Al-Hajj Muhammad Ja'afar (center).

Readers of this blog will be familiar with Katibat Dir' al-Watan (Homeland Shield Battalion), which is an affiliate of the Russian-backed V Corps (aka 5th Legion) and is led by al-Hajj Muhammad Ja'afar (originally from the north Lebanese border locality of al-Qasr, also known as Qasr). The group has both Syrian and Lebanese fighters in its ranks, with many originating from localities spanning the porous borders between Homs countryside and north Lebanon, as many Lebanese citizens have long lived in villages on the Syrian side of the border. Katibat Dir' al-Watan's most notable engagement so far has been the broader eastern campaign against the Islamic State.

Though the Islamic State's territorial reach has been greatly diminished, it still clings to some land on the borders between Syria and Iraq and is capable of launching deadly strikes, exploiting a lack of attention devoted to the area in comparison with previous efforts on the part of both the Syrian government and its allies as well as the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces. On 25 January, the Islamic State attacked Katibat Dir' al-Watan positions in the Deir az-Zor countryside near the borders with Iraq, killing approximately 30 fighters, according to a statement from Katibat Dir' al-Watan circles:

The armed terrorist groups launched a wide attack since the middle of the night and fierce battles occurred on the positions belonging to Katibat Dir' al-Watan of al-Hajj Muhammad Ja'afar in the al-Kashma area and the al-Ghariba area in Deir az-Zor countryside, but the terrorist groups were entirely destroyed on the battlefield and all the neighbouring hills were seized. As a result of these confrontations that were decisively resolved since 3 p.m., with all pride and honour we present around 30 martyrs. And the burial will be set at a subsequent time.

As is often the case with reported and self-reported death tolls for groups in particular battles, not all the names of the 'martyrs' will be disclosed for various reasons. However, as regards the 'martyrs' that have been publicised, I have been able to obtain additional information on them via contact with the group. I will present this information below as I believe it can offer some more insight into the composition of the group.

Name: Bilal Fahad Hamoud
Origin: al-Faruqiya (border village in Homs countryside)
Year of birth: 1991
Number of children: N/A
Name: Khalid Shahada al-Daho
Origin: al-Bajajiya (border village in Homs countryside)
Year of birth: 1990
Number of children: Two daughters
Name: Mohsen Salim al-Salim
Origin: al-Ghasaniya (border village in Homs countryside)
Year of birth: 1983
Number of children: One son, one daughter
Name: Waseem Mahmoud al-Ali
Origin: al-Faruqiya
Year of birth: 2000
Number of children: None (unmarried)
Name: Muhammad Hussein al-Salim
Origin: Akum (border village in Homs countryside)
Year of birth: 1988
Number of children: Two sons, one daughter
Name: Ala' Hussein al-Muhammad
Origin: al-Bajajiya
Year of birth: 1985
Number of children: Three daughters
Name: Yusuf Tarad al-Dankawi
Origin: al-Ghasaniya
Year of birth: 1992
Number of children: None (unmarried)
Name: Bassam Ibrahim al-Ali
Origin: al-Salmiya (Hama)
Year of birth: 1990
Number of children: One son, one daughter 
Name: Salim Mustafa Kanyar
Origin: al-Wa'er (Homs city)
Year of birth: 1989
Number of children: One son, one daughter
Name: Abd al-Rahman Khidr al-Hada
Origin: al-Bajajiya (but had lived in al-Qasr)
Year of birth: 1998
Number of children: None (unmarried) 
 
Name: Hassan Saleh al-Muhammad
Origin: al-Aqarabiya (border village in Homs countryside)
Year of birth: 1991
Number of children: None (unmarried)
 

Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi is a research fellow at Middle East Forum's Jihad Intel project.