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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 September, 2004, 09:02 GMT 10:02 UK
Profile: Iraq's 'Mrs Anthrax'
Dr Huda Salih Mahdi Ammash
Ammash received much of her scientific training in the US
Dr Huda Salih Mahdi Ammash was one of the few women in Saddam Hussein's inner circle and the only one on the United States' list of 55 most wanted Iraqi leaders.

Described on the list as the "party Youth and Trade Bureau Chairman", Dr Ammash was the only female in the Iraq Command, the 18-member council that ran the Baath Party, as well as a party regional commander.

However the US-educated microbiologist is best known for her alleged involvement with the weapons of mass destruction programme which the US insists Iraq pursued.

Dubbed "Mrs Anthrax" by Washington, US intelligence services say she masterminded the reconstruction of Iraq's biological weapons facilities after the 1991 Gulf War.

While the threat posed by Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction was the reason stated by the US for invading the country, no such arms have yet been found.

US officials hoped that the capture of figures such as Dr Ammash would prove instrumental in leading them to banned weapons.

Father 'murdered'

Dr Ammash, aged 50, is from a second generation of Iraqi leaders - her father Salih Mahdi Ammash was a prominent Iraqi revolutionary during the 1960s.

However, he disappeared under mysterious circumstances in the 1970s when Saddam Hussein came to power, prompting rumours that the new Iraqi president had ordered him killed.

A mother of four, Dr Ammash received her undergraduate degree at the University of Baghdad, before travelling to America to study for a master of science degree in microbiology at Texas Women's University in Denton, Texas.

Dr Huda Salih Mahdi Ammash next to Qusay Hussein
She appeared in footage of a meeting of Iraq's most senior leaders

She later spent four years at the University of Missouri-Columbia where she gained her doctorate in microbiology in 1983.

US officials say that after returning to Iraq Dr Ammash trained under Nassir al-Hindawi, described by United Nations weapons inspectors as the father of Iraq's biological weapons programme.

In 1996, she became the head of Iraq's Microbiology Society, a group alleged to be a front for research into potential biological weapons such as anthrax and smallpox.

Fluent in English, owing to her time spent in America, Dr Ammash also served as Saddam Hussein's unofficial ambassador to Jordan, Lebanon and Yemen and as the Dean of the University of Baghdad.

Inner circle

Dr Ammash's ascendancy to the upper echelons of the Iraqi leadership was confirmed when Iraqi state television showed footage of her attending a council of war with Saddam Hussein after the start of the US-led invasion in March, 2003.

The footage, believed to have been released to try to prove that the Iraqi leader was still alive, showed Dr Ammash as the only woman at the meeting alongside eight of the regime's most senior officials.

Dressed in a headscarf and military jacket, complete with epaulettes, she was seated prominently next to Saddam Hussein's son Qusay and just three places from the ousted Iraqi leader himself.

Following the collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime it had been rumoured that Dr Ammash had escaped to Syria.

She was eventually found in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, and taken into custody by US troops.



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