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Tuesday, 19 November, 2002, 19:03 GMT
Ex-Iraqi army head held in Denmark
Mass grave for 25 of the victims at Halabja
Iraqi chemical weapons killed thousands of Kurds
The former head of Iraq's army is being held in Denmark on charges of suspected war crimes, Danish police have said.

Nizar al-Khazraji, who has been named as a possible future leader of Iraq, is accused of involvement in chemical weapons attacks against Iraq's Kurdish population in the 1980s, which left thousands dead.

The 64-year-old was head of the armed forces when Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990.

But he fled to Jordan in 1995, before applying for political asylum in Denmark.


He allegedly offered command of an army division to the officer who led the so-called Operation Anfal against Kurds in northern Iraq in the late 1980s during which thousands of people died

Prosecutor's statement
He is believed to be the highest-ranking officer to have defected from Iraq.

Officials said he was appearing in court pending a decision on whether he should be held in custody and charged.

Danish police began their inquiry when a Kurdish refugee spotted Mr Khazraji in the street, and reported him.

Mr Khazraji denies the claims, saying Iraqi secret police are behind them.

A statement from the Danish prosecutor for special international crimes said Mr Khazraji had appeared in court in the town of Soroe, outside Copenhagen.

Allegations

He is "suspected of crimes against humanity and violation of the Geneva convention on protection of civilians during war," said prosecutor Birgitte Vestberg in the statement.

"He allegedly offered command of an army division to the officer who led the so-called Operation Anfal against Kurds in northern Iraq in the late 1980s during which thousands of people died."

Al-Khazraji has lived in Denmark for three years.

He has not been granted asylum, but has been given leave to remain.

His arrest comes three weeks after the Danish authorities detained a key rebel Chechen leader, Ahmed Zakayev, who is accused by Russia of involvement in terrorist acts.

Russia wants Mr Zakayev extradited, but Denmark has so far said Moscow has provided insufficient evidence against him.


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