- The Washington Times - Friday, April 18, 2003

WASHINGTON, April 18 (UPI) — Iraqi Kurds turned over another key member of the Iraqi regime, U.S. Central Command announced Friday.

Samir Abd al-Aziz al-Najim, one of the top 55 leaders of the regime and the four of clubs in the "most wanted" deck of cards being used by the U.S. military, was handed over late Thursday to coalition special operations forces near Mosul in northern Iraq.

Al-Aziz was a Baath Party official, a regional command chairman for the Baghdad district, and is believed to have first-hand knowledge of the Baath Party central structure, said Centcom spokesman Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks Friday in Qatar. Al-Aziz was also deputy secretary of the Iraqi Military Bureau – second to Saddam Hussein – and a member of the Iraqi Territorial Leadership, according to Global Security.org, a non-profit national security think tank based in Washington.

"We know that he certainly has an insight on how the Baath Party central committee worked," Brooks said. "There are some indications he might have also been posted to the north to take over in the north for some of the military operations. But we don't have confirmation on that."

Brooks said Iraqi enemy forces are apparently repositioning in small numbers in cities already thought cleared by U.S. forces.

For instance, the 4th Infantry Division captured 30 enemy paramilitary prisoners and destroyed eight technical vehicles as they moved north between Taji and Samarrah.

Samarrah is the town where U.S. Marines found the seven missing American prisoners of war last week.

"We believe that there were forces there that may have been remnant forces or that may have moved back in, because Marines had already passed through that area," Brooks said.

A day after two members of the Iraqi National Congress declared themselves in charge of Baghdad, Brooks said the United States has appointed neither man to the post and recognizes neither. Jaudat Obeidi and Mohammed Zubeidi announced they would be jointly governing the city Thursday, according to news reports. Obeidi is mayor and said his first priority is security. Zubeidi announced that he is the governor.

"Until full processes are in place, and indeed, we have a democratic process for making these types of decisions in elections, particularly in a city the size of Baghdad, then, no, (there) is not a recognized mayor of Baghdad at this point," Brooks said.

Nevertheless, Brooks said U.S. forces in the region may work with him anyway.

"It doesn't mean we won't work with him. He is clearly an emerging leader and deserves some attention and deserves our interest," Brooks said.

Brooks said U.S. personnel are examining the wreckage site in Baghdad where Saddam and his top lieutenants were targeted in a massive bombing raid two weeks ago. So far no remains have been found, he said.

"The Mansur site had a considerable amount of destruction. And getting through that site and pulling out things is not an easy task for anyone, coalition or anyone else that might have an interest," he said.

Brooks could not confirm rumors that former Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed Al Sahaf committed suicide.

"We're not exerting any unusual activity to try to confirm that," he said.

Brooks said power has been restored to Hadithah, in western Iraq. In Irbil, Dohuk and Sulimaniyah, fuel will run electric power plants for more than 40 days, Brooks said.

However, the lack of power in Baghdad continues to frustrate U.S. efforts. The Army Corps of Engineers has put out a call to Iraqi electrical managers and technicians to come back to work. Baghdad has been without power for about two weeks.

Two hospitals in An Nasiriyah will be receiving medical supples shortly, Brooks said, including the hospital from which American prisoner of war Pfc. Jessica Lynch was rescued.

Twelve pallets of medical supplies donated by Qatar have arrived at the Medical City Hospital in Baghdad. The 1,000-bed main hospital in Baghdad has reopened although remains limited in service, Brooks said.



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