Monday, April 9, 2012

Iraq's fugitive 'king of clubs' re-emerges in video?


This still image taken from video posted on a social media website on Saturday purportedly shows Saddam Hussein's former deputy and top aide Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri.

By news services

BAGHDAD -- A video posted online Saturday purports to show the highest-ranking fugitive member of Saddam Hussein's ousted regime lashing out against Iraq's Shiite-led government.

It was not possible to verify the authenticity of the video or determine when it was made.

The man in the video, which was posted on a website linked to Saddam's now-outlawed Baath party, was introduced as Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri. He?bore a striking physical resemblance to the former Saddam deputy. He noted that nine years had passed since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, suggesting the video was made recently.

The man resembling al-Douri?sat in a Saddam-era uniform in front of the old Iraqi flag, flanked by a group of bodyguards, just as he did when delivering speeches in the past.

Al-Douri was the deputy head of Iraq's Revolutionary Command Council under Saddam, a Sunni?who was toppled after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. He took over the Baath Party leadership after Saddam was executed in 2006.

'Sounds of danger'
The man?criticized Iraq's Shiite-dominated government, led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and what he said was meddling by neighboring Shiite powerhouse Iran.

"Everyone can hear the sounds of danger echoing daily and threatening this country," he said during the hour-long address, adding that al-Maliki's Dawa Party "has announced Iraq as the Shiite capital, and called on all Arab leaders to surrender to this reality."

Al-Douri has been reported dead or captured more than once in the past. He has not been seen in public since the U.S.-led invasion, though audio tapes purporting to be from him have been released. His whereabouts are not known.

Archival video from 2005: Saddam top deputy al-Izzat dead?

Al-Douri is believed to have played a key role in financing Sunni insurgents seeking to undermine Iraq's post-Saddam government.

$10 million reward
After the invasion, al-Douri was ranked sixth on the U.S. military's list of 55 most wanted Iraqis and a $10 million reward was offered for his capture. He was the "king of clubs" in the deck of playing cards issued by the U.S. to help troops identify the most-wanted members of Saddam's regime.

Baathists were banned from politics after the 2003 invasion, but the government says many former party members have organized into insurgent groups resisting the rise to power of the Shiite majority following the fall of Saddam.

Maliki ordered the arrest of hundreds of former Baathists last year just before the last American troops left the country, causing a crisis that threatened to unravel a fragile power-sharing deal among Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish blocs.

Ali al-Moussawi, a media adviser for al-Maliki, said the tape is meant to "boost the morale of the terrorists."

Jassim Mohammed / AP file

Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri is seen during a ceremony in Baghdad, Iraq, on Dec. 1, 2002.

"Al-Douri wants to spread terrorism and sectarian violence under the pretext of resistance," he said. "This will not affect the work of the government or the political process."

Al-Moussawi said al-Douri is still a wanted man, but that he doubts that al-Douri is still in Iraq because his need for extensive medical care in a well-equipped clinic would make it impossible to hide.

Wax museum spurs sticky situation in Iraq

Meanwhile, a bomb hidden in a plastic bag blew up on a minibus, killing two passengers and wounding nine in Baghdad's commercial heart of Karrada on Saturday, according to police and hospital officials. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.

Deadly attacks have declined in Iraq in recent weeks, but dozens are still killed every month. March saw the lowest monthly toll for violent deaths since the 2003 U.S.-invasion.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.


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