Iraqi security forces have arrested Saddam Hussein nephew, described as the top financier of the Sunni-dominated insurgency, after Syrian authorities forced him to return to his native country and told American officials where he was hiding in Baghdad.
Yasir Sabhawi Ibrahim, son of Saddam's half brother Sabhawi Ibrahim Hasan al-Tikriti, was arrested in a Baghdad apartment, several days after Syrian authorities forced him to return to Iraq, security officials told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from Cairo. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to deal with the media. They did not say exactly when the arrest was made.
Syria handed over Yasir Sabhawi Ibrahim's father, No. 36 on the U.S. list of 55 most-wanted Iraqis, along with 29 other former Baath Party officials in late February, after months of denying Iraqi accusations that Damascus was harboring fugitives. That was seen as a goodwill gesture by Syria.
The latest Syrian action comes as relations with the United States continued to deteriorate, however, with Washington insisting Damascus could do more to block the flow of foreign fighters into Iraq. Also the Syrians appear increasingly concerned they will be named complicit in a U.N. investigation of the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. A report of the U.N. probe was to be given to Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Thursday.
The Iraqi officials believe the suspect was controlling Baath Party funds in Syria, Jordan and Yemen and had been running a vast network of insurgents inside Iraq. They also claim he was acting as coordinator between Baathist insurgents and al-Qaida in Iraq, the terror network of Jordanian-born militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
Yasir Sabhawi Ibrahim was believed to be second in command of the Iraqi-led insurgency behind Younis al-Ahmad, a former member of the Baath Party leadership believed to be still in Syria.
Officials in Syria were not available for comment on the arrest.
On July 21, the U.S. Treasury Department froze the U.S. assets of the suspect as well as the five other sons of al-Tikriti.
On Sept. 19, Iraq's Central Criminal Court sentenced another of al-Tikriti's sons, Ayman, to life in prison on charges he helped fund the insurgency and was a bomb-maker. It was the first known trial of any of the former leader's family members, reports the AP.