Abu Deraa

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Abu Deraa
Native name
اسماعيل حافظ اللامي
Birth nameIsmail Hafiz al-Lami
Nickname(s)Abu Deraa
BornTigris-Euphrates marshlands, Iraq
AllegianceMahdi Army (formerly)

Ismail Hafidh al-Lami (Arabic: اسماعيل حافظ اللامي‎)— known as Abu Deraa (Arabic: أبو درع‎, "Father of Shield) — is an Iraqi Shia militant whose men have been accused of terrorizing and killing Sunnis. His aim is allegedly to avenge Shia deaths at the hands of Sunni militants in Iraq, though he himself 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]


  • Deraa is said to have been responsible for the abduction of scores of Sunnis whose bodies have been recovered from a garbage dump at al-Sada, a lawless wasteland near Sadr City.
  • He allegedly commandeered a fleet of government ambulances with which he lured 40–50 young Sunnis to their deaths, driving the ambulances into the Sunni-dominated quarter of Adhamiyah in Baghdad, announcing over the loudspeakers: "Please give blood for the Mujahideen! The Shiia are killing your Mujahideen brothers."[6]
  • Abu Deraa is also rumoured to have masterminded the kidnapping of Sunni MP Tayseer al-Mashhadani in July 2006, who was released after two months of captivity.[7] He also is said to have supervised the forced eviction of hundreds of Sunni families from Shiite-dominated areas of the capital and some outlying towns.
  • Deraa is reputed to have overseen the abduction of five British citizens from the Iraqi Finance Ministry on May 29, 2007.[8]

False claims of death[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Baghdad Shi'ite militant says fighting for all Iraqis Reuters, November 16, 2006
  2. ^ a b "Abu Deraa, Accused Mass Killer Of Sunnis Known As The 'Zarqawi Of The Shiites,' Seen In Iraq". International Business Times. 22 June 2014. Retrieved 7 November 2014.
  3. ^ a b Face to face with Iraq's most wanted Sydney Morning Herald, December 20, 2006
  4. ^ Al-Sadr's Weakening Grip on the Mahdi Army Archived 2007-04-26 at the Wayback Machine Jamestown Foundation, October 10, 2006
  5. ^ [1]
  6. ^ Lawyer's fate sealed with judas kiss Sydney Morning Herald, August 23, 2006
  7. ^ Kidnapped Iraqi lawmaker released CNN, August 26, 2007
  8. ^ Death squad leader behind abduction of five Britons is named The Times, September 13, 2007
  9. ^ Islamic State of Iraq Claims Responsibility for Killing Shi'ite Militia Commander Abu Deraa Archived September 28, 2007, at the Wayback Machine SITE Institute, December 4, 2006
  10. ^ Intelligence Corps of the Islamic Army in Iraq Announces the Killing of Abu Deraa[permanent dead link] SITE Institute, December 1, 2006
  11. ^ United States Department of the Treasury Treasury Designates Individuals, Entity Fueling Iraqi Insurgency Archived 2010-05-28 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ "Butcher of Baghdad 'returns' amid turmoil". UPI. Retrieved 7 November 2014.
  13. ^ Von Tunzelmann, Alex (20 Jan 2015). "Is American Sniper historically accurate?". The Guardian. Retrieved 31 Jan 2015.