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‘Chemical Ali,’ High-Ranking Member From Hussein’s Government Captured

By Bill Brink

The New York Times

Ali Hassan al-Majid, a cousin and trusted advisor of Saddam Hussein who earned a reputation for ruthlessness by using poison gas to suppress a Kurdish uprising in 1988, has been captured, the American military said on Thursday.

The U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Fla., announced the capture of Majid but gave no details on where he was detained or how. Majid was No. 5 on the allied forces’ list of the 55 most-wanted Iraqis.

The capture of Majid represents another step in the military’s effort to wipe out any lingering influence of the fragmented remnants of Saddam’s government.

Last month, a U.S. raid in Mosul killed two of Saddam’s sons, Uday and Qusay, and soon afterward soldiers seized four men they believed to be important members of Saddam’s former government, including one who was thought to be a longtime bodyguard to Saddam. Earlier this week the former Iraqi vice president, Taha Yassin Ramadan, was arrested, also in Mosul.

Majid had earned the nickname “Chemical Ali” after he used chemical weapons against the Kurds in 1988. Human rights groups say that Majid inspired the murder or disappearance of about 100,000 Kurds, the forced removal of many more, as well as the destruction of hundreds of Kurdish villages and communities.

His notoriety increased in 1990 when he was appointed Iraq’s chief administrator in Kuwait in the months before the Gulf War. He was also linked to the brutal crackdown on Shiites in southern Iraq following their uprising after that war.

American military officials believed that Majid had been killed in a bombing raid in April, but in early June, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said there was a chance he was still alive. “There was some speculation afterwards that they thought that he had been killed,” Rumsfeld said at the time. “Now there’s some speculation that he may be alive. But I just don’t know.”

Majid belonged to a clan that intermarried with Saddam’s family in the Tikrit region north of Baghdad. According to military specialists, he rose through the ranks of Iraq’s intelligence and internal security services to become one of Saddam’s closest aides. His brother, Hussein Kamal al-Majid, was appointed oil minister after the invasion of Kuwait.

In mid-March, during the American invasion of Iraq, Saddam appointed Majid to direct the defense of southern Iraq.At the time, American officials speculated that Majid had been appointed either to ensure that the restive Shiites of southern Iraq remained loyal to Baghdad or to implement a military strategy devised to blunt or undermine the American-British invasion.