London, Asharq Al-Awsat – A senior Iraqi security source has confirmed that the terrorist “Abu Deraa” has returned to Baghdad from Iran. Abu Deraa whose real name is Ismail al-Lami and who is known as the “Shiite Zarqawi” is wanted by the Iraqi authorities and the US forces, and according to the source, “may be behind the majority of explosions that have taken place recently in Baghdad and other cities.”
The high-level security source who spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity via telephone from Baghdad yesterday said that Abu Deraa “fled to Iran in late 2008 after being responsible for many of the terrorist operations targeting Sunnis in Iraq since 2004.” The security source confirmed that “our strategic information indicates that he stayed in the city of Qom and that he received further training at the hands of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards to carry out terrorist attacks against the Iraqi and US forces, and Sunni civilians.”
Abu Deraa was part of the Mahdi Army, who facilitated his 2004 trip to Iran under the pretext that he wanted to visit the holy sites there. However Abu Deraa received military training in Iran, and has returned to assume the position of commander of the Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq [a Shiite insurgent group and offshoot of the Mahdi Army] in Sector 74 of Sadr City.
Ismail al-Lami was brought up in one of the poor districts of Sadr City, he did not excel academically and so helped his father sell fish in the city’s al-Maridi market before volunteering to join the Iraqi army where he reached the rank of a non-commissioned officer. However al-Lami deserted the army in 2000, and there was no significant news of him until following the US invasion of Baghdad where he – along with a group of accomplices – was believed to be behind a number of thefts and robberies at commercial, governmental, and non-governmental buildings. He later began to target and kill former Baathists and Iraqi army officers, quickly becoming commander of a brigade of the Mahdi Army, vowing to “clear Baghdad of Sunnis.”
The source denied the reports that Abu Deraa had been killed in November 2006 by US forces, telling Asharq Al-Awsat that “at the time, the US forces had surrounded Abu Deraa in one of the districts of Sadr City but they were unable to capture or kill him.” The security source also revealed to Asharq Al-Awsat that “Abu Deraa specializes in killing people using an electrical drill, and at the time there were a lot of innocent people whose bodies were discovered with head injuries caused by an electric drill.”
The source also said that the false reports of Abu Deraa’s death were rejected by the US forces in mid-November 2008 when “the commander of US battalion that was stationed in Sadr City announced that two of the most prominent members of the Mahdi Army, and they are Abu Deraa and Sheikh Baqir, had left Iraq, but were running the violence in the city through their top aides by forming special groups that were not loyal to leaders of the Sadrist trend, Moqtada al-Sadr. The Aswat al-Iraq news agency quoted the US commander as saying “the most dangerous commanders of the Mahdi Army, Abu Deraa and Sheikh Baqir, formed these special groups that receive no orders from any Iraqi figure.”
The high ranking security source also informed Asharq Al-Awsat that “Abu Deraa, who is currently present in Sadr City, which is information that some security apparatus are aware of, enjoys freedom of movement and action, and he is today a commander in the Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq group that the government had negotiated with and released its leadership in order to win its support prior to the recent elections.”