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Last Updated: Friday, 22 August, 2003, 12:32 GMT 13:32 UK
Joy at 'Chemical Ali' capture
Ali Hassan al Majid
'Chemical Ali' was fifth on the US list of most-wanted Iraqis
Human rights groups and many Iraqis are celebrating the arrest of a man accused of being behind some of the worst atrocities of Saddam Hussein's rule.

Ali Hassan al Majid, also known as Chemical Ali, is a cousin of the deposed Iraqi leader and is notorious for his role in gas attacks against the Kurds in northern Iraq during the 1987 offensive.

Before his capture by US forces on Thursday, he was number five on Washington's list of 55 most wanted former Iraqi officials.

He is also accused of playing a leading role in the bombing of the Marsh Arabs in southern Iraq.

Mowaffaq al Rubaie - a Shia member of the US-appointed Iraqi governing council in Baghdad - said: "There is no way to describe the jubilant psychology of all Iraqis, all over the country, how joyful they are when they heard that he was arrested."

Mr Rubaie said the people of Iraq would now demand "Chemical Ali" should stand trial in Iraq to appear before Iraqi judges.

British MP Ann Clwyd, chairwoman of INDICT which has campaigned for Iraq's top human rights abusers to be brought to justice for the past seven years, said it was positive news.

"Chemical Ali is wanted for war crimes because he was military governor of Kuwait during the initial occupation when a lot of civilians were tortured, raped, murdered or deported.

"He took part in the brutal suppression of the uprisings that followed the Gulf War in 1991, which included mass executions torture and widespread destruction."

Iraq's Kurdish population was quick to express its delight at the general's arrest, which came only days after Kurdish forces arrested Saddam Hussein's former vice-president Taha Yassin Ramadan in the northern city of Mosul.

'Clues to Saddam'

London representative for the Kurdistan Democratic Party, Dilshad Miran, said: "These two arrests together will have a great psychological effect on the whole issue of security."

He added the capture would provide increased re-assurance to the people of Iraq that the former regime really was gone.

"They now realise that those main figures of the past regime have been arrested and there is no way of return for Saddam Hussein and his clique," he added.

The White House welcomed the capture of General Majid as "another important step in going after the remnants of the former regime".

The BBC's security correspondent Frank Gardner says that while "Chemical Ali" may not know Saddam Hussein's current hiding place, he could reveal a great deal about Saddam's mindset, giving clues as to where the deposed leader might choose to hide.

The BBC's Frank Gardner
"Ali Hassan al-Majid is one of the most important figures to be captured alive"

Q&A: 'Chemical Ali' held
22 Aug 03  |  Middle East
'Chemical Ali' captured
21 Aug 03  |  Middle East

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