Saddam Hussein's morale has plummeted due to the gravity of the war crimes charges he faces, according to the judge trying him, while US and Iraqi forces arrested an Iraqi regarded as a top terror leader in northern Iraq.
Meanwhile, four Iraqi soldiers were killed by bombs yesterday, police said, while in the north of the country the Kurdish parliament opened its first session since its election on Jan. 30.
In Balad, 90km north of Baghdad, a car bomb explosion killed three Iraqi soldiers guarding a checkpoint yesterday. The police said the explosion also injured two other soldiers and one civilian bystander.
Elsewhere a roadside bomb killed a passing Iraqi soldier and wounded two others in the center of the restive city of Fallujah Saturday, police said. The bomb went off when the three soldiers were passing in military vehicles in downtown Fallujah.
On the main road between Fallujah and Habbaniya, witnesses reported the explosion of a roadside bomb while a U.S. military patrol was passing by near Falahat village. The witnesses said there were casualties among the troops but there was no immediate confirmation by the US military.
The chief investigating judge, Raid Juhi, who is the head of the Iraqi Special Tribunal set up to try Saddam, told the London-based Asharq al-Awsat newspaper in an interview that the ousted president and some of the 11 other detained former regime figures are facing "12 cases" carrying punishments from life in jail to the death penalty.
"The ousted president has suffered a collapse in his morale because he understands the extent of the charges against him and because he's certain that he will stand tribal before an impartial court," Juhi was quoted as saying.
Saddam, who is being held in a US-run detention facility in Baghdad, was captured in December 2003 and faces charges including killing rival politicians during his 30-year rule, gassing Kurds, invading Kuwait and suppressing Kurdish and Shiite uprisings in 1991.
No date has been set for the start of Saddam's trial, but Juhi reiterated comments made last week by President Jalal Talabani to CNN that the former dictator was expected to face the tribunal within two months. Juhi said Saddam will be tried alone in some case and alongside other detainees in other cases.
In a coup for security forces battling a raging insurgency in northern Iraq, Mullah Mahdi was detained early yesterday along with his brother, three other Iraqis and a non-Iraqi Arab national in eastern Mosul. An Iraqi army Major General said the suspect was captured following a brief clash in eastern Mosul. Mullah Mahdi is suspected of affiliation with the Ansar al-Sunnah Army, one of Iraq's most feared terror groups, and had links to the Syrian intelligence service.
"He was wanted for almost all car bombs, assassinations of high officials, beheadings of Iraqi policemen and soldiers and for launching attacks against multi-national forces," al-Obeidi said.
On Friday, the Association of Muslim Scholars, an influential Sunni group with ties to some insurgents, called for an end to a counterinsurgency in Baghdad, saying it overwhelmingly targets members of their religious minority.
The interior minister has said at least 700 suspected insurgents have been rounded up in the sweep, known as Operation Lightning, which has also killed 28 militants.