Iraqi Militias: a Who's Who
The civil war in Iraq and the success of a radical Islamist group which splintered from Al Qaeda in taking over central cities has focused global attention on the Shiite and Sunni militias that are spilling each other's blood there.
The Arabic newspaper Al Arabi al Jadid has provided its readers with a list of the armed militias operating in Iraq.
Sunni Islamic militias:
The Military Council of the Tribes in Iraq, in which 78 Sunni tribes are represented.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) – a radical Salafist organization which broke off of Al Qaeda amid a power struggle with Al Qaeda's central leadership over involvement in the Syrian civil war. It is estimated to include some 15 to 22 thousand fighters, including thousands of foreign fighters, although precise figures are hard to come by and some have claimed the number could be higher. ISIS is leading the takeover in northern Iraq by Sunni militias, and is also rumored to include "thousands" of suicide bombers among its ranks.
Supporters of Islam (Ansar al-Islam) – a Salafist group that is identified with Al Qaeda. Headed by the Kurdish-Iraqi religious figure Mullah Krekar.
The Army of Jihad Fighters (Jaysh al-Mujahedeen) – a Salafist group that is made up of about 4,000 Sunni fighters
The Islamic Army (al Jaysh al Islami) – the second-largest Sunni armed group after ISIS.
The Battalions of the Revolution of the Twenty (Kataeb Thawra al-Ashrin) – a Sunni jihadist group.
The Army of the People of the Al-Naqshbandia Path (Jesh Rijal al Tarika Al-Naqshbandia) – united Sunni fighters and activists from the Baath Iraqi party headed by Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, who was Saddam Hussein's deputy. It has thousands of members and has great influence in Mosul.
Shiite Islamic militias:
The Badr Legion (Failak Badr) – established in Iran in 1981 by Bakr al-Hakim. It is active in Baghdad and southern Iraq.
The Army of the Messiah (Jaysh al-Mahdi) – established by Shia Islamist cleric Muqtada Sadr in 2003. It is estimated to number some 100,000 fighters.
The Bandana Militia of the People of Justice (Esa'ib Ahel al-Haq) – created after Keis al-Hazeli left Moqtada al Sadr's organization in 2007. It has some 10,000 fighters and receives weapons and money from Iran.
Iraqi Hezbollah – led by Wathek al-Batat. It is an arm of the Lebanese Hezbollah militia and numbers about 40,000 fighters.