We Got the Sheriff but We Didn’t Get the Deputy
Error over Saddam deputy (Guardian)
Officials from Iraq’s new government were left embarrassed last night after mistakenly announcing the capture of Saddam Hussein’s deputy, the most senior figure from the regime still on the run. A defence ministry spokesman announced that US troops and Iraqi National Guard forces had arrested Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri in a violent gunbattle outside the central city of Tikrit. Wael Abdul-Latif, a minister of state in the new government, told Reuters it was 75 to 90% certain that the man was Mr al-Douri, 62.
Mr Abdul-Latif said a large crowd of gunmen loyal to Mr al-Douri tried to intervene to stop the arrest but at least 70 of them were killed and another 80 captured in the operation. The arrest happened as the suspect attended a medical clinic close to Mr al-Douri’s home village of Ad Dawr.
Ibrahim Janabi, a senior information official in the government and the deputy in the party of the prime minister, Iyad Allawi, had also insisted their news was accurate. However, within hours, the US-led coalition denied they had him in their custody. Although it appears there was an operation by US forces around Tikrit on Saturday it is now unclear exactly who has been arrested.
The error was all the more embarrassing because Iraqi officials chose to break the news to al-Hurra, the new, American-funded satellite channel which was intended to bring a more reliable and credible news service to the Arab world.