Baghdad, June 18 (Reuters): US forces in Iraq have captured a top aide of Saddam Hussein, presidential secretary Abid Hamid Mahmud al-Tikriti, who was number four on the list of 55 most wanted Iraqis, the US military said today.
The presidential secretary was the highest-ranked on the list to have been caught so far, being the ace of diamonds in the US “deck of cards” of hunted Iraqis.
US forces have now captured 32 of the 55 on the list.
U.S. Central Command said in a statement that the presidential secretary, who during Saddam's rule was rarely far from the president's side, was captured on Monday. He also had the jobs of National Security Adviser and senior bodyguard.
News of the latest capture came as a senior U.S. general said U.S. troops raided two farmhouses near Tikrit north of Baghdad on Wednesday, capturing as many as 50 of former President Saddam's Special Republican Guard and security forces.
The troops also seized millions of American dollars, British pounds, Euros and Iraqi dinars apparently designated in part to pay bounties to kill American soldiers.
Army Maj. Gen. Ray Odierno told Pentagon reporters in a teleconference from Tikrit that his troops seized $8.5 million dollars, 300 to 400 million dinars, uncounted English pounds and Euros and jewels valued at up to $1 million.
The raids were the latest in a series aimed at trying to halt deadly ambushes on U.S. troops in Iraq.
No U.S. troops were injured in the raids, Odierno said.
The general told reporters that part of the money had likely been set aside by members of Saddam's outlawed Baath Party to pay paramilitary and other supporters of the missing president to kill American troops.
”They have put a bounty on shooting at American soldiers and trying to kill U.S. soldiers,” he said in response to questions. ”There is a bounty out there in some cases. I am not willing to comment on how much it is because I really don't know.”
Other Saddam and Baath supporters captured in recent raids ”have said on several occasions that they are paid a certain amount for shooting at American soldiers,” Odierno added.
”But there has not been a specific amount that has been consistent ... I think a lot of the time they exaggerate it very much when they tell us because they try to make an impression on their interrogators.”