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Last Updated: Monday, 12 May, 2003, 16:57 GMT 17:57 UK
Iraq's 'Dr Germ' detained
Dr Rihab Rashid Taha - known as Dr Germ
Dr Taha: Educated in England

Coalition forces in Iraq say they have taken into custody the scientist Rihab Rashid Taha, who has been accused of working to create weapons-grade anthrax.

Major Brad Lowell at US Central Command in Qatar said Dr Rashid Taha had been negotiating her surrender for days, and that she had turned herself in during the last 48 hours.

Nicknamed "Dr Germ" by UN weapons inspectors, she is not on the list of the 55 most wanted former members of Saddam Hussein's government.

But US forces had been searching for her and last month unsuccessfully raided her Baghdad home, hoping to capture her and her husband.

She is married to General Amir Mohammad Rashid, the former Iraqi Oil Minister, who surrendered to US forces on 28 April - 12 days after that raid.

Suspected mobile lab found in northern Iraq
US forces have found a second suspected Iraqi mobile lab

A microbiologist, she holds a doctorate from the UK's University of East Anglia, where she studied plant disease.

She is thought to have carried out work on germs that cause botulism poisoning and anthrax infections at the top-secret biological research lab al-Hakim in the late 1980s.

At that time, she was reported to have ordered and received biological specimens from US companies.

Last week, coalition forces announced the capture of Huda Salih Mahdi Ammash - another woman believed to have played a key role in developing Iraq's biological weapons capability.

Hunt for weapons

The United States suspects that Saddam Hussein's regime kept large stocks of biological and chemical weapons, and cited these arms as justification for launching the invasion of Iraq.

But no such stocks have been found yet and the Washington Post reports that the US is scaling down its team of weapons experts in Iraq.

US forces have discovered a second suspected mobile laboratory which they say might have been used to produce biological weapons.

The trailer was found near the northern city of Mosul and is similar to one found in northern Iraq earlier this month.

The US-run Information Radio in Iraq has announced unspecified rewards for Iraqis who provide information leading to any of the suspected weapons of mass destruction.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Stephen Sackur
"The question is - does she deserve the nickname Dr Germ?"



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