Iraq Weapons Expert, Basra Gov. Surrender
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) _ Two Iraqis on the U.S.-led coalition’s 55 most-wanted list _ a weapons expert nicknamed the ``Missile Man″ and a provincial governor _ have surrendered, the U.S. military and Iraqi opposition sources said Tuesday.
Former oil minister Amer Mohammed Rashid, who earned his moniker because he was Saddam Hussein’s point-man on weapons delivery systems, turned himself in Monday and was in coalition custody, the U.S. Central Command said.
Walid Hamed Tawfiq al-Tikriti, the former governor of Iraq’s southern Basra province and a member of Saddam’s clan, surrendered to the opposition Iraqi National Congress in Baghdad, a spokesman for the group said.
Rashid is the 14th man on the most-wanted list to be captured and No. 47 on the list. He was denominated as the six of spades in the deck of cards issued to coalition forces to help identify wanted Iraqi officials.
Central Command, in Qatar, could not confirmed the surrender of Tawfiq al-Tikriti, No. 44 on the list and designated the eight of clubs.
Rashid, also a former Iraqi army general, was a member of the regime’s Military Industrialization Organization, the group responsible for producing all of the country’s most lethal weapons.
Others members included Lt. Gen. Hossam Mohammed Amin, Iraq’s chief liaison with U.N. weapons inspectors, and Amir al-Saadi, Saddam’s senior weapons adviser, both of whom are also in custody.
His wife is Dr. Rihab Taha, a microbiologist known as ``Dr. Germ″ who was in charge of the secret Iraqi facility that weaponized anthrax, botulinum toxin and aflotoxin. She is also sought by the United States _though not on the most-wanted list _ and there was no word on her whereabouts.
Capturing Rashid could be a boon for U.S. disarmament specialists, who are searching for any chemical, biological or nuclear weapons in Iraq.
``He was a player,″ Richard Fairbanks, a Middle East expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said Tuesday.
Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix said earlier this month that Rashid and Taha would be among ``the most interesting persons″ for the Americans to question.
In addition, human rights organizations in 1999 called for Rashid’s arrest for war crimes for the gassing of Kurdish villages in the late 1980s.
The groups, including human rights organizations from the United States, Turkey, Central Asia and Europe, alleged that as head of the Iraqi military industries Rashid worked closely with Ali ``Chemical Ali″ Hassan Al Majid, who was believed killed in a missile strike on his home in Basra.
The brief Central Command statement from Camp As Sayliyah in Qatar spelled the general’s name as Amir Rashid Muhammad al-Ubaydi, a shift from its traditional spelling by Iraq’s news agency.
Rashid retired last year at 65, the news agency reported.
Tawfiq al-Tikriti was being interrogated Tuesday night by U.S. forces and Iraqi National Congress representatives, according to Haidar al-Moussawi, a London-based spokesman for the anti-Saddam group.
``They will decide in the field″ when to hand him over to U.S. custody, al-Moussawi said.