Ayyub Faleh Hassan al-Rubaie, known by his nom de guerre Abu Azrael , also known as the "Angel of Death", is a commander of the Kataib al-Imam Ali, an Iraqi Shi'a militia group of the Popular Mobilization Forces that is fighting ISIL/ISIS.
He's bald, with a prodigious beard, and often pictured with a smile on his face even when carrying his favourite weapons.
Dubbed "Iraq's Rambo" by some, Abu Azrael has become something of an online celebrity as Iraqis disappointed with the country's army's limited success in fighting ISIL put their hope in alternative forces.
His pledge to reduce ISIL/ISIS fighters to "flour" has become a rallying call among Shia fighters taking on the group.
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.
The Iraqi militiaman first made headlines in 2015, 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).
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.
He has long been feared by his ISIS enemies and now Abu Azrael has re-emerged on the frontline in Iraq and has vowed to 'pulverise' some more jihadis.
After recently dislodging ISIS from several northwestern Iraqi villages in the region, the celebrity warrior wants to continue defending his homeland from the Sunni militant group by any means necessary. The effort is significant beyond the global attention focused on Abu Azrael’s superhero persona.Also read : A Young Man and his Vision is positively impacting the young people of Palestine through the art of skateboarding
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.
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.
In between describing his mercilessness against IS fighters, Rubaie told AFP that he is a father of five. "You see me go to school to drop off my children and I am peaceful. But I show another face to them (IS)," he says. The apparent contrast between his battlefield adventures and his seemingly ordinary background seem to be part of the appeal of his story.Also read : The True Story of a Man Who Turned His Car Into a Motorcycle
Al-Alam, a state owned Arabic-language TV station in Iran, reported that he used to be a physical education teacher at a university in Iraq. Al-Alam also said he's skilled in taekwondo and shooting, according to BBC Monitoring.
Azrael isn't bothered about the popularity or the fact that ISIS clearly knows his whereabouts. Despite having a prize on his head, he is still more determined top fight against the group.
alongside his armory of weapons, grenades and smoke-bombs, he carries two other powerful tools – a pair of hi-tech smartphones. Azrael uses these to record his attacks and report them back to fans via social media.