They heeded a Shia leader’s call-to-arms, were equipped and trained by Iran’s elite military and were forged in the crucible of war against the Islamic State.

In little more than three years the Hashd al-Shaabi, or Popular Mobilisation Units, have risen from disparate alliance of volunteer militias to become a battle-tested force in Iraq.

We see our role as complimentary to the Iraqi army role… They can’t fight without us and we can’t fight without them.”

– Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, Hashd leader