Albin Szakola

December 14, 2016

Iraq militia sets sights on encircled Idlib towns

The Iraqi Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba (HHN) militia has vowed to break the siege of the Shiite towns of Fuaa and Kafriyeh.




Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba chief Akram al-Kaabi (R) motions in front of his militiamen. (Facebook/mediaall2020)

BEIRUT - The Iraqi Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba (HHN) militia has vowed to break the siege of a Shiite enclave in rebel-held Idlib province as pro-regime forces look set to seize control of all of Aleppo city.


We will not let you down,” HHN chief Akram al-Kaabi said Tuesday in a statement addressed to the resident of Fuaa and Kafriyeh, which have been encircled by rebels since their seizure of the Idlib province in the summer of 2015.


Kaabi’s lengthy missive was replete with sectarian terminology and compared the situation in Fuaa and Kafriyeh to the Battle of Karbala in 680 in which the Imam Hussein was killed, a crucial event enshrined in the collective memory of Shiite Muslims.  


The statement referred to Fuaa and Kafriyeh as the “modern-day Karbala” while calling the mainly Shiite residents of the two towns as “the descendents of Hussein… the sons of Ali.”


“O’, our people of modern-day Karbala… we will not allow [Imam] Hussein to be killed [again],” Kaabi wrote in the address, which said the “Islamic resistance” was “shedding martyrs” for the cause of the two Idlib towns.


“Our path to you is that of Husseini adoration,” he added, using more sectarian rhetoric.


Fuaa and Kafriyeh have come under intermittent rebel rocket fire in recent days while regime forces continue to advance against rebel fights trapped in an increasingly shrinking sliver of territory in Aleppo.


The fate of the residents of the towns has long been a popular rallying cry for pro-regime media, especially Shiite militias, which have long said they would lift the rebel siege. In November 2015, HHN claimed that Kaabi was “personally directing” a military offensive, which was never launched, to advance on Fuaa and Kafriyeh.  


Kaabi’s latest speech was widely circulated on social media accounts affiliated with the towns of Fuaa and Kafriyeh, which hailed the Iraqi and his militia force. The so-called “Mujahideen of Fuaa and Kafriyeh” issued their own lengthy statement welcoming the HHN address.


Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba—which was one of the first Iraqi Shiite militias to enter the fray in Syria—openly admits it receives direct support from the IRGC while also touting its ties with Lebanese Hezbollah.


In the past two years, it has bolstered its presence in Syria and taken up growing battlefield roles in the Aleppo province, participating not only in the Nubl and Zahraa offensive but also late 2015 campaign to end the ISIS siege on Kweires Military Airport.


NOW's English news desk editor Albin Szakola (@AlbinSzakola) wrote this report. Amin Nasr translated Arabic-language source material.