Iraq’s Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), known locally as the Hashd Al-Shaabi, has named Abu Fadak Al-Mohammedawi as its new deputy commander following the assassination of Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis alongside the head of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ Quds Forces, Major General Qassem Soleimani in a US drone strike in Baghdad last month.
Although not much is known about Abu Fadak, known as Khal or “uncle” among his associates, he was an active core member of the Kataib Hezbollah (KH) having joined in 1997 and until recently served as its secretary-general.
Al-Mayadeen reports he took a similar path to his predecessor during the period of 2003-2011 and is described as being among the most important leaders of the PMF having played a prominent role in the fight against Daesh.
A rocket attack on a base used by US soldiers, which killed one contractor in Kirkuk, was one of the reasons used to justify the US assassination on Al-Muhandis and Soleimani, with the KH accused of being behind the attack.
However no evidence has been made public and Iraqi officials have expressed doubts over the allegations, especially as KH has not had a presence in the province since 2014, with suggestions that it was in fact Daesh that orchestrated the strike.
The PMF is an umbrella organisation composed of around 40 counter-terrorism factions, predominantly composed of Iraqi Shia volunteers, but which also includes some Sunnis, Christians and Kurds. It was established based on a 2014 fatwa by Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Sistani in response to the growing threat posed by Daesh which had its eyes set on the Iraqi capital Baghdad and the important shrine cities of the south.
In November 2016, the Iraqi parliament recognised the PMF as an official force which was integrated into the national armed forces and follows orders from the Commander-in-Chief, the prime minister.
The PMF has received support and training from the IRGC, which was openly acknowledged by Al-Muhandis in 2018, stating “I will not shy away from mentioning the support of the Islamic Republic of Iran in terms of weapons, advising, and planning” adding that the US anti-Daesh coalition had not provided weapons to Shia factions, “therefore, the Hashd Al-Shaabi will not hesitate to mention Iranian support during the war against terror.”