Amid news of government forces advances in Nabuk, one of the last rebel-held areas in Qalamoun, activists have reported a mounting presence of Iraqi Shiite militias for the first time in battlefields far from the Shiite shrines.
The Thu al-Faqar brigade, one of the most brutal Iraqi militias next to Abu Fadhl al-Abbas, has posted photographs and details online of what they claim to be victories for the Iraqi militia in Nabuk, on the border with Lebanon.
The brigade is already believed to have committed two massacres in the city, killing at least 50 people, including women and children.
Syrian opposition activists expressed outrage over the massacres on social media, saying Al Haidari soldiers, (Al-Haidari is one of Ali bin Abi Talib’s alternative names) had also tortured and killed an old man in Nabuk.
The page reported that the Iraqi commander, Abu Shahd al-Jbouri, has been promoted by the Assad Army to Lieutenant Colonel as an for his efforts in “combating terrorists in Syria”.
Assad's military resurgence this year has relied to a great extent on support from Shiite fighters from Iran, Lebanon's Hezbollah and Iraqi militias. Many were based around a Shiite shrine southeast of Damascus.
They have helped turn the tide against the mostly Sunni Muslim rebels, whose ranks are increasingly dominated by Islamist fighters and Al Qaeda-linked foreign jihadists.
"In the last few months Assad has been increasingly leaving the fighting in the urban areas, especially Damascus and its environs, to his Shiite allies," a Middle East security official told Reuters.
The brigade acquired its name from Islamic mythology, in particular the two-pointed magical sword that has come to represent Ali Bin Abi Talib, fourth caliphate and son-in-law of the prophet Moḥammad.
Translated and edited by The Syrian Observer