Iraqi of­fi­cials be­lieve Sad­dam’s top deputy al-Douri killed

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY QAS­SIM AB­DUL-ZAHRA AND VI­VIAN SALAMA

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.

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