According to Al-Arabiya television, Ezzat Al-Douri, deputy commander-in-chief of the late Iraqi president Saddam Hussein and a leader of Iraq’s insurgency has died.
Al-Douri, the Baath party leader and former deputy chairman of Iraq’s powerful Revolutionary Command Council is considered by some ‘media outlets’ as a mastermind of the Islamic State; The Al-Qaeda offshoot which gained prominence after the United States invasion of 2003.
Reports say he has been killed by Iraqi forces and Shiite militias in an operation against insurgents.
News of al-Douri’s death has not been confirmed by Iraqi officials, who are awaiting medical test results for DNA.
ABC News reports:
Raed al-Jubouri, the governor of Salahuddin province, told al-Arabiya television that al-Douri had been killed, and the station broadcast a photo of a dead man who looked like al-Douri.
“This is a major victory for those involved in the operation,” Mr al-Jubouri said.
“He is considered a mastermind for this terrorist group,” he said, referring to Islamic State, an offshoot of Al Qaeda which has taken swathes of Syria and Iraq.
“For sure this will have an impact on them … There will be a break among them,” he said.
Baghdad has mounted an offensive against Islamic State and former Baathists once loyal to Saddam Hussein to retake territory in Iraq’s Sunni heartland captured by jihadists last summer.
Al-Douri was believed to be a key figure in that insurgency.
While Baghdad has announced al-Douri’s death several times before, this time photos were circulating showing a man with similar features and red hair like al-Douri’s.
DNA from the body will be tested to confirm it is him, Mr al-Jubouri said.
Ahmed al-Kraim, the head of Salahuddin provincial council, said news of al-Douri’s death was not confirmed and intelligence officers who tracked his movements did not believe he was the man in the photographs.
Khaled Jassam, a member of the security committee in Salahuddin provincial council, said the committee were 70 per cent sure al-Douri had been killed but were awaiting medical tests.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Arab socialist Ba’ath Party has denied the reports, speaking to Middle East television channel, Al-Hadath.
Seven ‘facts’ about Ezzat Ibrahim al-Douri
He was a senior member of Saddam Hussein’s regime, still at large, and ranked six on the US military’s list of 55 most-wanted Iraqis, with a $US10 million reward offered for his capture.
After Saddam Hussein was toppled, and before Al Qaeda and later Islamic State rose to prominence, al-Douri led an insurgency against Baghdad’s Shiite-led government, organising and leading major attacks against symbols of the new rule.
Iraqi security officials and the US military have said he helped lead the Sunni Arab-led insurgency that erupted after the 2003 invasion. Rumours of his capture have surfaced periodically, but he remained on the run until the report of his death.
Hailing from the Tikrit region, he helped plot the 1968 coup that brought the Ba’ath Party to power. His frail appearance hid a ruthlessness that helped Saddam Hussein keep his grip at the top.
He served as vice-president and deputy chairman of Iraq’s powerful Revolutionary Command Council until the 2003 US-led invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein.
He was a senior official responsible for northern Iraq when poison gas was used on Halabja in 1988, killing some 5,000 Kurds. He cut short a visit to Vienna for medical treatment in 1999 to avoid arrest for suspected crimes against humanity.
Born in 1942, he did not finish high school or undertake any military training, but Saddam Hussein made him deputy commander-in-chief of the armed forces with the rank of lieutenant general.
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