Dr. Hamdi Malik is an Associate Fellow with the Washington Institute, specializing in Shia militias. He is the co-founder of the Militia Spotlight platform, which offers in-depth analysis of developments related to the Iranian-backed militias in Iraq and Syria. He is the coauthor of the Institute's 2020 study "Honored, Not Contained: The Future of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces."
Unit 10,000 is Kataib Hezbollah's premier online facade group, specializing in the publication of resistance propaganda and the development of "electronic armies" capable of hacking, information operations, and open-source intelligence gathering.
Name: Al-Wehda 10,000 (Unit 10,000).
Type of movement: Media facade for Kataib Hezbollah (KH). Provides training for nonkinetic activities, with a focus on information operations. Propaganda social media channel. Nonviolent support to kinetic military and paramilitary activities.
History and objectives:
Unit 10,000 is a highly influential Telegram channel with thousands of subscribed followers. At various points in 2020-2021, the account was among the most influential media outlets connected to the muqawama (resistance), with apparent insider information and advance warning of events and attacks.
Unit 10,000 was created in December 2016 as a personal channel posting non-muqawama content. On April 29, 2020, the first muqawama-related message was posted. The account name was likely changed to Unit 10,000 around this time.
The channel's objectives include providing training for muqawama groups to engage in a variety of activities. The training courses include:
Management of propaganda channels
Open-source intelligence gathering, including geographic information systems
Manufacturing and using quadcopter or fixed-wing drones
Self-defense and fighting systems, mainly Krav Maga.
Unit 10,000 mainly uses disinformation in its information operations. It does not post as frequently as some channels (e.g., Sabereen News), but it leads other muqawama propaganda channels when it is engaged in spreading disinformation. Other muqawama channels appear to respect Unit 10,000 and its creator(s), referring to it as an “intelligence” unit.
In 2020, the account appeared to enjoy significant insider information and play a support role in kinetic operations by disseminating news of attacks, displaying a close affinity with KH. From around February 2021 onward, it took on a propaganda and informational role more similar to that of Sabereen News. Unit 10,000 has been the primary source or a key propagator for many fake attacks and campaigns. Its role as a communicator of insider KH information has been taken up by a number of smaller accounts. The inception date and posting style of these smaller accounts raises the possibility that Unit 10,000 is running them as lower-profile satellites for carrying out informational tasks that Unit 10,000 is now too prominent and well-observed to achieve.
Chain of command:
The preponderance of the evidence indicates that Unit 10,000 is controlled by Kataib Hezbollah. This is based on based on analysis of media linkages between Unit 10,000 and other KH-run channels. KH channels occasionally operate together in a coordinated manner; other times, they collectively remain silent on issues covered extensively by other muqawama media. Unit 10,000 consistently operates in-line with these KH accounts. It also champions KH-affiliated groups over those believed to be affiliated with other major militias. For example, Unit 10,000 rarely mentions Ashab al-Kahf (which is controlled by Asaib Ahl al-Haq), but has championed the KH-controlled Qasem al-Jabbarin on dozens of occasions.
Unit 10,000 supports a few groups engaged in cyberattacks, such as:
In contrast, Unit 10,000 has had a tumultuous relationship with Sabereen News (which is controlled by Asaib Ahl al-Haq). In October 2020, the two channels announced a partnership, but this alliance broke apart between November 2020 and January 2021 during an apparent rift within the muqawama over strategy toward coalition forces. During this time, the two channels appeared to criticize one another in various posts. The relationship healed after January, though the channels remain distinct.
Unit 10,000 operates its own media channel on Telegram.