The Fedayeen Saddam was a paramilitary organization that functioned as a death squad for the Ba'athist Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein, active from 1995 until the fall of the Ba'athist regime in 2003. The name was chosen to mean "Saddam's Men of Sacrifice". At its height, the group had 30,000–40,000 members.
Uday Hussein formed the Fedayeen Saddam in 1995 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. Command of the militia was handed to Qusay Hussein in 1996 when it was uncovered that Uday was diverting weapons to the militia from the Iraqi Republican Guard.
Before Saddam was removed from power, the force was placed back under Uday's control. In 1998 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 2003 invasion of Iraq by U.S.-led coalition forces. Whereas the Iraqi army and the Republican Guard quickly collapsed, Fedayeen forces put up stiff resistance to the coalition invasion. U.S. strategy was to bypass other cities and head straight to Baghdad. In response, Fedayeen fighters entrenched themselves in the cities and launched guerrilla-style attacks on rear supply convoys.
These convoys were attempting but usually falling short of keeping up with the rapid advance to Baghdad. They were attempting to sustain the rapid advance by bringing up food, water, ammunition, medical supplies and mail from back home. These were very lightly armed cargo trucks driving as fast as they could on dirt roads mainly in southern Iraq, after loading supplies in Kuwait. Once they started to get close to central Iraq more and more paved roads were available. They were almost always at least a few days behind. This made the resupply convoys vulnerable to attack. In these trucks were usually low to mid ranking enlisted soldiers with mostly no combat experience before this. For instance these cargo trucks mainly were only defended by the two rifles the driver and truck commander had. So even with a relatively small force the Fedayeen could attack several of the last trucks in a convoy, or trucks that had lost contact with the convoy. It was easy for the Fedayeen to capture or destroy these isolated poorly defended vehicles.
The Fedayeen also used intimidation in an attempt to maintain morale in the Iraqi army and to keep civilians from rebelling. The multinational coalition was forced to turn its 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 mostly 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 used by the invading forces.
By the end of the first week of April, Coalition forces had mostly succeeded in rooting out Fedayeen forces from the southern cities. The Shiite population was very un-supportive of the fighters, although many were intimidated. This factor, coupled with overwhelming firepower, quickly gave U.S. forces in the area a decisive edge. This reduced the pressure on the stretched supply lines, enabling the advance to continue. On April 9, Baghdad fell to U.S. forces with only sporadic resistance by Fedayeen irregulars, foreign volunteers, and remnants of the Special Republican Guard, effectively ending the regime of Saddam Hussein. Tikrit, the last city to fall, was taken on April 15.