By LISA HOFFMAN
Scripps Howard News Service
November 11, 2005
There was some dispute within the Bush administration about the extent of al Douri's role in the guerrilla operation - some officials believed he was one of the masterminds; others thought he was too ill with leukemia - but the apparatchik was considered important enough that the State Department slapped a $10 million bounty on his head in 2003. He was the highest-ranking official of the regime still at large.
Arab satellite television stations were broadcasting the report of his death, which was based on an e-mail signed by the "Arab Socialist Baath Party - Iraq Command." The report was not immediately verified by U.S. or Iraqi officials.
The King of Clubs in the deck of cards the Pentagon printed with the pictures of the 55 most-wanted Iraqis, al Douri, 63, was the target of a major but ultimately unsuccessful raid by U.S. troops in early December 2003.
Later, one of al Douri's wives, a daughter and his personal secretary were taken into custody with the hope they would reveal his whereabouts.
Al Douri, who hailed from the region near Tikrit where Saddam was captured two years ago, was one of Saddam's oldest allies. They met in prison where both were held for political reasons in the 1960s. He was one of three surviving plotters - including Saddam - who staged the coup that first brought the Baath Party to power in 1968.
So close did the connection remain 35 years later that al Douri was one of three men Saddam intended to meet at the Baghdad safe house that U.S. missiles pounded on the first night of the war. He escaped unscathed.
The son of an ice seller in a village near Saddam's hometown of Tikrit, al Douri rose steadily in the Baath Party. He cemented his value to Saddam in 1973 when he directed the execution of 22 Iraqis accused of plotting against the party. The two became even closer when al Douri's daughter briefly married Saddam's son Uday, only to divorce him after he beat her.
Under Saddam's wing, al Douri was given control of the northern Kurdish region of Iraq when Saddam ordered poison gas on villages there in the 1980s. He was Saddam's enforcer in the Shiite south after the first Persian Gulf War, when tens of thousands of Shiites were killed after they rebelled against Saddam.
Red-haired and hot-tempered, al Douri became Saddam's No. 2 on the ruling Revolutionary Command Council, deputy commander of the Iraqi army and one of the most hated members of Saddam's regime.
He was wanted on international war crimes for an assortment of alleged atrocities during Saddam's reign, including having 170 men tied to posts and shot, after ordering that their mouths be sealed shut with glue so they could not cry out.
Before the war began, al Douri gained renown in the Middle East for publicly hurling one of the worst insults in the Arab world at a Kuwaiti dignitary. "Shut up, you monkey. Curse be upon your moustache," al Douri told the sheik, according to news reports.
As war loomed, Saddam put al Douri in charge of keeping U.S. forces from advancing north from Baghdad. Al Douri is believed to have been the only one of Saddam's inner circle to be outside the Iraqi capital when it fell.
Since then, al Douri had been spotted in areas around Mosul and Kirkuk, according to anti-Saddam Iraqis there.
Al Douri was treated in Syria several years ago for leukemia. But military intelligence convinced Pentagon leaders that al Douri was indeed a pivotal force in the insurgency.
"We have reason to believe he is a key figure in attacks against coalition figures and Iraqi citizens," Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt told reporters in 2003.
That didn't square with what coalition officials told Anthony Cordesman, a top analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. They said at the time that they considered al Douri too ailing to be running anything. State Department officials shared that assessment.
Their intelligence indicated al Douri's health had seriously deteriorated, worsened by his frequent moves from house to house to avoid capture.
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