Iraqi officials believe Saddam’s top deputy al-Douri killed
He was the last member of Saddam Hussein’s inner circle still on the run, depicted with his distinctive red moustache as the “king of clubs” on the U.S. military’s deck of cards of most-wanted Iraqi regime fugitives.
Now, officials say they believe government forces killed Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri near Tikrit, where the former deputy to Saddam was working alongside Islamic State militants.
Reports of al-Douri’s death came Friday as Iraqi forces tried to push back Islamic State group fighters in Salahuddin province, where Tikrit is located. Government troops took back several towns near Iraq’s largest oil refinery at Beiji, officials said.
Farther north, a car bomb ex- ploded next to the U.S. Consulate in the city of Irbil, a rare attack in the capital of the Kurdish autonomous zone that killed three people and wounded five, police said. U.S. officials said no Americans were hurt and no casualties among consulate personnel or guards.
An Associated Press reporter at the scene said the blast went off outside a cafe next to the building in the Ankawa neighborhood, setting several nearby cars on fire. Shortly afterward, the Islamic State group claimed responsibility, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks militant websites.
The report of al-Douri’s death was not the first time Iraqi officials have claimed to have killed or captured the 72-year-old former aide to Saddam.
According to Raed al-Jabouri, the governor of Salahuddin province, alDouri was killed by Iraqi troops and Shiite militiamen in an operation in the Talal Hamreen mountains east of Tikrit, Saddam’s hometown, which was retaken from the Islamic State group earlier this month.
Troops opened fire at a convoy carrying al-Douri and nine bodyguards, killing all of them, Gen. Haider al-Basri, a senior commander, told state TV.
The government issues several photos showing a body purported to be al-Douri. The body had a bright red beard, perhaps dyed, and a ginger-colored moustache. Al-Douri was a fair-skinned redhead with a ginger moustache, making him distinctive among the members of Saddam’s inner circle.
Karim al-Nouri, a spokesman for the Popular Mobilization Forces, said the body was brought Friday night to Baghdad for DNA tests, which should be completed within 48 hours.
Col. Pat Ryder, spokesman for U.S. Central Command, said the U.S. had no information to corroborate the reported death of al-Douri.
In 2013, the Iraqi government said it arrested al-Douri, circulating a photo of a bearded man who resembled him. It later said it was a case of mistaken identity.
Al-Douri was officially the No. 2 man in Iraq’s ruling hierarchy. He served as vice chairman of Saddam’s Revolutionary Command Council, was one of Saddam’s few longtime confidants, and his daughter was married briefly to Saddam’s son, Odai, who was killed with his brother, Qusai, by U.S. troops in Mosul after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.