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Ex-Iraqi Vice President Captured

Taha Yassin Ramadan is taken by Kurdish officials. He was No. 20 on the most-wanted list.

August 20, 2003|Patrick J. McDonnell and Edmund Sanders | Times Staff Writers

BAGHDAD — Taha Yassin Ramadan, a longtime loyalist of Saddam Hussein and former Iraqi vice president, has been captured, U.S. military officials said Tuesday.

Ramadan, a contemporary of Hussein's who was once considered Iraq's second-most-powerful man, was No. 20 on the U.S. list of most-wanted figures from the former regime. He was the 10 of diamonds in the Pentagon's deck-of-cards inventory of wanted Iraqis.

Associated Press reported that Ramadan, 65, was captured by Kurdish authorities in northern Iraq and turned over to the U.S. Army on Tuesday. He was said to have been disguised in peasant garb when seized in Mosul, the city where Hussein's sons Qusai and Uday were killed in a gun battle with U.S. forces in July.

Staff. Sgt. J.J. Johnson, a spokesman for the U.S.-led occupation authority in Iraq, confirmed Ramadan's arrest but provided no details. President Bush welcomed the news.

"I'm really pleased that we've captured the vice president," Bush said. "Slowly but surely we'll find who we need to find."

Ramadan is a former member of Hussein's Revolutionary Command Council. He had a reputation for carrying out Hussein's directives in a coldblooded manner, including the elimination of political rivals and repression of the ethnic Kurdish minority in the north. He was known as "Saddam's knuckles."

A native of the Kurdish province of Dohuk, Ramadan was widely viewed as a traitor in his homeland.

"He is the worst criminal in the Baathist Party," said Mohammed Tawfik, a member of the political bureau of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, one of the two major Kurdish parties. "He has a history of suppression and execution."

Hussein brutally suppressed Kurdish nationalists and attempted to "Arabize" northern Iraq, especially the oil city of Kirkuk, by evicting Kurds and replacing them with Arabs from the south. Kurdish officials accuse Ramadan of helping to orchestrate Hussein's anti-Kurdish agenda.

Ramadan went to such lengths to conceal his Kurdish ancestry that, according to one source, he refused to attend his father's funeral.

Ramadan is said to have joined the Baath Party in the 1950s, when it was still a small and largely underground organization. He, like Hussein, embraced the Baathist ideas of Arab nationalism and socialism. He held several government posts after the party seized control of the country in a 1968 coup.

Ramadan's influence had declined in recent years, but Kurdish officials in particular have been pressing for his arrest and prosecution for war crimes.

"It's very difficult to find a family who has not suffered from him," said Tawfik. "These people committed crimes against the Iraqi people, and Iraqis should be responsible for delivering the justice."

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Salar Mustafa Jaff of The Times' Baghdad Bureau contributed to this report.

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