Saraya al-Mukhtar (The Mukhtar Brigade or SaM) is a Shia extremist organisation. Saraya al-Mukhtar was founded in Bahrain in late 2011, relying on guerrilla tactics, blasts, and bombings against civilian targets and security forces;
The group listed the ruling Khalifa royal family, Bahrain security forces and Saudi Arabia as targets for attacks. SaM refers to these targets as “a mafia/the Khalifa mafia”, “mercenaries/criminals”, and “occupiers”. SaM has claimed numerous attacks on Bahraini security forces by means of crudely produced improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and arson attacks. Though SaM is not specifically mentioned on the Bahrain government’s terror list, the list states that any group affiliated with Saraya al-Ashtar would be considered a terror group. SaM has commended attacks claimed by Saraya al-Ashtar, and by association is viewed as a terrorist organisation.Centre of OperationsSaM is mostly active in Manama and surrounding areas:
The United States designated the Bahrain-based Saraya al-Mukhtar group as a terrorist organization, accusing it of being backed by Iran and of having plotted attacks against U.S. personnel in the Gulf Arab state;
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Saraya al-Mukhtar, or Mukhtar Brigades, was designated for “posing a significant risk of committing acts of terrorism that threaten the national security and foreign policy of the United States”;
“The group has plotted attacks against U.S. personnel in Bahrain and has offered cash rewards for the assassination of Bahraini officials,” Pompeo said in a statement;
Pompeo accused Saraya Al-Mukhtar of having received financial and logistical support from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which controls a business empire as well as elite armed and intelligence forces in Iran. The IRGC is blacklisted by Washington;
“Saraya Al Mukhtar’s self-described goal is to depose the Bahraini government with the intention of paving the way for Iran to exert greater influence in Bahrain,” Pompeo said. “The group has plotted attacks against US personnel in Bahrain and has offered cash rewards for the assassination of Bahraini officials.”;
Placing Saraya Al Mukhtar on the list freezes any assets it has in the United States, deprives it of access to the US financial system and bans US citizens from any dealings with the group;
The Shiite Muslim Saraya Al Mukhtar is known on the internet for making threats against the royal family and condemning the treatment of the Shiite Muslim minority in neighbouring Saudi Arabia;
It was accused in 2017 of hijacking the Twitter account of Bahrain’s foreign minister, a member of the Sunni Muslim dynasty which reigns over the Shiite majority Gulf kingdom;
Saraya al-Mukhtar can get its required weaponry from Hezbollah and Ansar Allah of Yemen;
In terms of promoting the group’s goals, narrative, and attacks, Saraya al-Mukhtar has exhibited the most advanced strategy and online presence when compared to other Bahraini militant organizations. The group has Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts, among other modes of digital communication with supporters. On March 5, 2014, the group’s main Facebook was taken offline. Another page was quickly made in its place where the group claimed “the tyrant’s mercenaries” took the last page down. On YouTube, the group (or possibly loosely-linked supporters) started separate accounts which would upload one clip of an attack the group claimed and then become inactive. It is unclear whether this is done as an operational security method or for some other purpose. As with Saraya al-Ashtar, the group has also sent footage of its attacks to popular pro-revolution YouTube stations for broader dissemination.
Shia religiously-based rhetoric is a more established common feature in SaM’s releases, rhetoric and even the group’s name. The organization also calls itself, “Al-Muqawama al-Islamiyya al-Bahrania” or the “Bahraini Islamic Resistance.” Most Iranian-backed militant organizations also use this term as a self-descriptor. However, it is possible this could be an example of mimicry, demonstrating the group respects the strength of those organizations and is attempting to adopt their rhetoric to appear more powerful. Saraya al-Mukhtar’s moniker is likely a reference to Mukhtar al-Thaqafi. Mukhtar al-Thaqafi was a figure who launched a failed rebellion against the Umayyad’s in the 7th century. The rebellion was initiated in southern Iraq and executed in order to get revenge for the death of the third Shia imam, Husayn ibn Ali, who was killed by the Umayyads during the Battle of Karbala.
Interestingly, the name of the group and its background history plays into the style of media campaigns and announcements made by SaM. Often, the group brands their attacks and those launched by other groups against internal security elements as “revenge.” On January 27, 2014 SaM launched the “Vengeance Has Been Achieved Media Campaign.” Until the time of this writing, the slogan, “Vengeance has been achieved” is still stamped onto the photos of injured (often in hospital) Bahraini police.
The recruitment and naturalization of foreigners (particularly from Sunni Muslim religious backgrounds) into Bahrain’s internal security forces has been a main objection for peaceful protesters and militants alike. This is a main reason why SaM, other Bahraini militants, and peaceful protesters have referred to these internal security elements as “mercenaries.” Tapping into this grievance, SaM regularly posts images of police officers with foreign backgrounds that the group has targeted;
Also Known As:
Al-Muqawama Al-Islamiyya Al-Bahrania
Bahraini Islamic Resistance
Bahraini Islamic Resistance Al-Mukhtar Companies