Skip to main content

Who is Najah al-Shammari, former Iraqi defense minister arrested in Sweden?

Shammari served in the Iraqi military under Saddam Hussein and following the 2003 US invasion, and was under investigation for fraud.
Army Staff Sgt. Brandy Nicole Mejia, DOD

A former Iraqi defense minister was arrested in Sweden earlier this week, a significant step in the years-long case against him.

Najah al-Shammari was arrested upon arrival at Stockholm’s international airport on Monday night on suspicion of illegally receiving benefits. Prosecutors allege that Shammari received support from the Swedish government while living and receiving a salary in Iraq, Swedish media reported on Tuesday.

The Iraqi embassy in Stockholm did not immediately reply to Al-Monitor’s request for comment.

Who is Shammari? Shammari, 57, was born in Baghdad in 1967. He served as an officer in the Iraqi army in the 1990s during the reign of Saddam Hussein, according to the Iraqi news outlet Shafaq.

Shammari continued to serve in the Iraqi military after the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Hussein. He was defense minister under former Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi from 2019 until 2020.

In 2009, Shammari came to Sweden and received percent residence in 2011, after which he brought his family to the country. He obtained Swedish citizenship in 2015, according to the Swedish news outlet TV4.

The investigation: Swedish authorities opened investigations into Shammari in 2019 in regard to benefits fraud and tax law violations. Authorities suspected he had told them he was living in Sweden when he was actually working in Iraq. Shammari was also placed under investigation for war crimes after being accused of killing and wounding Iraqi protesters. Shammari denied the allegations, the New York Times reported at the time.

The anti-government Tishreen protests began in Iraq in 2019. Security forces had killed around 600 protesters by 2021, when the demonstrations died down, according to the International Crisis Group.

The Swedish news outlet SVT reported on Tuesday that the war crimes investigation into Shammari has been closed.

Know more: Sweden has a large Iraqi immigrant and refugee population. In 2023, there were more than 145,000 Iraqi-born people in Sweden, according to Statista.

Iraqis began arriving in Sweden in large numbers during the 1980s. Sweden has long had a welcoming policy toward refugees as well as extensive social benefits.