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
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Interactive / Mobile Developer

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - Midweight

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: Junior Front End Developer

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: Front End Developer - Midweight / Senior

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Day In a Page

Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
Tate Sensorium: New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art

Tate Sensorium

New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art
10 best sun creams for kids

10 best sun creams for kids

Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
Ashes 2015: Nice guy Steven Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

Nice guy Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

He was man-of-the-match in the third Test following his recall to the England side
Ashes 2015: Remember Ashton Agar? The No 11 that nearly toppled England

Remember Ashton Agar?

The No 11 that nearly toppled England
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks