It was formed by Uday Hussein, one of Saddam Hussein’s sons, in 1995. It began as a 10,000-15,000 strong ragtag force recruited from young men living the regions most loyal to the Ba’ath Party, primarily in the Sunni regions of central Iraq. Uday used it for personal ends as well as smuggling and to supress opponents. He was removed from command of the militia in 1996 for directing sophisticated weapons to it from the Republican Guard. The control was temporarily placed to Qusay Hussein. In recent years, the force was placed back under his control. The deputy commander of the Fedayeen Saddam was Staff Lieutenant General Mezahem Saab Al Hassan Al-Tikriti.
The Fedayeen Saddam was not part of Iraq’s regular armed forces but rather operated as a paramilitary unit. The Fedayeen reported directly to the Presidential Palace, rather than through the army chain of command. The Fedayeen were not an elite military force, often having been poorly trained and without heavy weapons. They were, however, among the most loyal organizations to the government of Saddam Hussein and were a politically reliable force against domestic opponents. They committed some of the most brutal acts while the Ba’athist regime was in power in Iraq. It was reported to operate a death squad that conducted extra-judicial killings. They were widely reported to have conducted an alleged anti-prostitution campaign in which more than 200 women were beheaded. Many of the victims were charged to have been political opponents rather than prostitutes. The Fedayeen also conducted other widespread campaigns of assassination and intimidations, as well as organized smuggling and other illegal efforts along Iraq’s borders.
The Fedayeen Saddam did not arise to major international attention, however, until the 2003 invasion of Iraq by U.S led coalition forces. Whereas the Iraqi regular forces, as well as the Republican Guard, melted away before the coalition, Fedayeen forces put up stiff and often fanatical resistance to the coalition invasion. The U.S strategy was to bypass the cities and head straight to Baghdad. In response, Fedayeen fighters entrenched themselves in the cities and launched guerilla-style strikes on rear U.S supply convoys attempting to sustain the rapid advance. The Fedayeen also used intimidation to strengthen the resolve of the Iraqi army and keep civilians from rebelling. The U.S was forced to turning it’s attention to the slow task of rooting out irregular forces from the southern cities, delaying the advance by two weeks.
During the invasion, Fedayeen fighters wielded AK-47 assault rifles, rocket propelled grenades, machine guns, and truck-mounted artillery and mortars. They made extensive use of subterfuge in an attempt to blunt the overwhelming technological advantage enjoyed by the invading forces. The irregular fighters often wore civilian clothes to confuse coalition forces, and falsely surrendered as a pretext for ambushing advancing U.S soldiers, among other incidents.
By the beginning of April, U.S forces had mostly succeeded in rooting out Fedayeen forces from the southern cities. The Shiite population was very unsupportive of the fighters, although many were intimidated. This factor, coupled with overwhelming firepower, quickly gave U.S forces a decisive edge. This reduced the pressure on the stretched supply lines, enabling the advance to continue. On April 9, Baghdad fell to American forces with only sporadic resistance by Fedayeen irregulars and foreign volunteers, effectively ending the regime of Saddam Hussein. Tikrit, the last city, to fall, was taken on April 14.
The fall of Baghdad effectively ended the existence of the Fedayeen Saddam as an organized paramilitary. Many of its members died during the war. A large number survived, however, and were willing to carry on the fight even after the fall of Saddam Hussein from power. Many former members joined guerilla organizations, collectively known as the Iraqi resistance that began to form to resist the U.S-led occupation. By June, an insurgency was clearly underway in the central and northern Iraq, especially in an area known as the Sunni Triangle. Some units of the Fedayeen also continued to operate independently of other insurgent organizations in the Sunni areas of Iraq. On November 30, a U.S convoy traveling through the town of Samarra in the Sunni Triangle was ambushed by over 100 Iraqi guerillas, reportedly wearing trademark Fedayeen Saddam uniforms.