Iraq 'testing body' of suspected Saddam's deputy

Iraq 'testing body' of suspected Saddam's deputy
The body of a man killed on Friday in Iraq will be tested to determine if it is that of Saddam Hussein's deputy Izzat al-Douri, on the run since 2003.
3 min read
Douri has remained a fugitive since the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq [AFP]

Iraqi authorties are to 'test the body' of the man killed on Friday by pro-government forces to determine if it is that of Saddam Hussein's long-fugitive deputy Izzat Ibrahim Izzat al-Douri.

Al-Douri was vice president at the time of the 2003 US-led invasion.

Nicknamed "The Iceman" for his humble origins selling blocks of ice, he was the King of Clubs in the US deck of cards depicting most-wanted Iraqis. 

If confirmed, killing him would be a significant victory for Baghdad, but Douri has previously been reported dead only to resurface in audio and video messages. 

It is "95 percent (certain) that the body which we killed today belongs to Izzat al-Douri," army Staff Lieutenant General Abdulamir al-Zaidi said.

"I saw the body" and it appears to be Douri, Zaidi said, adding that it would be taken to Baghdad for testing. 

Salaheddin province Governor Raad al-Juburi said fighting in the province's Hamreen mountains area "killed 12 terrorists, among them Izzat al-Douri", but that testing was needed to provide confirmation.  

The Iraqi government released a series of photographs it said was Douri's corpse. The body had a bright red beard and a moustache, a distinguishing feature of Douri.

Haider al-Basri, a senior Iraqi military commander, told Iraqi state television that Douri and nine bodyguards were killed when their convoy was ambushed.

An officer from the Iraqi army told al-Araby al-Jadeed that there was still "uncertainty" in whether the discovered body belonged to Douri, adding that the governor of Salaheddin was "hasty" in his announcement.

The officer said the body was being taken to Baghdad for DNA tests.

Douri was one of the last members of Saddam's inner circle to be on the run. He was known as the "king of clubs" in a deck of playing cards issued to help US troops identify key members of Saddam's regime.

It is not the first time Iraqi officials claimed to have killed or captured him. In 2003, it said it arrested Douri, and circulating a photo of a bearded man who resembled his appearance. It later said it was a case of mistaken identity.

Read also: Where's Douri? The hunt for Saddam's deputy

Douri was officially second in Iraq's ruling hierarchy when the Baathist regime collapsed as US troops occupied Baghdad in 2003.

He disappeared after the US invasion and was widely rumoured to be in hiding in northern cities in Iraq. Members of Sunni militias raised his picture when they kicked out the army from northern Iraq late last year.

International operation against IS

Meanwhile, the minister for transport, Baqir Jabr al-Zubeidi, announced that Iraqi forces would be joined by Jordanian and Emirati forces in an operation to liberate Anbar from the Islamic State group.

On his official Facebook page, Zubeidi stated that the operation will "launch in the next few days" with the participation of "Iraqi, Emirati and Jordanian aircrafts" and the international coalition.

The IS group has come close to taking the Anbar city of Ramadi in recent days, prompting politicians in Baghdad to call for more international support against the group.

Parliament speaker Salim al-Jabouri demanded the US-led coalition "intensify air support for the armed forces and to send reinforcements".

He has described the situation in the Iraqi province of Anbar as "fragile" and has called on both the defence and interior minister to take more responsibility.