Iran-backed Babylon Brigades kidnap seven members of Nineveh Plain Protection Units in Baghdede, Iraq

BAGHDEDE, Iraq — In an attempt to suppress the protests against it by civilians and members of the Nineveh Plain Protection Units (NPU), the Babylon Brigades have kidnapped seven Chaldean–Syriac–Assyrian members of the NPU. These acts of intimidation have sparked renewed outrage among the residents of Baghdede, who are now calling for the release of the kidnapped men.

A nominally Chaldean Catholic militia, the Babylon Brigades was founded in 2014 and is led by Rayan al-Kildani, a Chaldean Catholic with close ties to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and the Badr Organization. The political wing of this militia is the Babylon Movement, a party that claims to represent Iraq’s Christian community. However, the group has little to no support from the Christian community in Iraq.

In reality, the Babylon Movement is a fringe group that primarily represents Rayan al-Kildani’s personal interests, rather than any Christian community. It is pro-Iran and serves as a proxy for the Shia Arab-dominated Badr Organization. Its affiliated militia, the Babylon Brigades (also known as Brigade 50), was founded by the Iranian-controlled Kata’ib al-Imam Ali. Despite presenting itself as a Chaldean Catholic and Christian force, the group is mainly composed of Shia Arab and Shabak soldiers.

Members of the Nineveh Plain Protection Units (NPU) protesting alongside civilians against the presence of the Babylon Brigades in the Nineveh Plains town of Baghdede, Iraq.

The Chaldean Catholic Church released a statement in 2016 clarifying that it has no affiliation with the Babylon Brigades or its leader, Rayan al-Kaldani, and that the group does not represent the Christian community in Iraq.

The US Treasury Department imposed sanctions on Rayan al-Kaldani on 18 July 2019, for perpetrating serious human rights abuses.

According to reports, the seven individuals were taken by Osama al-Kaldani, Rayan’s brother, to an undisclosed location. Their fate remains unknown.

However, rather than cowing the protesters into submission, tensions only increased. Residents have doubled-down on their demands for justice and an end to the harassment and intimidation of their community. The Babylon Movement has been forced to close its office in Baghdede.