Who are the al-Ashtar Brigades, latest US-designated ‘terrorist group’?

Al-Ashtar’s various logos are strikingly similar to those of Hezbollah, sometimes using the same hand clutching a rifle.

Iranian news agencies have remained silent ever since the United States government placed two affiliates of the Saraya al-Ashtar organization on its terrorist list.

In a statement, Bahrain’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs praised the US’ “positive and important decision”, saying that its position reflects the US determination to confront all forms of terrorism and all those who support and sympathize with it.

The US State Department had announced in a statement on its website that they designated Ahmad Hasan Yusuf and Alsayed Murtadha Majeed Ramadhan Alawi as Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGT) under Executive Order (E.O.) 13224.

“Today’s actions follow a recent increase in militant attacks in Bahrain, where Iran has provided weapons, funding, and training to militants. This marks yet another step in our continued effort to aggressively target Iran’s destabilizing and terrorism-related activities in the region,” the State Department said in a statement.

“We will continue to stand with Bahrain in addressing these threats, even as we encourage the government to clearly differentiate its response to violent militia groups from its engagement with peaceful political opposition,” they added.

Who are the al-Ashtar Brigades?

Saraya al-Ashtar, also known as the al-Ashtar Brigades in English, have claimed responsibility for more than 20 attacks in Bahrain, mainly against police officers and security forces.

The name “al-Ashtar” links the group to Malik al-Ashtar, a figure revered by Shiites from early Islam.

They are perhaps responsible for what many have called the “single worst incident of terrorism on Bahraini soil,” according to local activist group Citizens for Bahrain.

The incident refers to the March 2014 attack that claimed the lives of Bahraini police officers Ammar Abdu-Ali al-Dhalei and Mohammed Arslan Ramadhan and Emirati officer First Lieutenant Tariq al-Shehhi.

The three Bahrainis perpetrators with links to al-Ashtar Brigades were executed for their actions earlier this year.

They told News Agency they strongly welcomed the designation and viewed it as an acknowledgment of Iranian involvement with terror groups in Bahrain.

“In the recent past members of Saraya al-Ashtar have been found to have been trained and armed by Iran and some of their most senior members have taken refuge in Iran hence this can be considered a wholly Iranian proxy organization with aims that are hostile to Bahrain’s security and sovereignty,” Mohammed Al Sayed, a spokesperson for Citizens for Bahrain, told News Agency.

Molotov cocktails thrown by anti-government protesters, unseen, burn on the road in this image taken in Daih village.


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