Abu Deraa

Abu Deraa
Native name اسماعيل حافظ اللامي
Birth name Ismail Hafez Al-Lami
Nickname(s) Abu Deraa
Born Tigris-Euphrates marshlands, Iraq
Allegiance Mahdi Army (formerly)

Ismail Hafidh Al-Lami — known as "Abu Deraa" (Arabic: أبو درع, "Father of the Shield") — is an Iraqi Shia warlord whose men have been accused of terrorizing and killing Sunnis. His aim has apparently been to avenge Shia deaths at the hands of Sunni militants in Iraq, though he has stated that he is fighting for all Iraqis and only targets the 'occupiers'.[1]


Little is known about Abu Deraa's background, however, judging by his surname, he probably hails from the Ma'dan Bani Lam tribe. He is believed to have fled to Sadr City as a refugee, having fled to Baghdad following the destruction of the Shiite villages in Iraq's southern marshes. He is believed to be married, with two children.[2]

Abu Deraa operated out of Sadr City, which is also the stronghold of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's militia, the Mahdi Army. He has gained a reputation for his command of Shiite death squads and brutal attacks targeting Sunni Muslims and cases of mass kidnappings in broad daylight.

He was also accused of orchestrating the kidnapping and assassination of Saddam Hussein's lawyer Khamis al-Obeidi. Abu Deraa's son was reported to have pulled the trigger.[3] He is thought to have been recently disavowed, at least tacitly, by Muqtada al-Sadr due to his unmitigated killing sprees.[4]

Militias loyal to Abu Deraa were also known to burn houses that belonged to Sadr City's Sunni minority as part of their campaign to cleanse the area from Sunnis.[5]


False claims of death

In a statement released December 4, 2006, the Islamic State of Iraq claimed responsibility for the killing of Abu Deraa on a road north of Baghdad.[9] The claim came three days after a statement released by the Islamic Army in Iraq that also claimed responsibility for the killing of Abu Deraa.[10] It has been claimed that he had taken part in a by-proxy interview with Sydney Morning Herald conducted by veteran Middle East correspondent Paul McGeough on December 20, 2006.[3] His first exclusive interview was with Reuters news agency published on November 16, 2006.

According to US intelligence, Abu Deraa fled to Iran, to evade capture in early 2007 and has since then commanded his forces from out Iran.[11] In August 2010, after Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki formed a coalition government with rebel cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, there were reports that Abu Deraa was allowed to return to Iraq.[12]

2014 appearance

Abu Deraa appeared in an anti-ISIS rally staged by the Promised Day Brigades in June 2014 in a show of force in response to recent ISIS gains.[2]

In popular culture

According to Alex Von Tunzelmann of The Guardian, the character known as "The Butcher" in the widely seen American movie American Sniper (2014), may be based loosely on Abu Deraa.[13]

See also

External links


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