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The name was chosen to mean "Saddam's Men of Sacrifice". At its height, the group had 30,—40, members. The Fedayeen Saddam was not part of Iraq 's regular armed forces but rather operated as a paramilitary unit of irregular forces. As a result of this, the Fedayeen reported directly to the Presidential Palace , rather than through the military chain of command. Whilst paramilitary the Fedayeen were not an elite military force, often receiving just basic training and operating without heavy weapons.
Much like other paramilitaries, the Fedayeen was volunteer based and the units were never given an official salary. As a result, most of the members resorted to extortion and theft of property from the general population, even though the members had access to sanction-evading trade and high quality services i. As the group had no overt religious affiliations, it had a mix of Sunni and Shia members. The Fedayeen were among the most loyal organizations to the government of Saddam Hussein and were a politically reliable force against domestic opponents.
The Fedayeen played a role in the war, resisting the American-led invasion. Uday Hussein formed the Fedayeen Saddam in with ten to fifteen thousand recruits from the Iraqi regions most loyal to the Ba'ath Party. Uday used the Fedayeen for personal reasons such as smuggling and suppressing opponents. Before Saddam was removed from power, the force was placed back under Uday's control.
In the Ashbal Saddam Saddam's Lion Cubs was created to recruit and train young children for membership in the Fedayeen. The Ashbal recruited boys aged 10 to 15 for training in small arms and infantry tactics as well as loyalty conditioning.
The Fedayeen Saddam did not rise to major international attention, however, until the invasion of Iraq by U. Whereas the Iraqi army and the Republican Guard quickly collapsed, Fedayeen forces put up stiff resistance to the coalition invasion. In response, Fedayeen fighters entrenched themselves in the cities and launched guerrilla-style attacks on rear supply convoys.