US forces arrest "No. 11" - the Republican Guard chief

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The Independent Online

The commander of Saddam Hussein's Special Republican Guard was arrested by coalition forces today.

The US commander in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez gave no details, saying at the end of a prepared statement about yesterday's operation in Mosul: "Oh, by the way, we picked up no. 11 this morning."

No. 11 is Barzan Abd al-Ghafur Sulayman Majid al-Tikriti, Special Republican Guard commander and a cousin of Saddam.

His capture lowers the number of the 55 most-wanted still at large to 18 after the deaths of Odai and Qusai Hussein in Mosul on Tuesday.

Sanchez refused to give details about the latest arrest.

Sanchez said US forces would continue to search for other fugitive members of the former regime, including its leader.

"The ultimate objective is Saddam Hussein. We maintain the focus on all the high-value targets and we will not fail," he said. "The Saddam Hussein regime will never come back into power. We will ensure the freedom of the Iraqi people."

Saddam remains at large and is the Ace of Spades of the deck of cars the Pentagon put out by way of identifying members of his regime who were most wanted by American forces.

After Saddam, the biggest name on the list is Ali Hassan al-Majid, Saddam's first cousin and one of his bloodiest henchman, also known as "Chemical Ali."

Like many in Saddam's inner circle, al-Majid's rise in the regime was meteoric. Before Saddam's 1968 revolution he was a motorcycle messenger in the army.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld had announced al-Majid's death on April 7 and showed reporters video of laser-guided bombs obliterating a house in Basra, Iraq's second city, where a tipster had told coalition forces he was staying. But last month, US military officials said that interrogations of Iraqi prisoners indicated al-Majid might be alive.

Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, 60, the former head of the Revolutionary Command Council - the highest executive body under Saddam - is also still at large. He presided over special tribunals that tried Saddam's opponents and issued death sentences.

The brothers Hani Abd al-Latif Tilfah al-Tikriti and Rafi Abd al-Latif Tilfah al-Tikriti are still hiding somewhere, as is Saddam's vice president, Taha Yassin Ramadan, 65, widely considered as ruthless as his mentor. He headed a 1970 court that executed 44 officers for plotting to overthrow the regime.

US officials think many of the holdouts may be hiding near the town, which lies in the so-called "Sunni Triangle," where Saddam enjoys his widest support.