Who is Abu Fadak ‘the uncle’ al-Mohammadawi, the new head of PMU militias?
The Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization Unit (PMU) militia group has named Abu Fadak al-Mohammadawi as its new leader, succeeding Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis who was killed in Iraq alongside Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani last month.
Several Iraqi politicians and activities confirmed the appointment on Friday after the PMU held a board meeting recently.
Iranian state-owned Press TV quoted Abu Ali al-Bassari, a PMU official, as saying that the chief commander of the Iraqi armed forces “will sign Abu Fadak’s decree in the next couple of days.”
The new PMU leader, whose real name is Abdulaziz al-Mohammadawi, has been known to go by the nickname “al-Khal” or the uncle in English.
Al-Mohammadawi was considered as a close friend of Soleimani. An old photograph of Soleimani kissing his forehead began to resurface on social media on Friday amid reports of his impending appointment as head of the PMU.
He had previously worked with the Badr Organization in 1983. The group is considered a terrorist entity by the United States and run by Hadi al-Amiri.
Al-Mohammadawi took part in Iran’s war against Iraq and is accused of killing and torturing Iraqi prisoners.
He recently served as the secretary-general of Kata’ib Hezbollah, a hardline pro-Iran faction in Iraq’s PMU militia forces. He joined Kata’ib Hezbollah shortly after its formation in 2003.
According to Al Arabiya sources, al-Mohammadawi briefly left Kata’ib Hezbollah due to internal disagreements within the group over an issue regarding the multi-million-dollar ransom payment during the group’s kidnapping of Qatari hunters in 2015. He then returned to the group under a direct order from Soleimani after the outbreak of mass protests which erupted last October.
The reportedly new leader of the PMU also took part in the group’s fight against ISIS in Iraq, specifically in Fallujah, Qa'im, and Tal Afar.
Due to his nickname of “the uncle,” al-Mohammadawi has been linked to the attack on the US embassy in Baghdad last December as the phrase “the uncle passed through here” was found written on the embassy’s wall.
Iraqi activists hold al-Mohammadawi for the recent massacre of protesters on the Sinak Bridge and al-Khilani Square.