Page last updated at 14:43 GMT, Monday, 25 January 2010

Profile: 'Chemical Ali'

Ali Hassan al-Majid
Ali Hassan al-Majid was known as "Chemical Ali"

Ali Hassan al-Majid, a key powerbroker in Saddam Hussein's Iraq, has been executed by hanging.

He had been sentenced to death four times for crimes including crimes against humanity and genocide.

A cousin of the former Iraqi leader, he was known as "Chemical Ali" for ordering the gas attacks on northern Iraq, during the offensive against the Kurds in 1988.

As the Iraqi president's paternal cousin, he sat astride two pillars of the Iraqi regime - Saddam Hussein's extended family and the Baath Party.

Before the fall of the regime, Arab press reports cast him in the part of a family kingmaker, playing a significant role in the simmering rivalry for succession between Saddam Hussein's sons, Qusay and Uday.

After several years without a ministerial position, Majid left his behind-the-scenes role in the upper strata of the Baath Party as Saddam Hussein placed Iraq on a war footing.

Jan 2010: For ordering the gas attack on the Kurdish town of Halabja in 1988 in which 5,000 people died
March 2009: For the 1999 killings of Shia Muslims in the Sadr City district of Baghdad
Dec 2008: For his role in crushing a Shia revolt after the 1991 Gulf War
June 2007: For his role in a military campaign against ethnic Kurds, codenamed Anfal, that lasted from February to August of 1988

In March 2003, he was appointed to head the southern region - one of four senior commanders reporting directly to the president.

A month later, British officials said they believed he had been killed in a coalition air strike in the southern city of Basra.

But in June, US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld conceded that he did not know whether he was dead or alive.

Two months later, US military officials announced that they had captured him.

Majid was appointed governor of northern Iraq in March 1987, marking the beginning of a sustained offensive, known as the "Anfal Campaign", by Iraqi troops against the Kurdish population.

Kurdish organisations describe the events which followed as genocide.

A decree signed by Majid, dated 3 June 1987, stated: "Within their jurisdiction, the armed forces must kill any human being or animal present in these areas."

Human rights campaigners say the Iraqi army then proceeded to kill tens of thousands of Kurdish civilians in gas attacks and by summary execution.

'Governor of Kuwait'

Iraq's invasion of Kuwait ended Majid's career in the north.

Majid salutes before unveiling a statue of Saddam, Baghdad, May 1999
Majid bears a striking resemblance to his cousin Saddam Hussein

Following the annexation of the Gulf state in August 1990 he became effectively "governor" of what Baghdad called "Iraq's 19th governorate".

Although he was replaced in that position in November 1990, in March 1991 Majid was promoted to minister of the interior.

After a period as defence minister from 1991 to 1995, he was relieved of his ministerial duties.

However, he continued to hold important Baath Party posts, as a member of the ruling Revolution Command Council and leader of the Baath Party in Salah-al-Din governorate, which included Saddam Hussein's home town of Tikrit.

Family defectors

Majid's position was threatened in 1995, when two of his nephews, Saddam Hussein's sons-in-law, Hussein Kamil al-Majid and Saddam Kamil al-Majid, defected to Jordan with their families.

He then personally led the so-called "jihadi offensive", which resulted in the murder of the two brothers, their father (his own brother) and several others for treason.

Family feuds during peace time did not prevent Saddam Hussein from turning to trusted relatives for support in times of war.

Renewed US and British bombing raids on Iraq in December 1998 saw Majid return to Iraq's sensitive border with Kuwait. He was appointed as commander of a newly-formed southern region - a role he would take up again in 2003, as Iraq once again prepared for war.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

Print Sponsor

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific