Hunt goes on for Saddam’s top scientists, says US




By Mark Huband, Security Correspondent, in London

Financial Times, 17 April 2003

Most members of the ousted Iraqi regime suspected of involvement in the country’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programme are still being hunted inside Iraq, officials tracking their movements said yesterday.

US Special Forces yesterday raided the deserted home belonging, intelligence officials believe, to a leading figure in Iraq’s biological or chemical weapons programmes. The house belonged to one of two scientists now being sought – Suda Salih Mahdi Ammash, dubbed “Mrs Anthrax” by investigators, and Rihab Taha, nicknamed “Dr Germ”.

Both are thought to have fled to Syria, US officials said yesterday, though they would not say to which of the two the house belonged.

US and UK forces have now occupied all the areas in which sites identified in intelligence reports as part of Iraq’s WMD programmes are located, but no firm evidence of weapons production has emerged.

The surrender in Baghdad at the weekend of General Amer Hammoudi al-Saadi, head of Iraq’s chemical weapons programme, has not led to any significant new information being provided to investigators, a senior intelligence official said yesterday. Jafar al-Jafar, an official alleged to have been involved in Iraq’s nuclear programme, is also being held.

“Our experience to date is that the people whom we have our hands on are sticking to the party line, that there have been no weapons of mass destruction programmes since 1991,” an official said yesterday. “Our guess is that most senior officials are inside Iraq, though a small number managed to use smugglers’ routes to Syria.”

Intelligence services had made known before the conflict that they did not expect to find the evidence until some time after the end of the war, in part because they think much has been buried and distributed in different parts of the country.

Brigadier General Vincent Brooks, US military spokesman, said yesterday the hunt for evidence of WMD is “very much putting together pieces of a puzzle, one piece at a time, and when you see the shape of the one piece, you see how it may relate to the other pieces that are out there”.

Investigators are also considering the possibility that the WMD had been dismantled and possibly distributed and that may have been the reason for the regime not having deployed the once-useable arsenal against US and UK forces.

A senior intelligence official said yesterday: “We know that they had tried to hide the various component parts in various areas. One can speculate that having dismantled them all and dispersed them in different parts of the country before the UN inspectors returned, that they didn’t have time to put them together again when the war started.”


© Copyright The Financial Times Ltd 2008.