U.S. captures more top aides to Saddam

Monday, April 21, 2003

ABU DHABI The United States has captured several key aides of deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein as the first troops have left Baghdad.

The aides included Saddam's finance minister, a leading Baath Party operative and scientist.

Iraqi police in Baghdad captured former Finance Minister Hikmat Ibrahim Azzawi, listed as No. 45 out of the list of 55 most-wanted Iraqis. Azzawi was turned over to the U.S. 1st Marine Expeditionary Force.

On Saturday, two battalions of U.S. marines left Baghdad in the first U.S. troop withdrawal from the Iraqi capital. Officials said the U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Division will remain in Baghdad, while the 4th Infantry Division will be responsible for northern Iraq.

U.S. officials have also detained Abdul Aziz Al Najm, a member of the Baath Party regional command. Al Najm was captured by Kurdish forces in Mosul and then handed over to the U.S.-led coalition, Middle East Newsline reported.

Al Najm is ranked 24 on a list of 55 most wanted Iraqis. Officials said they expected Al Najm to reveal sensitive information on the Saddam regime.

Until 2003, Al Najm was oil minister. He also served as Iraqi chief of staff for several years in the early 1990s.

On Saturday, another Iraqi scientist said to have been a leading developer of VX, surrendered to the U.S. military. The scientist was identified as Emad Ani and U.S. officials said he was connected to a weapons facility linked to Al Qaida in Sudan.

U.S. officials said they have obtained valuable information from Saddam's aides and relatives. They said the captured half brother of Saddam, Barzan Tikriti, has been cooperative with U.S. interrogators. They would not elaborate.

U.S. officials also reported the capture of what they termed "an international terrorist" aligned with the Palestinian group of the late Abu Nidal. The detainee was identified as Khala Khadr al-Salahat.

On Friday, Abu Dhabi television broadcast a demonstration in Baghdad that was said to have featured Saddam. The United Arab Emirates television said the demonstration with Saddam took place on April 9 and showed a crowd cheering the president.

At one point, Saddam was helped by his bodyguards to climb on to the hood of a car. Next to Saddam in the Azamiyah neighborhood of Baghdad was a man who resembled his younger son Qusay.

Later, residents of the Azamiyah denied that Saddam visited the neighborhood.

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