Sun, Dec 28, 2003 - Page 7 News List

All but 13 of Iraqi `deck of cards' rounded up


Thirteen fugitives remain from the original "deck of cards" of top Saddam Hussein regime members, but US forces are increasingly focusing on new lists of individuals thought to be taking a more active role in the anti-US insurgency, military intelligence sources say.

To create these lists, US military units and their coalition allies have developed computer databases, which they have updated with information on every bomb blast, firefight, suspect detained and tip provided by a local resident.

The deck of cards, prepared by US intelligence before the March invasion, contains images of the 55 figures that the US military was particularly interested in capturing, beginning with Saddam himself as the ace of spades.

The US troops who entered Iraq also carried a so-called black list of hundreds of second-tier leaders targeted for arrest as well as an even larger gray list, which contains "persons of interest" -- Iraqis wanted for questioning. Those lists have not been updated and have grown less relevant to the current insurgency, a senior US military official said on condition of anonymity.

In Tikrit, Saddam's hometown north of Baghdad, the Army's 4th Infantry Division has found its own informants and databases more useful than the CIA's lists of former regime loyalists, said the division's Lieutenant-Colonel Steven Russell.

The old CIA lists "were the starting point" for rounding up the top officials in Saddam's Baath Party, especially those believed to have committed or ordered atrocities or who had knowledge of unconventional weapons, said Lieutenant-Colonel Ken Devan, the top intelligence officer of the Army's 1st Armored Division, which controls Baghdad.

Since many of those fugitives have already been captured, their interrogations have provided fodder for further fugitive lists and arrests, Devan said.

"It's kind of like pulling on a string. You just keep on pulling and you don't really know what's on the other end," Devan said.

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