Iraqi angel of death

Iraqi angel of death DEFAULT

Baghdad, November Abu Azrael, has emerged as a cult figure in the war against Islamic State had killed more than 1, ISIS militants is known as ‘Angel of Death’ among the Shia militia group, the Imam Ali Brigade who are fighting against the IS. Azrael, who is also known as ‘Iraqi Rambo’ has turned his tough talk towards the oil rich nation Saudi Arabia.Also Read - Amid Taliban Takeover, Large Number of Islamic State, JeM, LeT Terrorists Have Entered Kabul: Report

abu-azrealAlso Read - Taliban Advances in Afghanistan - Silence of the Global Powers

A Facebook page dedicated to Azrael has more than 50, followers in which he is holding axes, waving swords and even abusing the corpses of ISIS fighters. In March Saudi had launched a full fledge air strikes on Houthi rebels in Yemen. Due to which Azrael released a video on Thursday in which the folk hero threatened to attack Saudi Arab. Read Also: (Mumbai Muslims ready to fight against Islamic State in Iraq)Also Read - NIA Conducts Raids in Delhi, Kerala, Karnataka Over Suspected IS Module; 5 Arrested Linked to Pakistan


Azrael said in a video that, “We tell Saudi Arabia we’re coming to you from Yemen or wherever. It doesn’t matter”.

The Houthis, who are believed to be fighting a proxy war for Iran belong to a strand of Shia Muslim, a group of tribesmen largely based in Yemen’s north.

In last few years Azrael has become a symbol of Iraqi Shiite resistance against ISIS, the so-called “Angel of Death” became a cult figure in Iraq after waging a joint military assault by Iraqi forces and Iranian-backed militias against the Islamic State early this year.


According to reports Azrael is described in various sources as a year-old former university lecturer and a one-time Taekwondo champion, although other sources dispute that and suggest that this back-story may be fabricated.

Some have speculated that six feet three inches tall Abu Azrael is the creation of Iranian propaganda.


Meet Iraq's 'Angel of Death' fighting against ISIS

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Abu Azrael angel of death iraqi rambo shia militia
France 24 English via Youtube

Ayyub Faleh al-Rubaie, best known as Abu Azrael ("Angel of Death"), is a legendary Shia militiaman whose bravery and reputation have also earned him the title of "Iraq's Rambo." He has become the people's champion in resisting the Islamic State in Iraq.

His methods and appearance match the brutality of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. For instance, he has been shown holding axes, waving swords, and even abusing the corpses of ISIS fighters.

He also has a flair for social media, publishing viral posts and inspiring tribute fan pages and groups. Abu Azrael has even coined his own catchphrase when addressing ISIS — "illa tahin," which means "grind you into dust," — according to the France 24 video below.

Watch Abu Azrael inspire a nation to resist ISIS:

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Meet Abu Azrael, 'The Angel Of Death' Who Has Killed Almost ISIS Affiliates In True Rambo Style

Every war needs a poster boy and it seems Iraq’s war against ISIS just got its own hero delivered in the form of mercurial Abu Azrael. The name Abu Azrael roughly translates to ‘The Angel of Death’ in Arabic and correctly so, because the Iraqi soldier has so far killed almost ISIS affiliates.

Abu Azrael, ‘The Angel Of Death’© YouTube

The year-old named Abu Azrael  (real name: Ayyub Faleh al-Rubaie) is a former Taekwondo champion and the current Shia commando of Kataib al-Imam Ali, one of the most fierce enemies of ISIS fighting in Tikrit. The reason why he is so popular on social media and amongst the Iraqi community is because of the brutality with which he treats members of the terror group – beheading, chopping and burning up their bodies, in that particular order.

Abu Azrael, ‘The Angel Of Death’© YouTube

The badass fighter is mostly seen in videos over the internet with weapons of his choice – guns, axes, and swords—abusing the dead bodies of ISIS soldiers. The indigenous Iraqi Rambo strikes fear in the hearts of ISIS men because of his brutal stance against those killing in the name of religion. He even has a bounty on his head as his methodical kills are generating enough press to demoralize the ISIS staff.

The way he hunts down ISIS men reminds us of one particular John Rambo – the 80’s fictional character, taking on armies single-handedly. 

Abu Azrael, ‘The Angel Of Death’© YouTube

But mercenary Abu Azrael is clearly one-up John Rambo because of the way he hunts his enemies with his motto of “Illa Tahin” which translates to ‘Nothing remains but flour’ – meaning he wants to crush ISIS to the ground like flour.

Abu Azrael, ‘The Angel Of Death’© Facebook

In one of the videos, he is seen telling the camera: “ISIS, this will be your fate, we will cut you like Shawarma”. No matter how harsh, his ways are definitely working on the ground as the Iraqi town of Sinjar was reclaimed almost one year after being captured by ISIS.

Tell us what you think of his ways to deal with terror – ISIS deserves this treatment or is it just a cover-up for human rights violation?


The Angel of Death is coming for you, ISIL

While there is an ongoing battle for Tikrit, where the Iraqi and Iranian militaries and affiliated Iraqi Shia and Sunni militias are trying to expel ensconced ISIL fighters, resulting in mounting casualties  and the physical destruction of its urban landscape, a simultaneous battle is being waged over a cyber-terrain and media landscape, resulting in the creation of protagonists that both Iraqis and Iranians can root for.

Recent images of Iraq’s Angel of Death, a fighter in one of the Shia militias taking part in the fight for Tikrit, is the latest Ramboesque figure to emerge in what has become a decade-long conflict in Iraq. International media has picked up this story, as part of its fascination with the rise of ISIL and its use of new social media.

Iraqi offensive against ISIL in Tikrit on hold

The Angel of Death is newsworthy because he represents a high-profile cyber counter-attack. However the focus on this persona brings up a greater issue of the conflation between cyber-space and actual violent conflict, where it has become more-and-more difficult to separate reality from its mediated version in cyber-space.

Folk heroes or villains

Since the fall of Baghdad in , the ensuing chaos has produced a wide arrange of folk heroes or villains depending on one’s perspective.

Before the cult around American Sniper emerged, the Iraqi insurgents had their own Baghdad Sniper, a man named Nizar al-Jibouri, affiliated with the Islamic Army in Iraq. This Sniper not only targeted American soldiers, but filmed the deaths of his victims.

The insurgent group released several videos, including the view from his sniper scope, giving a first-person shooter video game perspective. It even created a docudrama video of a day in his life of being a sniper.  The insurgent group realised his kills were not enough for the insurgency. It was the production value associated with those kills that built up his myth-like status.

Even Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian-born progenitor of ISIL, brandished his Rambo-like persona during the early days of the Iraqi insurgency with videos of him firing off bursts from a rifle, which inadvertently backfired in the PR insurgency wars, as commentators in the US military gave press briefings to show his poor handling of his firearm. Comedians also poked fun of the fact that despite his traditional garb, he was wearing either Adidas or New Balance sneakers.

New media environment

ISIL emerged in Iraq in a new media environment, where it could showcase its fighters with new media like Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. One of its most prominent “poster boys” was Shakir Wahib, who the international media became fixated with, as he was one of the few ISIL fighters who was filmed without a mask, even when he killed three Syrian truck drivers. His ISIL fan base called him the “Desert Lion”, and in this regard, Iraq’s Angel of Death emerged as Iraq’s hero to combat this Lion.

The latest Ramboesque figure to emerge in decade-long conflict in Iraq [Facebook]The latest Ramboesque figure to emerge in decade-long conflict in Iraq [Facebook]

ISIL seeks to dominate, shape and control cyberspace, yet at the same time it has become a space to resist ISIL, through creating virtual heroes such as the Angel of Death, even though he is a real person, Ayyub Faleh al-Rubaie, who discusses in an APF interview the banal aspects of his life, such as dropping his kids off to school.

The emergence of the Angel of Death in cyber-space has been newsworthy, but he also represents a greater Shia cyber-narrative that came about after the rise of ISIL, with Facebook pages stressing unity between Iraq’s Shia and its Christian minorities, targeted since the summer of Shia militias have used cyber-space to wish Iraq’s Christians a Merry Christmas and Christian militias even use the logos of the Shia militias on their own Facebook pages.

Iraq’s Angel of Death became newsworthy, partly due to his huge fan base that emerged as a result of the “Likes” he received on Facebookand his picture showing up on the Facebook page reportedly belonging to Iran’s special forces, at a time when the Iraqi state should ideally downplay the role of Shia Iran in fighting for a predominantly Sunni Tikrit.

Social media has has allowed those outside of the war zone to become voyeurs to this conflict, and has facilitated the creation of virtual personas to celebrate or condemn.

Cyber-hero for Iraqis

The emergence of this cyber-hero for Iraqis illustrates media theorist Marshall McLuhan’s oft-quoted phrase, “The Medium is the Message“. Irrespective of the messages sent by ISIL or Iraq’s Shia militias, the medium in and of itself also contains a message.

The message of the medium in this case is that in the age of the easy edit and photoshop it becomes difficult to determine the reality on the ground in Iraq. ISIL’s telegenic fighter was reported dead in , but wasable to resurrect himself by releasing a photo on the internet.

The message of the medium is that there is a battle over the loyalty of the youth, using their media such as Facebook, for their allegiance. The message of the medium is that terrorism is post-modern, where ISIL’s notions of “Jihad”, “Caliphate”, sexual slavery, the use of child soldiers, and the destruction of Iraq’s pre-Islamic heritage can be communicated in characters, or a single image, to be “Liked” in a macabre, transnational referendum.

Combatting terrorism has become post-modern, whether it is Shia militias creating a hero to be equally Liked, to the State Department developing a campaign of tweets to discredit ISIL.  

Of course, in this emergence of new technologies and the blurring of reality, there is a reality beyond any doubt on the ground that includes Iraqis and Syrians who have been displaced and dispossessed since the Syrian civil war and the rise of ISIL.

Loyalties, whether to ISIL or the forces combatting ISIL, are not determined by social media, but by long-term processes of socialisation and identity formation. Nevertheless, what social media has done has allowed those outside of the war zone to become voyeurs to this conflict, and has facilitated the creation of virtual personas to celebrate or condemn. 

Ibrahim al-Marashi is an assistant professor at the Department of History, California State University, San Marcos. He is the co-author of “Iraq’s Armed Forces: An Analytical History.”

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

  • Ibrahim Al-Marashi

    Ibrahim Al-Marashi

    Ibrahim al-Marashi is an associate professor at the Department of History, California State University, San Marcos.

    Ibrahim al-Marashi is an associate professor at the Department of History, California State University, San Marcos. He is the co-author of the forthcoming The Modern History of Iraq, 4th edition.


ISIL will be able to turn any defeat into a victory.

If there were a real caliphate today, Baghdadi would have been declared an apostate.


Death of iraqi angel

Abu Azrael

Ayoub Falih Hasan Al-Rubaie, born , known by his nom de guerre Abu Azrael, also known as the "Angel of Death", is an Iraqi Commander&#;in the popular crowd of the Kataib al-Imam Ali, an Iraqi Shi'a militia group of the Popular Mobilization Forces that is fighting ISIS in Iraq. He has become a public icon of resisting ISIS in Iraq among Shia Iraqis with a large following on social media. His motto and catchphrase is "Ella Tahin", literally meaning "Until/into dust" interpreted to mean "Grind you to dust."

Abu Azrael was a former member in Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army which fought against the United States during the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.[3]

Personal life[edit]

Abu Azrael is described in various sources as a Shia Muslim who is a year-old former university lecturer and a one-time Taekwondo champion.[4] According to an Iranian source, he has a master's degree in physical education.[5] Reports from March claimed that Azrael is a father of five, and lives an "ordinary life" when not on the battlefield.[6]

Following incidents where he was filmed desecrating the corpses of ISIS fighters,[7] Azrael stated that he had been told by a senior imam in Najaf that he should pray for penance and "never do such a thing again".[8]

In October , he was severely beaten unconscious by protesting Iraqis at Tahrir Square, Baghdad.[9]

In , he was infected with COVID and suffered lung damage.[10]

Public image[edit]

Abu Azrael fought against ISIS, although he has also fought against other militant groups. He has attracted attention in the Middle East, but by the spring of , he had also made front-page appearances on international news websites in England, France and the United States.[11]

He has received a medal of honor from the Representative of the Supreme Religious Authority Sayyid Ahmad al-Safi.[12]

In , he was spotted on the battlefield in the Battle of Mosul.[13]

See also[edit]


Best of all clips of abu azrael

Iraqi militias turn tables on ISIS with social media tactics

Alex recently finished an internship at the Lowy Institute. He is undertaking a master of Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut.

It has become commonplace in the Western media to see experts and politicians lament our inability to counter ISIS propaganda. As ISIS has demonstrated, media can now be created and disseminated effectively with very few resources. Less well recognised is the fact that a number of groups in Syria and Iraq have used the same social media tools against ISIS.

One campaign run by the Popular Mobilisation Forces (an umbrella organisation composed of mainly Shia militias) in Iraq has been particularly effective in breaking the narrative of disaster and defeat that shrouded the opposition to ISIS throughout much of The clash here is no longer viewed as between beleaguered state forces backed by coalition airstrikes, but between two ideologically motivated sides seeking to crush each other through a force of will as much as arms.

This propaganda effort is well encapsulated in the carefully managed social media campaign of Shia commander Ayyub Faleh al Rubaie, known as Abu Azrael — Arabic for 'Father of the Angel of Death.' Abu Azrael is also known by a number of other nicknames such as 'The Iraqi Rambo' and 'Daesh Killer', and over the last eighteen months has shot from relative obscurity to celebrity status in the fight against ISIS in Iraq.

His catchphrase, Ila Taheen ('I will grind you [ISIS] to dust') has gone viral, registering millions of views and reposts worldwide, and has even been made into a song. Reputedly a former professor and martial arts champion with experience training in Lebanon with Hezbollah and fighting against American troops in the Iraqi insurgency of the early s, Abu Azrael has become a hero for many Shia Iraqis.

Abu Azrael's image is carefully constructed. It is designed to portray calm confidence and professionalism, a contrast with the images of fleeing Iraqi soldiers that had previously dominated news coverage of the conflict. The way he and his men are equipped, with M4 carbines, tight fatigues and beards, appears to be a stylised imitation of US special forces. His men are all body builders, and their fierce image is reinforced by Abu Azrael's tendency to be pictured either with an axe or sword. Numerous 'combat' videos uploaded from Abu Azrael's smartphone portray a style of fighting which could have been taken from a Rambo movie, and are perhaps equally as staged.

Abu Azrael forms a small part of the media campaign surrounding the Iraqi militias, whose message is consistent: we have fought Saddam Hussein, the US army and Israel (in Lebanon); ISIS may have succeeded against the weak central government forces but we are not afraid of ISIS and it will not succeed against us. The results on the ground seem to support this message, with the Shia militias playing a key role in stalling the ISIS advance and retaking Iraqi towns such as Tikrit, albeit with the help of Western airstrikes.

The timing and presentation of Abu Azrael in the media appears to have been a calculated reaction to ISIS's Shakir Wahiyib, or 'The Desert Lion', a notorious figure who featured in a number of execution videos in early , and who was then one of the few visible 'faces' of ISIS. Abu Azrael sums up the aim of the online media effort in combating ISIS propaganda, stating in a recent interview: 'they are only here to kill and destroy, and they film all of it, so what we do is the same, we film ourselves defending the Iraqi people.'

Given how effectively ISIS has used terror in its media campaign, perhaps the most notable feature of Abu Azrael's videos are how adept he is at using irony and humour to de-legitimise ISIS. Shia militiamen mock the intensity of the Jihadists with the confident certainty of ideological and battlefield superiority. They paint the 'terrorists' as amateurs, laughably solemn extremists with a pointless desire to die. Another reason for Abu Azrael's success could be the focus of his audience. In a conflict where ideological positions are rigid and separated through a plethora of sectarian, religious and tribal factors, Abu Azrael's message is intended primarily to reassure and boost the morale of the Shia community in Iraq and other minorities opposed to ISIS. At no point does he seek to engage with ISIS itself.

Shia militias are dangerous forces which have been implicated in war crimes and terrorist activities. In combating the influence of ISIS, however, we may be able to draw some lessons from their use of social media. One criticism of the West's approach to ISIS is that it gives ISIS exactly what it wants, by exaggerating the fear it seeks to instil through the chilling use of social media imagery. Phrases such as 'existential threat' or 'the struggle of our generation' are commonly used to refer to ISIS.

Although the threat of ISIS is obviously a serious one, a lesson the West could take from Abu Azrael and his men is that we need more confidence in the superiority of our institutions and values. By overstating the threat from ISIS, we only make it appear stronger.

Photo courtesy of Facebook page ABU Azrael.


Now discussing:

Iraq's 'Archangel of Death,' Known for Slaughtering ISIS Fighters, Denies War-Crime Accusations

Ayyub Faleh Hassan al-Rubaie's reputation for ruthless revenge attacks against members of the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) has earned him international attention and the nickname "Archangel of Death." He goes after his victims with an ax and sword. Once, he set an ISIS fighter's corpse on fire. When he was accused of mutilating the body, he assured his loyal supporters he had confessed his sins to his imam under instructions to "never do such a thing again."

Now the Iraqi militiaman widely known in Iraq as Abu Azrael (meaning "Father of Azrael," the Islamic and Jewish "angel of death") is looking across the border into Syria. After recently dislodging ISIS from several northwestern Iraqi villages in the region, the celebrity warrior told Newsweek he wants to continue defending his homeland from the Sunni militant group by any means necessary.

Related: War in Iraq: Iran allies battle ISIS to secure border with Syria and Unite forces

The effort is significant beyond the global attention focused on Abu Azrael's superhero persona. The border operation could help create an extensive route of support from Damascus to Baghdad against ISIS's self-proclaimed caliphate, which has significantly diminished throughout Iraq and Syria in recent years.

"We have not entered into Syrian territory, but we are still on the Syrian-Iraqi border and we're closing in on Daesh, inflicting bitter losses," Abu Azrael said via Twitter, using the Arabic-language acronym for ISIS. "We will defend the oppressed people of all sects, protect the country from criminals, help the displaced and return them to their areas."

The Iraqi militiaman first made headlines in , when he drew comparisons to Sylvester Stallone's iconic Hollywood Vietnam War action hero, John Rambo. His massive, muscular frame often stands out from his fellow fighters' in Kata'ib al-Imam Ali, a majority-Shiite Muslim militia operating under the banner of the Iran-backed Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF). The militia operates under a joint command with the Iraqi military and is considered a semiofficial branch of the state's armed forces.

In one of the most recent instances of Abu Azrael's warpath against ISIS, he claimed in a clip posted late last month on social media to have "burned" the nearby jihadist-occupied village of al-Adnaniyah in Iraq. Abu Azrael and his comrades in Kata'ib al-Imam Ali said they were operating near the Sinjar mountains west of Mosul where the Iraqi military, Kurdish forces and a U.S.-led international coalition have advanced against the final jihadist positions in what was once ISIS's largest city of control. In the video, one of Abu Azrael's fellow militiamen vowed to finish the Islamic holy month of Ramadan in Syria, suggesting the Iraqi militias were preparing to cross the border.

The remark drew a negative response from U.S.-backed forces in Syria. The territory immediately across the border from Kata'ib al-Imam Ali's positions is controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces, a U.S.-backed coalition consisting mostly of Kurds, but including Arabs and other ethnic minorities battling ISIS. The SDF is currently storming ISIS's de facto capital of Raqqa with heavy support by the U.S., which remains wary of Iranian influence in the Middle East. While the PMF and Kurds have allied in the fight against ISIS in Iraq, SDF spokesperson Tilal Silo said late last month that the group would not allow the Iran-backed PMF in its territory in Syria.

"If Hashd forces attempt to enter our areas, our forces will fight them," Silo told Kurdistan24 news outlet, referring to the PMF's Arabic-language name: Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi.

Reports had emerged in recent days claiming PMF forces had already crossed into Syria and had begun digging trenches in preparation for battle. Across the border, they could link up with anti-ISIS campaigns run by the Syrian army and its allies. But PMF spokesperson Ahmad al-Asadi later denied the rumors, saying that "official Iraqi armed forces do not have a presence outside of Iraqi territory," according to Kurdistan

In its three years of fighting, the PMF played a major role in reversing territorial gains in Iraq made by ISIS, which once claimed up to 45 percent of the nation. After the ultraconservative Sunni Muslim group conducted mass executions, incarcerations and implemented other forms of harsh oppression against locals, Abu Azrael was one of more than , militia fighters to take up arms and force the militants out of key cities, leaving only Mosul and pockets of influence elsewhere. Abu Azrael, a father of five, was noticed online for going above and beyond his call of duty, killing ISIS militants not only with bullets, but by ax and sword, as well. He has reportedly trained in Tae Kwon Do.

Social media footage also drew Abu Azrael heavy criticism last year, however, when he was pictured burning the corpse of an ISIS fighter. He later apologized for the act, which could amount to a war crime. The incident highlighted concerns by Iraq's Sunni Muslim population of retribution acts by Shiite Muslim militias and the Iraqi army. Stories of such atrocities have already begun to emerge, but Abu Azrael assured that ISIS fighters were his and his comrades' only target. He said such reports of sectarian tensions had been exaggerated and propagated by "external factors" promoting a harsh, intolerant brand of Islam similar to that of ISIS and aimed at distorting the PMF's mission.

"We do not pose any threat to any peaceful entity," Abu Azrael said. "We are Kata'ib al-Imam Ali and other resistance factions of the Iraqi army, and our main target is Daesh and no one else. I don't believe anyone wants Daesh in the country."

"As for those who criticize Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi, this is his personal opinion or what is published by some media about the Hashd containing lies and fake news, so some people believe it," he added.

Both fame and infamy, however, have not stopped Abu Azrael from pursuing his mission to pulverize ISIS "into flour," as he often says. After ISIS is defeated, Abu Azrael said Kata'ib al-Imam Ali, which also reportedly includes some Sunni Muslims and Yazidis, will work with all communities toward preventing the resurgence of jihadist groups in the country.

"After the liberation of Iraq [from ISIS militants], we will ensure that they never return." Abu Azrael told Newsweek before regrouping with his men to pray. "I hope the world has witnessed their crimes against our people and will support us."


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