Liwa al-Taff (The al-Taff Brigade) is one of the brigades of the Hashd Sha'abi Commission, led by Ahmad Hashim al-Tamimi (Abu Sajjad). Liwa al-Taff is the 20th brigade within the Hashd Sha'abi Commission. Currently, the brigade operates in the Khanaqin district within the Hashd's Diyala operations command in eastern Iraq.
To learn more about Liwa al-Taff and its history, I conducted an interview on 16 February 2020 with the Liwa al-Taff media. Any parenthetical insertions in square brackets are my own.
Q: When was the brigade formed?
A: The 20th brigade/al-Taff was formed from launch of the fatwa of the collective jihad by the supreme religious authority Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani (may his extending shadow last long) in 2014.*
Q: In which areas has the brigade formed and how many martyrs has it offered?
A: The brigade has fought the terrorist Da'esh [Islamic State] gangs in most of the liberation battles since the launching of the blessed fatwa, and they are as follows:
1. The battle to liberate Jurf al-Nasr (Jurf al-Sakhr)
2. The battle to liberate Amerli
3. The battle to liberate Sayyid Ghraib
4. The battle to liberate Tikrit University
5. The battle to liberate the village of al-Mazra'a in Baiji
6. The battle to liberate Mataibija in Salah al-Din
7. The battle of Baiji
8. The battle to liberate the village of al-Sheikh Ali
9. The battle to liberate the al-Siniya desert
10. The battle to liberate al-Shirqat
11. The battle to liberate al-Zawiya
12. The battle of the Makhoul mountains
13. The battle to liberate the village of Albu To'ameh
14. The battle to liberate the village of al-Hujjaj
15. The battle of the hills of al-Baaj
16. The battle to liberate the al-Layn line
17. The battle to secure the Baiji road
18. The battle to liberate the Haditha desert
19. The battle of the al-Asmada area
20. The batle to liberate the al-Ba'iji area
21. The battle to liberate the al-Maliha area
22. The battle to liberate the al-Asri neighbourhood in Baiji
23. The battle to liberate the Baiji refinery
24. The battle to liberate the al-Muhandiseen neighbourhood in Baiji
25. The battles of the Ninawa operations axis- al-Ba'aj and the border area with Syria- al-Jughaifi
26. The battles of the Diyala operations axis: Khanaqin, Mandali, Naft Khana.
As for the number of martyrs of the brigade, it is 67 martyrs.
Q: Currently where does the brigade operate? And how many regiments do you have and from what areas are most of the members?
A: The current place of the brigade is within the Diyala operations sector/Khanaqin district. And we have five regiments from all of the southern and central provinces and Baghdad and Salah al-Din. And one of these regiments is Fawj al-Ta'akhi from our Sunni brothers (ourselves), which has offered more than 13 martyrs with us in the battles that the brigade has waged in the areas of Baiji and its periphery.
Q: How were your relations with the martyr Abu Mahdi al-Mohandis?
A: Our relations with the martyr hero the mujahid al-Hajj Abu Mahdi al-Mohandis- may God make good his soil- were very strong as the blessed martyr had love and respect for our brigade especially al-Sayyid the commander of the brigade the engineer mujahid Hashim Ahmad Hantoush al-Tamimi- Abu Sajjad- for what he knw of the courage of his fighters and their firmness and their sacrifices, and the prudence of their leader and his outstanding courage in the battles that the brigade waged and its liberation of the areas that have been under its control for a short time. And the martyr Abu Mahdi al-Mohandis expressed that frankly during his visit to our brigade in 2017 in the line of resistance that the brigade was holding in the Baiji sector when he said and I quote:
Abu Mahdi al-Mohandis' testimony on Liwa al-Taff
'I visited the sector of operations of the 20th brigade- the heroic Liwa al-Taff- after the operation to resist a broad attack by the terrorist Da'esh, and I spent some time with the noble and courageous commander of the brigade the brother Abu Sajjad- the living martyr- and the the mujahideen of the brigade, and I saw up close the course of the battle and the losses of the enemy and the war spoils of the brigade. I hope for the foundation of the brigade- the example in its courageous and purely devoted fighters- to be perfected. My God grant them success and make right their path and protect them.'
And it is well known that the blessed martyr Abu Mahdi al-Mohandis was not amiable with anyone at the expense of the truth, for he said what he saw and followed himself from those heroic acts, and he called al-Sayyid the commander of the brigade- Abu Sajjad- 'the living martyr' because he was wounded four times during the fighting with the Da'esh gangs.
Q: How do you assess the current security situation in Iraq?
A: The security situation in Iraq is inextricably linked with the political situation internally and externally for the land- for whenever the politicians get close to each other and the political blocs get close to each other and the disagreements between them diminish, that is reflected on the security in it, and calmness and safety become dominate in it, and whenever there are disagreements between the states that have big and broad interests in Iraq their repercussions on the internal security situation have been clear. Therefore we notice between 2000 [sic: 2019] and 2000 [sic: 2020] security disturbances and a deterioration in the Iraqi economic situation as a result of the reflections of the security situation in it, for what is occurring from pushing and shoving between the political sides internally, and the divergence of international and regional interests externally.
*(Extended Note): for comparison, consider the following statement issued by Liwa al-Taff commander Abu Sajjad al-Tamimi in 2016 concerning the origins of the brigade:
"In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
'And how many a prophet with whom fought religious scholars but they did not despair for what afflicted them in the path of God and they did not weaken and they did not submit. And God loves those who endure.'
(God the Lofty and Almighty has spoken the truth).
Oh God, bless the master of all creation Muhammad al-Amin and the good and pure family of his house.
Oh God, bless Your hujja, Your creation the implementer of Your command, the vanquisher of the tyrannical people of gross immorality and those who disobey, the master of the matter and age, al-Hujja bin al-Hassan al-Mahdi, Your blessings be upon them all.
As-salam alaykum wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuhu
Since the blessed fatwa of the supreme authority on the necessity of defending the land of the homeland and holy sites was launched, groups of the believers to rushed to mobilize to fight the takfiri enemy so God granted us success to be within the ranks of the al-Abbas (peace be upon him) Combat Division and we participated in multiple battles and the most important of which are Jurf al-Nasr, Sayyid Ghraib in which I was wounded and injured in my leg in a serious wound, Baiji and the battles to liberate the Jazeera of Samarra'.
And then Samarra in which I was targeted with an IED that was planted alongside a road during my return from the Matibija sector and I survived it by the grace of God.
Until not long ago, when I left the division because of what I saw from bad administration of the affairs of the mujahideen and bad work and planning that was clear in the leadership of the division of which the most important has been the lack of registering and spreading of many of the mujahideen on the Hashd Sha'abi Commission and among them myself.
And this is considered disappearing of the rights that the Commission established for the mujahideen. Likewise when I saw the division had gone out from the course of fighting to the course of freezing the mujahideen and limiting them to personal orders issued by a group that sees the division as its possession, not valuing and considering the military expertises present in it, while the rest of the factions are preoccupied with fighting and jihad in the usurped areas.
So I left the division out of compulsion feeling hurt and wronged and there left voluntarily with me a contingent of the mujahideen who suffered the likes of that I suffered and many problems and sufferings that cannot be mentioned in this publication.
And I formed Liwa al-Taff whose number reached around 1000 fighters most of whom are from the Division. Despite that I did not desire or wish to be far removed from the overseer of grace and fulfilment Abu al-Fadl al-Abbas (peace be upon him) so I met a number of important and really influential personalities in the shrine and division the most important of whom was the deputy overseer of the division and I said to him that Liwa al-Taff is your brigade in all its capabilities and support and would be honoured to join the al-Abbas holy shrine on condition that the leadership be connected with us only. And likewise I directed a message to his eminence al-Mutawali al-Shari'i for the holy al-Abbas shrine via private e-mail for him and I did not find a response to that. So all the doors were closed in our face so I was compelled to proceed in my work following all legal means in moving the mujahideen and establishing their names and I was surprised by a campaign of defamation and slander rained down upon us as I was described as the liar and Talha bin al-Zubair and the traitor and intruder upon the division and they forgot the battles in which I was the leader of victory and that fighter who was once of them.
And I have not come out demanding positions, wealth, media fame or sympathy of a particular party. I have come out with my intention having been one since I joined the division and here I am as I renew my pledge to be a humble soldier and servant under the hands of the blessed Marja'iya in forming Liwa al-Taff and coming under the command of the Hashd Sha'abi. My state of affairs is the state of affairs of the rest of the factions of the resistance. My sole aim is jihad and liberating the land.
So I was compelled to publish those words on social media when I saw that the opposing side does not deal with us in the means of dialogue and conventional criticism but rather it has resorted to adopting spurious and selfish statements and falsehoods and adopting some of the measures by which they have wanted to stop and obstruct our jihadi work for they have wanted by all attempts to harm the innocent mujahideen, the people of creed and simple income, that they may bring about pressure on us and weaken us. But they have not realized that their incitements and procedures have not and will not cut the extent of determination and morale of the mujahideen for our intention is firm and proceeding on the jihad.
And I am ready for any discussion and meeting with all accusing and slandering and broadcasting rumours against us and with any personality. And God is a helping and supporting good.
And my last words are one of the counsels of the supreme authority Sayyid Ali al-Sistani (may his extending shadow last long) to the mujahideen when he (for whom my life be in sacrifice) says:
'All the mujahideen must put aside reprehensible partisanships and adhere to good manners, for God has made people as nations and peoples to know each other and exchange benefits and help each other. So narrow-mindedness and personal egotisms should not overcome them, as you have known what has befallen you and the mass of the Muslims i the rest of their land such that their powers, forces, wealth and resources have gone to waste in striking each other, instead of investing them in the field of developing sciences, developing bounties and making just the circumstances of the people. So beware lest fitna should strike those of you who have wronged in particular. As for when fitna occurs, try to extinguish it and avoid igniting it and cling to God's rope entirely and do not separate. And know that if God knows good in your hearts, He will bring you good that He has taken from you. Indeed God is capable over everything.'
Servant of Liwa al-Taff
Abu Sajjad al-Tamimi"