US forces failed to capture Saddam Hussein’s deputy, Izzat Ibrahim Al-Douri, after a massive, 12-hour swoop on the north-central Iraqi town of Hawijah yesterday.
“Al-Douri was not captured in this raid,” Maj. Doug Vincent, spokesman for the 173rd Airborne Division, which mounted the huge search operation, told reporters who accompanied the 1,200 troops involved.
"We get our information from the 173rd (Airborne Brigade) and the 173rd is saying they don't have him," said Sgt. Robert Cargie, a spokesman for the U.S. Army's 4th Infantry Division.
At a NATO meeting in Brussels, U.S. Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said he had no information about the reports. White House spokesman Scott McClellan said he could not confirm the capture or arrest of al-Douri.
There was no immediate word on whether operations carried out elsewhere in the region turned up the alleged mastermind behind many of the attacks on the US-led coalition. There is a $10 million price tag on his head. Earlier, sources in Iraq’s Governing Council said Ibrahim had been either seized or killed in the raid.
The principal target of the search in this town of 80,000 people, 45 km (28 miles) west of Iraq’s northern oil center of Kirkuk, was someone who had a “close relation with Al-Douri,” a US officer told reporters.
The division’s commander, Col. William Neville, said the operation was still ongoing as of 7:20 p.m. (1620 GMT) and that all roads in or out remained closed to Iraqis. “The coalition, in conjunction with local police, is conducting an operation in Hawijah against criminals, terrorist and arms caches. It’s an ongoing operation,” said Neville. A total of 27 people were arrested and seven rocket-propelled grenades, 56 Kalashnikovs and several improvised explosive devices of the sort favored by anti-US insurgents seized, the colonel said.
[information by Al-Jazeera and Reuters]