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Abu Deraa ("Father of the Shield")(Arabic أبو درع) (real name: Ismail al-Zerjawi Hafidh)(Arabic أسماعيل حافظ الزيرجاوي), is an Iraqi Shiite warlord whose men have been accused of terrorizing and killing Sunnis. His aim has apparently been to avenge Shiite 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] Abu Deraa operates 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. Many Shiites see him as a brave warrior who has inflicted misery on Sunni insurgents but Sunnis see him as a sectarian warlord who targets Sunnis because of their background. 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.[2 ] He is thought to have been recently disavowed, at least tacitly, by Muqtada al-Sadr due to his unmitigated killing sprees. [3] Abu Deraa previously owned a small fish market in Sadr City prior to joining the al-Mahdi Army. The warlord has two sons currently in U.S. custody and another son with an amputated limb due to a U.S. airstrike.



  • Deraa is said to have been responsible for the abduction of scores of Sunnis whose bodies have been recovered from a garbage tip 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 death, driving the ambulances into the Sunni-dominated quarter of Adhamiyah in Baghdad, announcing over the loudspeakers: "Please give blood for the insurgency! The Shiia are killing your insurgency brothers."[4 ]
  • 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.[5 ] 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. [6]

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. [7] 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. [8] 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.[2 ] His first exclusive interview was with Reuters news agency published on November 16, 2006. Although no one is sure that he is still alive.

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