Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Local Hero Inspires Resistance to Insurgency

Baghdad neighbourhood emboldened by local resident who stood up to the insurgents.
By Hussein Ali

Nearly two months after he confronted and killed three insurgents who were terrorising his neighborhood, carpenter Dhia Muhsin said he doesn’t have any regrets.


In fact, he said if insurgents return to his neighborhood, he will shoot first again.


“I expect them (the insurgents) to come back and I’m ready to face them,” said Muhsin, 33.


On March 22, a group of masked gunmen carrying grenades parked their cars in Muhsin’s al-Dora neighbourhood, a working-class area of southern Baghdad. When they began walking down the street, Muhsin and his three nephews, picked up their Kalashnikov rifles and opened fired.


A gun battle ensued and three insurgents were killed, while the others ran off soon after the police arrived. Two of Muhsin’s nephews, ages 13 and 24, were wounded in the fighting.


“After a half hour of fighting, the insurgents fled and three corpses of their friends were left behind,” said neighbour Amjad Hamid, 25, a ministry of justice employee whose mother was injured in the crossfire. “They were killed at the hands of Dhia and his nephews.”


It’s thought to be the first time that ordinary citizens have fought off insurgents.


“At first, I wasn’t prepared,” said Muhsin, “but when I saw them heading toward my shop, I decided to confront them.”


Al-Dora has been a volatile area and a scene of sectarian violence where Sunni insurgents target Shia residents. The gunmen whom Muhsin fought were seen hovering around the Shia Husseiniya mosque before the battle.


Al-Dora residents had been too scared to face down the insurgents but after seeing Muhsin’s bravery, some, it seems, have decided to fight back.


“We are ready to confront any terrorist and the people in the area, after they saw what I did, have become more daring and strong,” said Muhsin.


Mudher Khudher, 42, a bakery owner, said he is proud of Muhsin actions and he and others have decided to follow his example, “Dhia taught us that the terrorists are cowards and they can’t face all Iraqis.”


Saleem Barakat, 32, a student, called Muhsin a hero and noted that their street in al-Dora has been quiet since the insurgents were killed.


But other areas of al-Dora have seen violence since the gun battle. On May 14, three street cleaners were killed when a roadside bomb exploded prematurely. Ten days earlier, there was a suicide car bombing at an Iraqi army checkpoint, killing nine soldiers.


Still, Barakat said all Iraqis should look to Muhsin as an example.


“He stood against the terrorists and stopped them,” he said. “Dhia taught the terrorists a lesson they will never forget.”


Hussein Ali is an IWPR trainee in Baghdad.


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