U.S. says hunt still on for top Saddam aide
American military officials said Monday the hunt is still on for the highest-ranking member of Saddam’s former regime and one of the suspected leaders of part of the insurgency.
Conflicting reports this weekend said Izzat Ibrahim al Douri, the former Interior Minister and a man described as one of Saddam’s closest associates, had died while still at large. An announcement on a Web site with ties to the former ruling Baath Party said he had died; later, that claim was retracted by a different Web site claiming party ties as well. But U.S. officials said Monday a $10 million reward “leading to al Douri’s capture or his gravesite” was still in effect.
“Numerous reports indicate he is suspected to be in poor health and running out of hiding places and supporters willing to help him in northern Iraq,” a U.S. military release from Baghdad read. “Officials believe that al Douri still has access to funds that he personally transferred to Syria. This money was looted from Iraq during the Saddam Hussein reign and is now being used to recruit and finance numerous insurgent attacks in Iraq.”
U.S. and Iraqi officials believe al Douri’s influence with the former Baathists in the insurgency “has rapidly diminished” because of his being forced into hiding.
Al Douri has also been accused of playing a “key role” in chemical attacks on Kurdish villages in Halabjah in 1988, which killed an estimated 5,000 civilians. That incident is one among several which Saddam is likely to be tried for, officials have said. Al Douri also is allegedly responsible for torture and executions during the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait and the Shiite uprisings after the first Gulf War.
Al Douri was reported to be suffering from a long-standing illness, possibly