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Saddam top deputy Izzat Ibrahim has died: Report
(USA Today)
Updated: 2005-11-13 09:39

former Baath Party members appeared to confirm an e-mail announcing the death of Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri that circulated a day earlier. He was believed to be at least 62.

SaSaddam Hussein, right, and Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri, left, attend a military parade in December 2000.ddam Hussein, right, and Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri, left, attend a military parade in December 2000. [AP]
"In the pure land of Iraq, the soul of comrade Izzat Ibrahim returned to God on Friday at dawn," the website statement said. It described al-Douri as the "field commander of the heroic resistance" and was signed by the Baath party's "political media and publishing office."

The statement appeared Saturday on a website believed run by Salah al-Mukhtar, who was Saddam's ambassador to India and head of the External Information Department.

Al-Douri relatives still living in Iraq refused Saturday to comment on the announcement, but some people close to Saddam outside the country were treating it as accurate.

U.S. officials believed al-Douri, one of Saddam's oldest and closest associates, 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 the ousted regime and Islamic extremists.

As the insurgency spread, the United States and its allies offered a $10 million reward for information leading to al-Douri's capture.

It was unclear whether al-Douri, who had been in poor health for years, still played a direct role in leading the insurgency. In June, the Iraqi government said he was losing influence among the pro-Saddam wing of the rebellion.

An e-mail sent Friday to a Western news agency in the name of the "Arab Socialist Baath Party — Iraq Command" said al-Douri died at 2:30 a.m. Friday but gave no indication of the cause. Al-Douri had been in poor health for years.

Arab satellite television stations broadcast the report of al-Douri's death late Friday based on the e-mail but said they had no independent confirmation. U.S. and Iraqi officials in Iraq also said they were aware of the report but could not verify it.

In Amman, Jordan, a member of the Jordanian branch of the Baath Party said he read the Web statement and appeared to consider it accurate.

"Izzat Ibrahim is a warrior and a militant who graduated from the school of the leader, Saddam Hussein, and both are graduates from the school of the Baath," said lawyer Ziad al-Najdawi, who has ties to Saddam's family.

"He died while holding a gun and remained a leader for the resistance and liberation forces, rejecting American terrorism and Persian rule in Iraq."

Al-Najdawi said al-Douri's death would not affect the insurgency "because there are many men who can replace him."

Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari said he could not confirm al-Douri's death but said he considered all Saddam lieutenants to have "died when the regime fell."

"The death of the body is nothing new, whether with him or other officials," al-Jaafari said.

Al-Douri, born in 1942, had been a close associate of Saddam throughout his rule and officially was 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" of most-wanted fugitives.

Al-Douri, who had a reputation for ruthlessness, played a key role in the 1968 coup that brought the Baath party to power and in latter years served as vice chairman of the Revolution Command Council. His daughter briefly was married to Saddam's son, Uday, but the marriage ended in divorce.

He was placed in command of Iraqi forces in the north just before the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003 but escaped the U.S. dragnet after organized resistance collapsed. He was rumored to be in Syria or elsewhere.

In April 2004, then-U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said al-Douri had taken command of the insurgency after Saddam was captured near Tikrit the previous December.

Several family members, including his wife, were detained in late 2003 in hopes of pressuring him into surrendering.

Al-Douri had been rumored to be suffering from a serious illness, possibly leukemia, 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.

In June, the Iraqi government said in a statement that al-Douri was sick and losing influence among Baath party leaders but 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."

Al-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 was false.

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