BAGHDAD, Feb. 27 -- A half brother of Saddam Hussein who allegedly helped direct the violent insurgency in Iraq has been captured and will be turned over to the Iraqi government, a U.S. military spokesman said Sunday.
Sabawi Ibrahim Hassan, who was a confidant of the ousted Iraqi president and once served as his intelligence chief, was No. 36 on the list of 55 most-wanted Iraqis issued by the U.S. military during the 2003 Iraq invasion.
Iraqi policemen stand over the body of a beheaded woman in Baghdad. A note was pinned to the body with the word "spy" written in Arabic.
(Thaier Sudani -- Reuters)
Citing security concerns, the military spokesman declined to release details of Hassan's detention or say when he would be transferred to Iraqi custody. The spokesman said Hassan would be questioned and "it is our hope that he will provide information that could lead to the capture of additional terrorists."
Iraqi officials told the Associated Press that Syrian officials had captured Hassan in northeastern Syria and handed him over to them. The officials said Hassan and 29 other members of Iraq's Baath Party were seized in Hasakah, about 30 miles from the Iraqi border, and turned over to Iraqi authorities. They did not say precisely when Hassan was captured, only that he was detained after the Feb. 14 assassination in Beirut of the former Lebanese prime minister, Rafiq Hariri.
"The capture appeared to be a goodwill gesture by the Syrians to show that they are cooperating," an Iraqi official said, according to the Associated Press.
Iraqi officials, including interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi and the national security minister, Qasim Dawood, have accused neighboring Syria of harboring former senior Iraqi officials and allowing them to support the insurgency. In December, Dawood told a Kuwaiti newspaper that Hassan was supporting Iraqi insurgents from Syria, according to the Associated Press.
The Iraqi government had asked Syria to hand over Hassan and others involved in the insurgency "for at least four months," a senior Iraqi official said in an interview Sunday.
Syria has denied that it is supporting the Iraqi insurgency. Since Hariri's assassination, Syria has come under intense pressure from the United States and other countries to withdraw its 15,000 troops from Lebanon.
Hassan, who is in his sixties, and Saddam Hussein, his older brother, have the same mother but different fathers. Hassan is the third half brother of Hussein's to be captured since the invasion. Hassan is expected to join his siblings as a "high value" detainee, the designation given to former high-ranking government officials and others who may be tried by the recently established Iraqi special tribunal for crimes against humanity and other offenses.
Of the 55 former Iraqi officials most wanted by the Pentagon, 11 remain at large, according to a compilation by the Associated Press. Hassan's two brothers, Watban Ibrahim Hassan and Barzan Ibrahim Hassan, were captured in April 2003.
In a statement, the Iraqi government said that Sabawi Ibrahim Hassan "killed and tortured Iraqi citizens" and "contributed effectively in planning, supervising and carrying out many terrorist acts inside Iraq."
Thaer Naqib, a spokesman for Allawi, said Hassan's detention stemmed from the government's commitment to hunt down and arrest "all criminals who have committed massacres and have their hands stained with the blood of the Iraqi nation."
The United States had accused Hassan of helping to organize and finance the insurgency, and had offered a $1 million reward for his capture. Hassan was the "six of diamonds" in the Pentagon's deck of cards that was issued to help U.S. troops identify the most-wanted members of the government.
Hassan was a member of the Revolutionary Command Council, the executive committee that ran Iraq under Hussein. He also had served as director of the General Intelligence service, responsible for internal security, and during Iraq's 1990 occupation of Kuwait, he was governor of the emirate for security affairs. He later became a top presidential adviser.
In other developments Sunday, five people were killed in Hammam Alil, a town near the northern city of Mosul, when a bomb exploded in a building used by the police, hospital officials said. At least three people were wounded in the attack, which may have been a suicide bombing, witnesses said. Other victims remained trapped under the wreckage.
A U.S. Marine assigned to the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force was killed Saturday in Babil, a province south of Baghdad with a heavy insurgent presence, the U.S. command reported Sunday. Hours later, two U.S. soldiers were killed and two were wounded in an attack in southeastern Baghdad that apparently involved rifle fire and a bomb, the U.S. military said.
In Baghdad, gunmen killed two policemen on their way to work, and police found the decapitated body of an Iraqi woman, dressed in traditional black, with a sign pinned to her chest saying "spy" in Arabic, the Associated Press reported.
On a farm in Latifiyah, about 25 miles south of Baghdad, Iraqi troops found the beheaded bodies of four people who were kidnapped Saturday while driving to the holy city of Najaf, the Associated Press reported. The victims belonged to the Badr Organization, the militia of an influential Shiite political party, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, according to the AP.
Special correspondents Omar Fekeiki in Baghdad and Dlovan Brwari in Mosul contributed to this report.