Saddam aide’s ID checked

There has been confusion over whether Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri has been captured by Iraqi forces.

Interior ministry and national guard officers said on Saturday that Ibrahim had been seized in a deadly gunbattle following a tip-off he was receiving medical treatment at a clinic near his and Saddam’s hometown of Tikrit.

But on Sunday Major General Ahmed Khalaf Salman, who commands the north-central Iraq region, denied the story.

US commanders in Iraq and at the Pentagon also declined to confirm the capture.

Prime Minister Iyad Allawi’s office clarified the situation late on Sunday.

“Yes, they captured someone that might be him,” said Mr Allawi’s spokesman Taha Hussein. “They are waiting for the DNA tests so nothing is for sure yet.”

Ibrahim, 62, is alleged to have been bankrolling much of the anti-US insurgency in Sunni Arab areas.

US officials also suggest he has used his reputation as a devout Muslim to forge an alliance with Islamic militants believed responsible for some of the deadliest attacks in Iraq.

Only Al-Qaeda’s alleged Iraq commander Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi is more sought-after in the country than Ibrahim, who has had a 10-million dollar US bounty on his head since November.

Meanwhile, US and Iraqi forces have been involved in some of their most aggressive counter-insurgency operations in months, battling rebels in the northern town of Tall Afar for a second day.

A combined US and Iraqi force has arrested 500 suspected militants in the heartland of the Sunni Muslim insurgency.

Iraqi police and national guardsmen, assisted by US forces, raided the town of Latifiya, 30 kilometres south of Baghdad, marking the first time the interim government had taken decisive action against Sunni insurgents since it took power in late June.

Twelve police officers were killed and 17 people wounded in the operation, with 500 suspected “terrorists” arrested and a large haul of weapons seized, including five barrels of TNT, an Iraqi intelligence officer said.

The town is part of a virtual no-go zone for US troops, Iraqi police and foreigners and has earned the name “Fallujah’s second head” after the Sunni rebel stronghold west of Baghdad.

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