Ayyub Faleh al-Rubaie (C), known as Abu Azrael -- Father of the Angel of Death -- poses with Shiite fighters at the Speicher military base, near the northern Iraqi city of Tikrit, on March 14, 2015. AFP PHOTO / W.G. DUNLOP
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Abu Azrael – Father of the Angel of Death – is the black-bearded, blade-wielding embodiment of the retribution many Iraqis want against brutal jihadis who seized swathes of their country.It is that idea which many seem to find appealing: a strong response to ISIS, so different from the impotent collapse of Iraqi security forces last June, after which Baghdad turned to volunteer fighters such as Abu Azrael for support.He is also viewed as striking fear into ISIS, both by his appearance and actions, turning the tables on the jihadis who have terrified Iraq.With his right hand broken when he was thrown from a vehicle by a bomb blast, Abu Azrael holds a black-bladed combat knife for now, which he uses to gesture emphatically as he speaks. Abu Azrael listed half a dozen places where he took part in battles against ISIS but said he was a fighter before the current conflict began.Abu Azrael recalled seeing ISIS members "butchering our sons with axes" in the Amerli area, a mostly Shiite town that the jihadis besieged last year.Abu Azrael is also keen to emphasize the importance of other fighters combating ISIS.
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