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Rambo of Iraq takes on Islamic State

March 19, 2015 08:47 IST

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.

A Facebook page devoted to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard has posted a series of pictures of Abu Azreal. nicknamed the 'archangel of death'. Photograph: Abu Azrael/ Facebook


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.

Azrael is a former phys ed teacher at a university of Iraq. Photograph: Abu Azrael/ Facebook

A Facebook page dedicated to the fighter has been ‘liked’ more than 2,80,000 times.

Azrael claims he will pulverise the Islamic State. Photograph: Abu Azrael/ Facebook

There are also numerous images and comments praising the Baghdad native on Twitter.

One of the many fan-posters that feature Abu Azrael. Photograph: Abu Azrael/ Facebook

His catchphrase is ‘illa tahin’, meaning he will pulverise the Islamic State jihadist group and its supporters until nothing but ‘flour’ remains.

The archangel of death keeps in shape to continue his struggle against jihadist forces. Photograph: Abu Azrael/ Facebook

“I never have any leniency for them,” says Azrael, whose real name is Ayyub Faleh al-Rubaie.

Don't be fooled by the big grin, this is one tough warrior. Photograph: Abu Azrael/ Facebook

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.”

Fans have made fan-posters of Azrael. Photograph: Abu Azrael/ Facebook

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.

This scary knife seems quite at home in the hands of Abu Azrael. Photograph: Abu Azrael/ Facebook

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.

The formidable looking Azrael is a father of five. Photograph: Abu Azrael/ Facebook

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.