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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 19 March, 2003, 15:28 GMT
Mystery over vanished Iraqi general
Nizar al-Khazraji
Khazraji was once touted as a successor to Saddam Hussein by Washington
Danish police are searching for firm leads in their hunt for a key missing Iraqi defector, as reports said he might have been snatched by US or Iraqi agents.

General Nizar al-Khazraji, a former army chief, vanished earlier this week while under house arrest in the Danish town of Soroe.

Reports say the general, touted as a possible successor to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, could be in Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey or even northern Iraq.

What I fear most is that he has been kidnapped by Iraqi agents
General's wife
A London-based Iraqi opposition group, quoting a source "very close" to the general in Denmark, said General Khazraji was in Saudi Arabia.

The general's wife said she had no idea where he was.

"What I fear most is that he has been kidnapped by Iraqi agents," she told AFP news agency.

"I have no news of him. He hasn't contacted me. The police doesn't know anything either," she said on Tuesday.

"I think he was taken by (Iraqi) intelligence officers, everything points toward that, Ahmed al-Khazraji told the Associated Press news agency.

Birgitte Vestberg
If he left the country freely he will probably appear in public soon, as he's very fond of the media
Birgitte Vestberg
Danish special prosecutor
The general's family say he went out on Monday morning to smoke a cigarette and did not come back.

Only last week General Khazraji had expressed concern about his security, said Danish special prosecutor Birgitte Vestberg, leading to tighter police surveillance and contact.

The authorities simply don't know whether he disappeared willingly, she said.

"If he left the country freely he will probably appear in public soon, as he's very fond of the media," Ms Vestberg said.

Media theories

Danish newspapers have reported various theories on the general's whereabouts.

Politiken quoted a source in the Iraqi exile community in London saying he was in Saudi Arabia, where he wished to take part in the confrontation with Saddam Hussein.

Our people in Saudi Arabia told us a couple of days ago that he had arrived
Iraqi exile, quoted by Ekstra Bladet
"According to Iraqi sources, the Saudi Arabian authorities helped Nizar al-Khazraji to leave Denmark", the paper added.

Copenhagen tabloid Ekstra Bladet quoted a "particularly well-informed" spokesman for the London-based Iraq National Congress, also saying General Khazraji was in Saudi Arabia.

"Our people in Saudi Arabia told us a couple of days ago that he had arrived," the paper said.

I should be in Iraq and taking the lead of the people and the military against Saddam Hussein
General Khazraji last month
The source adds that his "disappearance" was organised by Saudi Arabia, "which wants to put forward the former general as a new Iraqi leader".

The paper adds that the general was on his way to Saudi when the Danish authorities originally arrested him.

One newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, said another theory was that the general was in the Turkish capital, Ankara, where Kurdish leaders are meeting.

The general was granted a visa last year to enter Saudi Arabia, but Danish restrictions on his movements prevented him leaving the country.

An international arrest warrant has been issued.

Last month, when his house arrest was extended, General Khazraji said he wished to help overthrow the Baghdad regime.

"I feel like a lion in a cage," he said. "I should be in Iraq and taking the lead of the people and the military against Saddam Hussein."

The general, who sought asylum in Denmark after being sacked by Saddam Hussein, was arrested when a Kurdish refugee recognised him, accusing him of involvement in chemical weapons attacks against Kurds.




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