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U.S. Forces Capture 2 Ex-Iraqi Officials

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The Associated Press
Wednesday, July 9, 2003; 6:22 AM

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Saddam Hussein's former interior minister and a top member of his Baath party have been taken into custody, the latest arrests from a list of 55 most wanted Iraqi fugitives, the military said Wednesday.

Mizban Khadr Al Hadi, a high-ranking member of the Baath Party regional command and revolutionary command council, and Mahmud Dhiyab Al-Ahmad, the former interior minister, were taken into custody on Tuesday, according to a statement from Tampa, Fla.-based U.S. Central Command.

Al Hadi, number 23 on the U.S. list of most wanted fugitives from Saddam's ousted regime, turned himself in in the capital. Al-Ahmad, number 29 on the list, was captured, the Central Command statement said. It gave no further details.

"Coalition forces will continue to work at apprehending former members of the Saddam Hussein regime," Central Command said.

Thirty-four of the 55 people on the most wanted list are now in custody, but not Saddam or his sons Qusai and Odai.

The most recent arrest came June 17, when Abid Hamid Mahmud al-Tikriti, Saddam's top aide, surrendered after informants' tips led U.S. forces to his hideout in Saddam's hometown, Tikrit.

The U.S. military recently offered a $25 million bounty for Saddam, and a $15 million reward for each of his two sons.

On Tuesday, U.S. soldiers raided a building in central Baghdad, following up on a claim by residents that say they thought they saw Saddam driving through the area on Monday, and say the ousted leader was met with cheering and gunfire by supporters.

Several pro-Saddam residents chanted pro-Saddam slogans on Tuesday as the U.S. servicemen conducted their sweep, with some singing: "With our souls and our blood we sacrifice ourselves for you Saddam."

The last verified sighting of Saddam came April 9 in the Azamiyah neighborhood of northeastern Baghdad as the capital fell to U.S. troops.

L. Paul Bremer, the top U.S. official in Iraq, said Tuesday that the coalition would not rest until Saddam's fate was determined and reassured Iraqis that he would never again rule their country. He may be alive, but he is not coming back," he said. "I think the noose is going to tighten around his neck. His days in Iraq are finished."

Meanwhile, insurgents in Fallujah, a restive town west of Baghdad, fired two rocket propelled grenades at American troops. The U.S. military and police in Fallujah said there were no injuries and no arrests made.

Iraqi police Lt. Iyad Abed said one of the two grenades exploded in the air and the second landed on the street outside a building occupied by U.S. troops in central Fallujah, 35 miles west of Baghdad.

Witnesses said two U.S. helicopters flew over the site soon after the early morning attack.

The Qatar-based Al-Jazeera satellite station reported a second skirmish in Fallujah, when a U.S. patrol came under fire. The station also reported a 10-minute gunbattle early Wednesday between U.S. troops and unidentified gunmen farther west in the town of Ramadi. It had no word on casualties in either attack, and the U.S. military in Baghdad said it had no information on the reported incidents.

An American soldier attached to the 101st Airborne Division died Monday from what the military said was a non-combat gunshot wound near Balad, 55 miles north of the capital. The soldier's name was withheld pending notification of next-of-kin, and no further details were available.

Attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq have been taking place virtually every day, but Bremer stood by Washington's assertion that the violence does not amount to a full-fledged guerrilla war.

Bremer blamed the attacks on remnants of Saddam's Baath party, former members of pro-Saddam militias and terrorists. He acknowledged that some of the attacks, like the fatal shooting of a U.S. soldier at Baghdad University on Sunday, showed "professionalism."

Seven U.S. soldiers were wounded in and around Baghdad on Tuesday, while the U.S.-led provisional authority announced a $2,500 reward for information leading to the arrest of anyone who kills a coalition soldier or Iraqi police officer.

U.S. defense officials, meanwhile, revised upward their count of Americans killed by hostile fire in Iraq since the war began in March to 143, a figure that approaches the 147 killed in the 1991 Gulf War.

© 2003 The Associated Press