Fri, Aug 22, 2003 - Page 1 News List

US captures `Chemical Ali' at last

AP , BAGHDAD

The US military announced it had captured Ali Hassan al-Majid, No. 5 on the US most-wanted list as three more bodies were pulled yesterday from the rubble of the UN headquarters in the Iraqi capital, raising the death toll from the devastating blast to 23, a UN spokesman said.

The US military in Baghdad announced yesterday that a 1st Armored Division soldier was killed and two were wounded by an improvised explosive device in the Karkah district of Baghdad. The attack took place late Wednesday night. The military had no other details.

Al-Majid, a cousin of Saddam Hussein, once ran Iraq's armed forces. Opponents had given him the nickname Chemical Ali for his role in 1988 chemical weapons attacks that killed thousands of Kurds in northern Iraq.

US officials at first thought that al-Majid was killed in April in an airstrike on a house in southern Iraq. But General Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters in June that interrogations of Iraqi prisoners indicated that he might be alive.

Officials gave no immediate details yesterday of how he came into US custody.

Hundreds of soldiers and civilians, assisted by sniffer dogs, searched for bodies amid the destroyed UN offices in the Canal Hotel yesterday morning, said David Roath from the US Defense Department, who is overseeing the recovery efforts.

The UN raised its official death toll to 23, the world body's spokesman in Baghdad, Salim Lone, told reporters at the blast scene. Among those killed was the UN's chief envoy to Iraq Sergio Vieira de Mello.

All evidence of human remains was being collected and would be sent to a lab for testing, Roath said, without elaborating.

The hunt for Saddam continued with a raid early yesterday on a farmhouse in the northern town of Abbarah, where an informant told US forces the ousted dictator was hiding. But the tip proved either false or late: Soldiers captured five men in the farmhouse, owned by a Saddam loyalist, but Saddam was not among them. The men were being questioned.

A US civilian working as an interpreter for the US Army was killed Wednesday in an ambush in downtown Tikrit, Saddam's hometown 80km north of Baghdad, said Major Bryan Luke, of the 4th Infantry's 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment. Another interpreter, an Iraqi, was killed Tuesday near the town of Samarra, just south of Tikrit.

US forces captured a suspected senior member of Saddam's Fedayeen militia who was carrying a shopping list for explosives materials near Baqouba, 70km northeast of Baghdad, a military official said yesterday.

The man, identified as Rashid Mohammed, believed to be trying to organize a 600-strong militia in the area and was also holding a list of 10 Iraqi names that US forces believe was an assassination list when soldiers stopped his car on a highway north of Baqouba and detained him along with two others, said Lieutenant Colonel William Adamson from the 588th Engineering Batallion.

Mohammed was detained along with two men who were traveling with him, he added.

In Baghdad, FBI agents searched Wednesday for clues in the rubble at the UN headquarters determined that the bomb was made up of about 450kg of old ordnance, including mortar rounds, artillery shells, hand grenades and a 225kg bomb, Special Agent Thomas Fuentes said.

The explosives were piled -- without "any great degree of sophistication or expertise" -- onto the back of a Soviet-made military flatbed truck known as a KAMAZ, not a cement truck as earlier thought, Fuentes said.

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