanders from the al-Nijba, Katayeb Hezbollah and Imam Ali Battalions to operate and control drones. Following this training course the Quds Force placed a number of drones at the disposal of militants to be used in various fronts.
Abu Ezraiel and Haj Abbas Zeidi are two of the commanders of this group.