Kin of a top Hussein deputy held

U.S. military arrests wife, daughter of ex-general linked to recent attacks

November 27, 2003|By John Hendren | John Hendren,LOS ANGELES TIMES

TIKRIT, Iraq - U.S. soldiers have arrested the wife and daughter of Izzat Ibrahim, a former Iraqi general who is believed to have been helping loyalists to deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein regroup and coordinating intensified attacks against the U.S. led-coalition, Maj. Gen. Ray Odierno said yesterday.

The two women, along with the son of Ibrahim's doctor, were detained by soldiers from the Army's 4th Infantry Division in a raid on a house near Samarra late Tuesday and were being held for interrogation.

"We believe that they might have some information on where he is traveling, how he is moving," Odierno said.

Ibrahim, currently the most-wanted former regime official other than Hussein himself, is being sought dead or alive and is the subject of a $10 million reward announced last week.

The arrests were part of the U.S.-led coalition's intensified military campaign against insurgents, particularly here in the heart of the so-called "Sunni Triangle," where support for Hussein remains strongest.

"What we're seeing now is we're getting some reports of people coming back in here and trying to reorganize," said Odierno, the commander in charge of the violent region surrounding Hussein's hometown of Tikrit, north of Baghdad, the capital.

It remains unclear whether Ibrahim is the ringleader of attacks in the area or merely a financier, but U.S. commanders said intelligence reports from informants have suggested he remains active among insurgents who have eluded U.S. forces since President Bush declared the major combat portion of the war over May 1.

"He certainly is involved; he's been involved from the beginning," Odierno said of Ibrahim, although he acknowledged that he had no specific proof that Ibrahim is behind recent attacks in the region.

"He's a close associate [of Hussein]. He has ties. He has the ability to control and potentially provide money or direction."

Pentagon officials acknowledge that intelligence has been spotty, in part, analysts say, because the United States had few operatives inside Iraq before the war began. Despite strong electronic surveillance - from satellites, spy planes and other sources - critics have blamed the military's inability to find Hussein on a paucity of human intelligence in the Middle East.

Having found Hussein elusive, they have focused on the next person on their list - Ibrahim. The former Iraqi army general was initially No. 6 on the most-wanted list but moved higher after the capture or killing of other top regime leaders, including Hussein's sons Uday and Qusai, who died in a shootout during the summer.

Among the reasons U.S. commanders here believe insurgent leaders have amassed near Tikrit is the presence of high-profile figures found together recently. About four weeks ago, soldiers from the 4th Infantry's 1st Brigade, the aptly named Raiders, arrested more than 20 members of what they described as the four most important pro-Hussein families in the region as they met in Al Auja, Hussein's birthplace.

Unspecified intelligence suggests that Ibrahim recently had been in the house raided Tuesday, commanders said. Family members' presence reinforced commanders' confidence that intelligence is drawing them nearer to figures such as Ibrahim and Hussein himself, although Odierno said he could no longer repeat a recent assertion that Hussein was likely still in the Tikrit area.

The arrests Tuesday prompted a protest by more than 150 residents of the Abu Delaf neighborhood, which was broken up "mostly" by Iraqi police, a U.S. military official said.

The protesters insisted those arrested had nothing to do with anti-coalition attacks.

Despite drawing the ire of a community that Odierno said has more senior regime leaders than any other in Iraq, commanders insist they have gleaned valuable information from family members.

Odierno's Task Force Iron Horse recently intensified raids, angering residents by using 500-pound "smart" bombs to raze homes allegedly used by anti-coalition insurgents.

The increased force is a response to fewer but "intensified" guerrilla attacks here during Ramadan, including the downing of a Black Hawk helicopter near Tikrit that killed six American soldiers.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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