Last updated: 10 August, 2011

Iraq’s Sadr says Iran will not hand over militant

Radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr said on Wednesday that Iran has refused to hand over a militant known as the “Shiite Zarqawi,” a former commander in his militia, to face justice in Iraq.

“We demanded that they return him back to Iraq but they refused,” Sadr said in a message released by his office in Najaf, in response to a question by one of his followers.

Sadr expressed regret that “the one who must be eliminated is not being eliminated, and the one who needs shelter is not sheltered.”

Abu Deraa, who fled to Iran in 2008, is the nom de guerre of Ismail al-Lami, a military leader of Sadr’s Mahdi Army until he was disowned by the militia for alleged atrocities during sectarian Shiite-Sunni conflicts that peaked in 2006-2007.

Sunnis had nicknamed him the “Shiite Zarqawi,” a reference to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the slain former leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq who had launched a war against the country’s Shiites.

Sadr said in a letter released in June that militiamen loyal to Abu Deraa “are criminals without faith and the government should stop them, as well as the people of this district, by engaging tribal leaders or district officials.”

During the sectarian war of 2006 and 2007 Abu Deraa was accused of killing a large number of Sunnis, whom he had vowed to wipe out from the capital. Tens of thousands of people were killed during that time.