Monday, June 06, 2005


An Insurgent Called Spark

I was on my way back from the farm to Baghdad last week when I received a telephone call telling me that the boys had been released from prison.

They were Nihad’s brothers. Nihad was a young man who was ‘accidentally’ killed by the US army. I have already told the story in another post. His father was compensated financially. He gave the blood money to the resistance.

Nihad had five brothers ranging in age between 30 and 15. A few weeks after that incident, the father and four of the brothers were ‘detained’ by the US army. Only the youngest, Abbas, was spared.

First they were sent to Abu Ghraib and later transferred to the Bucca Camp down south. They spent some months there, uncharged. That telephone call announced to me their release and arrival home. Their home was on my way, so I decided to drop in and say hello.

I only intended it to be to stay for a short while, but found myself listening to their account of their imprisonment and the numerous anecdotes people usually gather from such experiences… that I stayed there far longer than I had planned.

They said they were generally treated well but had a constant feeling of ‘humiliation’. They were not asked a single question in interrogation or interview. They were released uncharged and untried. Their father remained behind, using his time to memorize as much as he could of the Koran.

Some of the stories they told me were truly fascinating and I certainly hope to relate some of them in this blog sometime. But one of them amused me so much that I find myself giving it priority. It was about an insurgent they met in prison.


The American army in Iraq has been plagued by something they call IED (Improvised Explosive Devices). These devices come in all sorts of shapes and sizes: in rubbish heaps, in dead animal corpses, in little inconspicuous objects thrown on the side of the road in their path. Some are detonated remotely, some are detonated by wire.

One particular insurgent lived in a district called Aamil in western Baghdad close to the road to the airport (or what is now called the Irish Route by the American soldiers). He specialized in filling old tin cans with some dirt and wood sticks and inserting a piece of wire and leaving the ends protruding. He placed those devices on the route of American patrols and convoys. They looked suspicious enough to be taken seriously. Usually the procession was held up until experts examined those devices and declared them safe!

He was called Sharara (Spark).

His game went on for about a year. Finally the US army caught up with him. Late one night, the district was surrounded, helicopters monitored the scene from above and Sharara’s home was encircled. The front door was smashed. There was panic in the family. The man of the house was told that the army wanted Sharara. The man said that his son was asleep, but he would fetch him. Escorted, he came back with Sharara who was half asleep. The soldiers stood bewildered.

Sharara was only a 10 year old boy!

Sharara ended up in prison. This was where Nihad’s brothers met him. It was one of them who told me this story.

Sharara was apparently a character fit for Dickens or Twain. He was the darling of that camp. He kept busy transmitting news and messages between prisoners and coordinating things. And he never stopped ‘targeting’ the Americans. The unit their lot was in was called a ‘caravan’ and housed 25 prisoners. The prisoners were counted at 6 pm and again at 7 am. Every now and then, before the count, Sharara would climb into a small ventilation duct and hide there. The soldier doing the counting (not bothering with those awful sounding names) would find the number one short. He would go and fetch others. Sharara would climb down. On the second count, the number would be complete!

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