Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada

Also Known As: BATTALION OF THE SAYYID’S MARTYRS; a.k.a. KATA’IB ABU FADL AL-ABBAS; a.k.a. KATA’IB KARBALA; a.k.a. THE MASTER OF THE MARTYRS BRIGADE; a.k.a. “KSS; Kataib Sayyid al Shuhada

Country Of Origin: Syria

Leaders: Abu Mustafa al Sheibani;

Key Leaders: Abu Mustafa al Sheibani; Hashim Finyan Rahim al-Saraji; Falih Khazali – Spokesman;

Operational Area: Syria, Iraq

Involved In: Iranian proxy, and is one of the original militias that formed the Popular Mobilization Forces in 2014

The Master of Martyrs Battalions, or Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada’ (KSS; Arabic: كتائب سيد الشهداء, The Battalions of the Master of Martyrs), officially the 14th Brigade, is a radical Iraqi Shia militia formed in 2013. Its stated mission is to protect “(Shia) shrines across the globe”, preserve “Iraqi unity” and to “put an end to the sectarian conflict”. KSS is funded, trained and equipped by IRGC’s Quds Force and Hezbollah.

The group has been described as an Iranian proxy, and is one of the original militias that formed the Popular Mobilization Forces in 2014. The group has close ties to Badr Organization and Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

KSS is also active in Syria, where its main focus is the protection of the Sayyidah Zaynab Mosque in the southern suburbs of Damascus. It militarily supports the al-Assad Government in the Syria Civil War, and engaged in the Battle of Al-Shaykh Maskin in December 2014 in Syria in support of the Syrian army.

On November 17, 2023, KSS and its leader Hashim Finyan Rahim al-Saraji (also known as Abu Ala al-Walai) were designated as Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGT) under the counterterrorism authority Executive Order 13224 by the United States. Additionally, al-Saraji was placed on Office of Foreign Assets Control’s Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) List.

The Department of State is today designating Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada (KSS) and its Secretary General Hashim Finyan Rahim al-Saraji as Specially Designated Global Terrorists. KSS terrorist activity has threatened the lives of both U.S. and Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS personnel in Iraq and Syria.

Concurrently, the Department of the Treasury is designating six individuals affiliated with Iran-aligned militia group Kata’ib Hizballah (KH). Iran, through the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and its external operations force known as the Qods Force, has supported KSS, KH, and other Iran-aligned militia groups with training, funding, and sophisticated weapons — including increasingly accurate and lethal unmanned aerial systems. KSS, working at times with other U.S.-designated organizations, including KH and Harakat al-Nujaba, has planned and supported attacks against U.S. personnel.

Iran is the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism. The United States remains committed to using all available tools to counter Iran’s support for terrorism and degrade and disrupt the ability of Iran-backed groups to conduct terrorist attacks.

Today’s actions are being taken pursuant to Executive Order 13224, as amended, which targets terrorists, terrorist organizations, leaders, and officials of terrorist groups, and those providing support to terrorists or acts of terrorism. Terrorist designations expose and isolate entities and individuals, denying them access to the U.S. financial system and the resources they need to carry out attacks. Moreover, designations can assist law enforcement actions of other U.S. agencies and governments. KSS is being designated for having committed or attempted to commit, posing a significant risk of committing, or having participated in training to commit acts of terrorism that threaten the security of United States nationals or the national security, foreign policy, or economy of the United States. Hashim Finyan Rahim al-Saraji is being designated for being a leader of KSS.

The U.S. Department of State is also designating Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada (KSS) and KSS leader Hashim Finyan Rahim al-Saraji. KSS, another Iraq-based IAMG that receives support from the IRGC, has planned and been involved in attacks against U.S. personnel in Iraq and Syria.

Financing:

KSS receives funding directly from the IRGC’s Quds Force—a special branch of the IRGC tasked with achieving sensitive missions beyond Iran’s borders—and, as a member of the PMF, from the Iraqi government

Recruitment:

Based on its reported losses, apparently KSS largely recruits from the southern Iraqi city of Basra, as well as from the Dhi Qar Province.* On September 15, 2016, KSS released a new call for recruits.

Training:

An August 2016 video, which has since been removed by YouTube, showed KSS fighters training in Syria with heavy machine guns.* The group also receives training directly from the IRGC. The U.S. Treasury Department accused IRGC commander Ahmed Foruzandeh of training the Basra-based Sayyid al-Shuhada movement. Shiite-militia expert Phillip Smyth believes KSS is a front for the Sayyid al-Shuhada organization’s military arm.

KSS has also reportedly trained extensively in the use of drones. KSS Secretary General Abu Waala al Wa’eli expressed “enthusiasm for drone warfare” and stated in a 2019 interview, “We are working day and night to develop drones that can be put together in a living room.”

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