U.S. closing in on Saddam through relatives

Friday, April 18, 2003

The United States has begun capturing members of Iraq's deposed ruling family.

U.S. officials said coalition special operations forces have captured President Saddam Hussein's half-brother during a raid in Baghdad. Officials said Barzan Tikriti, No. 52 on the U.S. most wanted list of Iraqis, was captured on late Wednesday in Baghdad.

"The capture demonstrates the coalition's commitment to relentlessly pursuing the scattered remnants of a fractured regime," Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks, deputy operations chief for U.S. Central Command, said. "We are currently asking a number of questions, finding out whatever we can from this capture."

For the U.S.-led coalition, the capture of Tikriti is regarded as having special significance for intelligence units. Tikriti supporters had claimed that he was killed in a U.S. bombing of his farm on April 11, Middle East Newsline reported.

Tikriti is said to be one of three half brothers of Saddam. One of them, Watban Tikriti, was captured by coalition forces on Sunday. The third half brother, Sabawi Tikriti is believed to have fled to Syria.

Barzan, 53, served as head of intelligence and was said to have been the chief financial adviser of the president. He is the youngest of Saddam's three half brothers.

Officials said the capture of Tikriti could result in information on Saddam's fortune. During his tenure as Iraqi ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Tikriti is said to have funneled Saddam's cash reserves to European banks.

"Barzan is an adviser to the former regime leader with extensive knowledge of the regime's inner working," Brooks said.

So far, officials said they remain uncertain over the fate of Saddam and his two sons, Uday and Qusay. Izzat Ibrahim Al Douri, vice chairman of the ruling Iraqi Revolutionary Council, is believed to have fled to Syria.

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