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Associated Press November 12, 2005

Top Saddam official reportedly has died

By Robert H. Reid

BAGHDAD - A statement circulated in the name of the Baath Party said Friday that Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, the highest-ranking figure from Saddam Hussein's regime still at large, has died.

The report could not be independently confirmed.

The report was based on an e-mail sent to a Western news agency and signed by the "Arab Socialist Baath Party - Iraq Command."

The statement said al-Douri died early Friday of cancer, according to globalsecurity.org.

U.S. officials believed Douri played a key role in organizing resistance that erupted in 2003 against the U.S.-led coalition and was instrumental in forging links between remnants of Saddam's regime and Islamic extremists.

However, it was unclear whether Douri still played a direct role in commanding the insurgents.

In June, the Iraqi government said he was losing influence among the pro-Saddam wing of the insurgency.

Arab satellite television stations broadcast the report based on the e-mail but said they had no independent confirmation. U.S. and Iraqi officials said they were aware of the report but could not verify it.

In Amman, Jordan, the secretary-general of the Jordanian Baath wing, Tayseer al-Homsi, said he had no information except what he had seen on television newscasts.

There was no such statement on Baath Web sites.

Douri, born in 1942, was one of Saddam's longtime lieutenants and officially the No. 2 man in Iraq's ruling hierarchy when the Baath regime collapsed as U.S. troops occupied Baghdad in April 2003. He was No. 6 on the American "deck of cards" list.

He escaped the U.S. dragnet after the collapse of the regime and had been rumored to be in Syria or elsewhere.

U.S. officials believed he was a key figure in organizing resistance against the U.S.-led coalition.

Douri had been rumored to be suffering from a serious illness before Saddam's regime fell. He sought medical treatment in Austria in 1999 but had to leave abruptly after human rights groups threatened to file charges against him in Austrian courts.

Last June, the Iraqi government said in a statement that Douri was sick and losing influence among Baath party leaders but had nonetheless retained his ability to "recruit terrorists and finance terrorist attacks with money he stole from Iraq and transferred to Syria during the rule of the tyrant Saddam."

Douri had been rumored to have been arrested several times before, most notably in September 2004, when Iraqi authorities announced his capture during a raid near his home village near Tikrit.

Later, the Iraqi Defense Ministry said the report of Douri's capture was false.

 


Copyright 2005, Associated Press