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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 September, 2004, 12:40 GMT 13:40 UK
Iraq's women scientists
Profiles of Rihab Rashid Taha and Huda Salih Mahdi Ammash, two of the leading female scientists behind Saddam Hussein's deadly biological weapons programme.

DR RIHAB RASHID TAHA

Nicknamed "Dr Germ" by UN weapons inspectors, Rihab Rashid Taha helped develop weapons-grade anthrax and botulinum.

Dr Rihab Rashid Taha - known as Dr Germ
Taha was an expert in germ warfare
A microbiologist, Dr Taha was educated in England, earning a doctorate from the University of East Anglia, where she studied plant disease.

She is said to have carried out work on germ warfare at Iraq's top secret al-Hakim biological research laboratory in the late 1980s.

At the time, Dr Taha was reported to have ordered - and received - biological specimens from US companies.

Dr Taha worked on biological weapons development for seven years, until 1995.

She condemned the weapons inspections process introduced by the UN in Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War and defended Iraqi scientists' right to refuse to co-operate.

Weapons inspectors who met her described her as difficult and dour.

Surrendered

Dr Taha admitted producing germ warfare agents, but said they had been destroyed, according to reports.

Despite her alleged involvement in illegal weapons development, Dr Taha was not on the US list of 55 most wanted Iraqi officials.

The US still sought her capture, hoping she could lead them to alleged concealed weapons of mass destruction.

In April 2003, US forces raided the home she shared with her husband, Gen Amir Mohammad Rashid, Saddam Hussein's former oil minister, but failed to find her.

Dr Taha surrendered in May 2003, after negotiating terms with the US-led coalition.

DR HUDA SALIH MAHDI AMMASH

Dr Huda Salih Mahdi Ammash was one of the few women in Saddam Hussein's inner circle and the only one on the US list of 55 most wanted Iraqis.

Dr Huda Salih Mahdi Ammash
Ammash received much of her scientific training in the US
Described on the list as the Baath 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.

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

A mother of four, Dr Ammash studied for a master of science degree in microbiology at Texas Women's University in Denton, in the United States.

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

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

Inner circle

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, Dr Ammash also served as Saddam Hussein's unofficial ambassador to Jordan, Lebanon and Yemen and as the Dean of the University of Baghdad.

Dr Ammash was the only woman pictured at a meeting of Saddam Hussein and eight of his most senior officials in Iraqi television footage apparently shot after the start of the US-led war in March 2003.

She disappeared after the collapse of the regime weeks later, and there were rumours she had escaped to Syria.

Dr Amash was eventually found in Baghdad and taken into custody by US troops.


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