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Last Updated: Friday, 25 April, 2003, 15:12 GMT 16:12 UK
Iraq intelligence official detained

By Nick Childs
BBC correspondent at the Pentagon

Pentagon officials in the US have confirmed that they have detained former senior Iraqi intelligence official Farouk Hijazi.

According to US defence officials, he was captured close to the Iraqi border with Syria, having apparently been inside Syria.

One of a growing list of senior Iraqi detainees, he was not on the Americans' list of 55 most wanted officials, but will be of interest to Washington for a number of reasons.

First, the Americans say he was in charge of external operations for Iraqi intelligence in the mid-1990s.

Syrian help?

This was the agency which, according to Washington, was behind an assassination attempt against the first president George Bush while he was on a visit to Kuwait.

Among his other appointments, Mr Hijazi was Iraqi ambassador to Tunisia.

With his intelligence background and with American intelligence suspecting that North Africa has been a key operating area for the al-Qaeda network, the new detainee could also be a key individual in establishing any link between Baghdad and that organisation.

And as details emerge of the latest detention, what help the Syrian authorities may or may not have given could also be of significant interest.


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