U.S. forces have been carrying out a major operation near the northern city of Kirkuk.
Iraqi officials told reporters the target of the operation in the town of Hawijah was Saddam Hussein's deputy, Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri. But a U.S. officer, Major Doug Vincent, has denied some reports that Mr. al-Douri was captured.
Mowaffak al-Rubaie, a member of the US-picked Iraqi Council, told Arabic television station Al-Jazeera that there was "a very big military operation" in Kirkuk and that those killed or captured included a "big fish."
"We are trying to verify the identity of this important figure," al-Rubaie said. "Preliminary examination has been very positive." A senior Kurdish official in Kirkuk said, speaking on condition of anonymity, said he heard al-Douri had been "killed or captured," citing sources in his political party. The official said family members of al-Douri bodyguards were seen crying and saying that al-Douri had been captured.
No. 6 on the American military list of most-wanted Iraqis, al-Douri was vice chairman of Saddam's Revolutionary Command Council. The U.S. military believes he may be behind recent deadly attacks on coalition forces and it has offered a $10 million reward for information leading to his capture or death.
US troops last week had arrested a wife and a daughter of al-Douri in an apparent attempt to pressure him into surrendering.
Last week, U.S. troops captured Mr. al-Douri's wife and daughter, as well as a number of his supporters, during a raid in the town of Samarra, in an apparent attempt to pressure him into surrendering. U.S. Central Command said at the time there was no indication that Mr. al-Douri was in the vicinity.
Also Tuesday, a U.S. soldier was killed by a roadside bomb south of Samarra, where there was a major clash Sunday between coalition troops and insurgents.
[information by Reuters and Associated Press]