With his fearful visage and deadly axe, Abu Azrael is one of the most recognisable soldiers fighting among the Iraqi forces against the Islamic State.
Nicknamed the ‘archangel of death’, Azrael has become the poster boy of the Imam Ali brigade, an Iraqi Shi'a militia group sponsored by Iran.
Azrael is a 40-year-old former physical education teacher at a university in Iraq, who left his home to fight Islamic State back in June 2014.
A Facebook page dedicated to the fighter has been ‘liked’ more than 2,80,000 times.
There are also numerous images and comments praising the Baghdad native on Twitter.
His catchphrase is ‘illa tahin’, meaning he will pulverise the Islamic State jihadist group and its supporters until nothing but ‘flour’ remains.
“I never have any leniency for them,” says Azrael, whose real name is Ayyub Faleh al-Rubaie.
Azrael, who is based out at the Speicher military base near Tikrit, a city that Iraqi forces and allied paramilitaries are battling to retake from the jihadist forces, swears, “I am not merciful to them.”
Part of Azrael's appeal is his choice of weapons -- an axe perched on his shoulder or a sword in one hand, often paralleled with an automatic machine gun in the other.
Azrael says that he’s fought against the IS in half a dozen places, but that his experience goes back much further than the current conflict.
Azrael contrasts his vengeful position against the IS with an apparently warm love for his five children.
“You see me go to school to drop off my children and I am peaceful. But I show another face to them (IS),” Azrael clarifies.
This apparent contrast between his berserker persona on the battlefield and his seemingly ordinary background seem to be part of the appeal of his story.