- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 6, 2003

U.S. military forces in Iraq have detained one of that country’s top weapons scientists, an American-educated microbiologist known as “Mrs. Anthrax” who was actively involved in the development of germ warfare under Saddam Hussein, Defense Department officials said yesterday.Huda Salih Mahdi Ammash, the only woman among the U.S. military’s list of 55 most-wanted Iraqi fugitives, surrendered to U.S. military authorities in Baghdad on Sunday. Her arrest brought to 19 the number of most-wanted Iraqis in custody.Mrs. Ammash, 49, is designated as No. 53 on the fugitive list and pictured as the five of hearts in the U.S. military’s deck of cards of wanted Iraqis. U.S. intelligence officials say she played a key role in helping to rebuild Iraq’s biological-weapons capability after the Persian Gulf war in 1991.Mrs. Ammash was dubbed “Mrs. Anthrax” by Western journalists because of suspicion about her role in developing deadly anthrax as a weapon of war. She is among Iraq’s top weapons scientists, along with Rihab Taha, a woman known as “Dr. Germ” by U.N. inspectors.Mrs. Taha, who is not on the list of 55 fugitives, reportedly spearheaded Iraq’s program to include the deadly anthrax bacteria as part of its weaponry. She is married to Amer Mohammed Rashid, a former Iraqi army general known as the “Missile Man,” who turned himself in last week.Earlier this month, The Washington Times reported that Mrs. Ammash and Mrs. Taha were seeking to enter Syria and that one or both had made it, according to U.S. intelligence reports. The reports said some Iraqis also were trying to gain entry to France.Mrs. Ammash is the only woman ever elected to the ruling Ba’ath Party’s regional command, the highest policy-making body in that organization. She also served as president of Iraq’s microbiology society and as dean at the University of Baghdad.Mrs. Ammash is believed to have been a close associate of Saddam’s younger son, Qusai. She was the only woman among a half-dozen of Saddam’s top advisers seen in videos with the Iraqi president at the start of the war. The undated videos were released after hostilities began to convince the Iraqi people that their president was still alive.U.S. military officials in Iraq have found no weapons of mass destruction in the wake of the collapse of Saddam’s regime and have sought information from Iraqi scientists and others to help locate them. The Bush administration used the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq as justification for the war.It was not clear yesterday how much help, if any, Mrs. Ammash might be in the search for biological weapons. Other key Iraqi scientists and government officials — including Tariq Aziz, one of Saddam’s closest deputies — have denied under interrogation by coalition forces that the weapons exist. They have also denied that any biological program was in operation at the time of the war.On Sunday, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said he was confident that Saddam would be found — if he is alive — and that coalition forces would locate weapons of mass destruction. He said the weapons would be found with the help of Iraqis from the lower echelons of the deposed regime, not from its former leaders.”We’re going to have to find people not at the very senior level who are vulnerable, obviously, if they’re in custody. But it will be people down below who had been involved in one way or another” in the production, storage, distribution or concealment of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons, he said on “Fox News Sunday.”Mr. Rumsfeld also said he was not deterred by the insistence of Mr. Aziz, former Iraqi deputy prime minister, and former chief officials of Iraq’s weapons development program that no such weapons exist. He said there was “a good deal of intelligence information” about such weapons accumulated over a period of time.Mrs. Ammash was born in Baghdad in 1953. Her father, Salih Magdi Ammash, was a former Iraqi vice president, defense minister and member of the Ba’ath Party leadership. He reportedly was executed in 1983 on the orders of Saddam.Mrs. Ammash was trained by Nassir al-Hindawi, described by U.N. inspectors as the father of Iraq’s biological-weapons program. The Pentagon lists her as the Ba’ath Party’s Youth and Trade Bureau chairman. She also played a role in organizing Ba’ath activities in Jordan, Lebanon and Yemen, intelligence officials said.Mrs. Ammash received an undergraduate degree from the University of Baghdad; a master’s degree in microbiology from Texas Woman’s University in Denton, Texas; and a doctorate in microbiology from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 1983.

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