It appears that maybe we’ve nabbed Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, Saddam’s former No. 2 man and a suspected leader in the continuing Iraqi insurgency.
Al-Douri was captured in a trap set for him at a clinic where he was receiving medical treatment, an Iraqi Defense Ministry spokesman, Saleh Sarhan, told al-Hurra television. Another official said some 150 gunmen were with al-Douri and clashed with the U.S. and Iraqi troops.
“There was a major operation around Tikrit and al-Dour and American forces supported by Iraqi civil defense corps members were able to capture Izzat al-Douri,” Sarhan told the U.S. government-funded Arabic-language station in a live telephone interview. Saddam was captured at a safehouse near al-Dour on Dec. 13.
U.S. Maj. Neil O’Brien of the Tikrit-based 1st Infranty Division, however, said he could not confirm the report. A U.S. Embassy spokesman in Baghdad also said he had no information about an arrest.
Sarhan said authorities knew al-Douri had been in ill health, reportedly from leukemia.
As usual, let’s wait for more concrete confirmation before we put that card up, but if this turns out to be true it’s got to be good news.
Personally, I had thought we captured back in early December (late November) of last year when a Kuwaiti newspaper reported it and the Pentagon just about fell over itself denying that we had him. I told several people (though I apparently didn’t blog it) that if we had him, we’d want to roll up as many of his comrades as possible before they wised up and changed plans and hiding places. When we pulled Saddam out of his spider hole a week later I said “I told you so” and when the insurgency slowed down significantly in the first couple months of 2004 I thought for sure we had him. But this summer I finally admitted that we would have announced it by then if we really had had him since December and that I was probably wrong.
Maybe this time it’s accurate. And if it is, expect to see a “Insurgency continues despite capture of Saddam’s No. 2” headline within ten days.
UPDATE:Surprise! There seems to be some confusion about whether he’s been captured or not.
UPDATE 2: It’s not him.