Inspectors hail arrest of Iraq's 'Mrs Anthrax'

American forces in Baghdad have captured Huda Salih Mahdi Ammash, a senior biological weapons scientist who was one of the most wanted members of the ousted regime of Saddam Hussein.

Ms Ammash, who was among the 55 most-wanted officials identified in a deck of cards issued to US soldiers, was taken into custody on Sunday, in what was apparently a pre-negotiated surrender. Her detention brings to 19 the number of the 55 who have been caught.

What was unclear was whether she would take Britain and America any closer to finding any of the illicit weapons whose alleged development and possession by Saddam was the primary justification for the war.

Other high-ranking Iraqis have denied under interrogation that any such programmes existed in recent years, and US officials are starting to shift ground. They now argue that even if stocks may have been destroyed, Iraq still had the know-how to restart manufacturing at short notice.

President George Bush expressed anger over the weekend that the former deputy prime minister, Tariq Aziz, was refusing to co-operate with US forces since his surrender.

Washington also now insists that only with the co-operation of ordinary Iraqis will the weapons, of whose existence the intelligence services sounded so certain, be discovered.

United Nations weapons inspectors welcomed the arrest of 49-year old Ms Ammash, who was shown on Iraqi television on 27 March sitting at the same table as Saddam Hussein during a leadership meeting. The date of the recording is not known, however.

"Given the fact that she was involved with the top leadership, she is somebody who is quite interesting in terms of the latest thinking in Iraq," said a UN spokesman, Hiro Ueki. "But we won't know until the coalition interrogates her whether she was involved in a clandestine weapons programme or not."

Ms Ammash's presence at the meeting with Saddam was taken as a sign that the Iraqi leader was continuing to engage in producing banned weaponry, despite official assertions that all of the country's biological and chemical weapons had been destroyed.

Ms Ammash, called "Mrs Anthrax" in the West, is held to have played a senior role in rebuilding Baghdad's biological weapons capability since the 1991 Gulf War.

Born in 1953 in Baghdad, she is the daughter of Saleh Mahdi Ammash, a former vice-president, defence minister and member of the Baath party's leadership. Saddam reportedly ordered his execution in 1983.

She was trained by Nassir al-Hindawi, in the past described by UN inspectors as the father of Iraq's biological weapons programme, and both are reputed to be among Iraq's top weapons scientists.

Others include Amir al-Saadi, Saddam Hussein's chief scientific adviser and chemical weapons expert who has surrendered to the Allies, and Dr Rihab Taha, a woman called "Dr Germ" by inspectors for her work on biological weapons. Dr Taha is married to the former Iraqi oil minister, Amir Muhammad Rashid, who has been arrested by US forces.

Ms Ammash is the only woman who features on the most-wanted list, ranking 53rd out of the 55. In 2001, she became the first and only woman to be elected to the Baath party's regional command, its highest policymaking body, after working closely with Saddam's younger son, Qusay.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
  • Get to the point
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power