You need to activate Javascript in your Firewall and Browser to get the best out of this multimedia site. There is NO SPYWARE.
Instant Search
Home arrow Blog arrow After 13 years fighting Saddam, Lord of the Marshes wants his country back
After 13 years fighting Saddam, Lord of the Marshes wants his country back Print E-mail
Tag it:
Delicious
Furl it!
Spurl
NewsVine
Reddit
YahooMyWeb
Guerrilla leader who became a legend emerges from hiding

For 13 years he was a defiant symbol of Iraqi resistance. Hunted in vain by Saddam Hussein's militia, the legendary guerrilla fighter Abu Hattem fought an extraordinary campaign against the Iraqi regime from his secluded bases in the poisoned marshland of southern Iraq. Known as the Lord of the Marshes, his exploits earned him a reputation that is a cross between Robin Hood and Lawrence of Arabia, with tales of suicidal missions and narrow escapes. Western journalists tried for years to track him down during the guerrilla years, visiting Iranian border towns in the hope of finding him. They had no more success than the Iraqi secret police. Now that Saddam has fallen, the rebel leader has finally emerged from hiding and has given his first interview to the Guardian. Abu Hattem said many of the legends about him were true. He fought what he calls The War of the Fleas with small groups, continually on the move, a constant source of irritation to the Iraqi army. He could not defeat them in open battle but he left them nervous about entering the marshes. He had under his command at various times anything from a few hundred to 1,000, armed with mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine guns. They slept out in the marshes, a landscape that neutralised the Iraqi army's superior numbers and technology. They had almost no money, and lived on fish and arms smuggling. "Many times they came close to catching me. On the first of July 1997, I was ambushed entering the small town of Maimoona at eight in the evening. My car was destroyed and I had 34 injuries, though only minor. I still have some of the shrapnel in my body," he said. "The regime thought I had been killed and sent congratulations to all the armies in the south." He is a striking figure, tall and thin, part politician, part brigand, dressed in white robes and traditional Arab headdress. He said Saddam did not even know what he looked like. "At one point, the regime was prepared to pay millions of dinars just for a picture." Apart from the Kurds in the north, he is the only one to have mounted a sustained campaign within Iraq. Until now, the idea of someone being able to sustain a campaign for 13 years against the repressive power of Saddam's military seemed extremely improbable. But the events of the past weeks have revealed a powerful rebel leader, whose forces reached the eastern town of Amarra before the US and British; they are now running the town. Politically ambitious, he feels this record entitles him to a say in the future of Iraq. But he is also leader of Hizbollah of Iraq, a name that for the US conjures up Islamist extremism and it may seek to exclude him. He was not invited to the first meeting of Iraqi opposition groups in Nassiriya, in southern Iraq, two weeks ago, hosted by the US and Britain. He may yet abandon the gun and enter into peaceful politics but he said he is prepared too, if necessary, to turn his forces loose against the US and Britain if they overstay their welcome. Asked if he would mount an armed campaign against the US if it stays on, he said: "It depends on the nature of the US presence in Iraq and the time of such a presence. Then, if the people will decide and if the people ask us to fight, we will be the first to take up arms. We did not fight Saddam to have US colonialism." Abu Hattem is a nom de guerre. His original name is Abdul Karim Mahoud al-Hatab, born in Amarra in 1958. He fought with Kurdish guerrillas, the peshmerga, in the north and later studied at a religious school. He was jailed in Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad from 1980 to 1986. On release, he started to organise peaceful dissent. After the invasion of Kuwait in 1990, he switched to guerrilla tactics, seeking a haven in the marshes. He said the most difficult fighting was the year after the first Gulf war. Between February 28 and May 23, he was confronted by the Hamurabi division of the Republican Guard hunting him with helicopter gunships. "We had 43 killed and 413 wounded but they failed to establish control over the marshes. Saddam then began draining the marshes. With the marshes dry, we no longer had natural cover but it was still possible to fight." The biggest engagement after that came between April 28 and May 13 in 1995 when the Iraqi army attacked Um-Jela, south of Amarra. He said the Iraqi army eventually withdrew after suffering losses. Although he owes a lot to the marshes, he will not campaign for the restoration of the water that would bring life back to the marshes and allow the Marsh Arabs to return home. He would like to see it happen but it is not a priority for him. "This period of our lives in the marshes is over. The marshes will not be part of our new agenda." A Shia Muslim, he is vague about that agenda, beyond saying he favours a broad-based democracy. He recognised that when people hear the name Hizbollah, they immediately think of political and religious violence. He insisted that though his group is called Hizbollah, it has no links with the Lebanese-based organisation of the same name. Hizbollah in Lebanon is backed by both Syria and Iran but Abu Hattem said he had not received backing from any country, including Iran. His forces, in civilian clothes and armed with Kalashnikovs, have set up headquarters in the former headquarters of the Iraqi army and Saddam's Ba'ath party in Amarra. They maintain the checkpoints in the town, effectively controlling one of the main north-south routes between Basra and Baghdad. There are mixed feelings in Amarra about the presence of his force. Some residents denounce them as thieves. British forces are standing back - for now. Abu Hattem said: "We have established an understanding with the British forces. The British maintain a symbolic presence and we have a daily meeting with them." He hoped the British and US forces "will go soon". He expected this to happen when security was established - which it has been - and local government set up. He was alarmed by a US proposal last week to maintain four permanent bases in Iraq. "I have the same feelings about this idea as would every single guerrilla fighter round the world who does not want a foreign power over him," he said.Ewen MacAskill in Amarra Monday April 28, 2003 The Guardian - http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,2763,944835,00.html
 
< Prev   Next >
© 2017 Green Politics

This is Keith Richardson's alternative news site. The site aims to promote Truth, Justice, a green clean healthy environment and a wildlife friendly world. It is currently focused on Foreign News and particularly the Middle East.