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Saddam’s Chemical Ali captured

Tampa (Florida), Aug. 21 (Reuters): Ali Hassan al-Majid, a feared cousin of Saddam Hussein nicknamed “Chemical Ali” for his use of poison gas in attacks, has been captured by US forces in Iraq, the US military said today.

“We do have him and he was captured alive,” US central command spokesman Lt Ryan Fitzgerald said. Fitzgerald said no details were available on the arrest, where it took place, or whether Majid was injured.

Majid was number five on a US list of the 55 most-wanted Iraqis and the “king of spades” in a US army deck of cards depicting fugitive members of Saddam’s government.

Majid’s detention comes after the arrest this week of former Iraqi vice-president Taha Yassin Ramadan in Mosul, the northern Iraqi city where Saddam’s two sons were killed last month by US troops.

“Coalition forces will continue to work at apprehending former members of Saddam Hussein’s regime,” said US central command.

US and British officials targeted Majid in early April in a bomb attack in Basra. British military officials said at the time they believed they had recovered his body.

But a nurse in Baghdad days later said he was in a hospital there joking with staff before making his escape.

Fitzgerald said Majid’s house was attacked in Basra in early April on the belief he was there. “Obviously he was not there and if he was, he survived the attack,” said Fitzgerald.

Majid was a ruthless member of Saddam’s clan who played a leading role in the violent suppression of Iraq’s Kurdish and Shia rebels and the seven-month occupation of Kuwait that began in 1990. He was best known for leading the “Anfal” (spoils of war) campaign against Kurdish rebels who took advantage of Iraq’s 1980-88 war with Iran to step up their long campaign for autonomy in their northern heartlands.

Halabja gassing

Human rights groups say Majid’s scorched earth policy led to the murder or disappearance of some 100,000 Kurds and the forced removal of many more. Hundreds of Kurdish villages and communities were destroyed. In a single attack, some 5,000 men, women and children were killed in Halabja in March 1988, when government forces bombed and shelled the town with gas.

US forces also said today they had arrested a senior Iraqi guerrilla commander after stopping him at a checkpoint near the restive town of Baquba, northeast of Baghdad.

Gen. Rashid Mohammad, a commander of the Fedayeen guerrilla force that had a key role during Saddam Hussein’s rule and has been blamed for many attacks on US troops, was seized yesterday, Lt Col William Adamson said from Iraq.

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