Saddam Hussein’s nephew claims brother should not be included on government’s ‘Most Wanted’ terror list

Saddam Hussein’s nephew claims brother should not be included on government’s ‘Most Wanted’ terror list
An Iraqi man looks at a list of names published for the first time by the Iraqi security services of the country’s sixty most wanted people including members from the Daesh group, Al-Qaeda and the former Baath party on Feb. 4, 2018 in Baghdad. (AFP)
Updated 06 February 2018

Saddam Hussein’s nephew claims brother should not be included on government’s ‘Most Wanted’ terror list

Saddam Hussein’s nephew claims brother should not be included on government’s ‘Most Wanted’ terror list

BAGHDAD: One of Saddam Hussein’s nephews has broken ranks with his extended family to denounce any relatives who still have links with Iraq’s Baath Party and to urge the government to remove his brother from a “Most Wanted” list of terrorist suspects.
Khattab Watban Ibrahim Al-Hassan told Arab News that Baghdad is wrong to accuse his brother, Ahmed, of maintaining ties to old regime networks now allied to militant groups including Daesh and Al-Qaeda.
In a rare instance of public dissent from within the ranks of the tight-knit and much-feared clan that once formed around Saddam, he also criticized any family members or Ba’athists who committed crimes against Iraqis before and after the late president’s death in 2003, insisting that no one can legitimately claim to be working to serve Iraqis if they are involved in the insurgency.
Speaking via phone from his residence in Qatar, Al-Hassan said: “We are among those who are facing the wrath of the Baathists, so we have no relationship with them.”
On Sunday, Arab News revealed that Iraqi security forces had sent the UN and Interpol a wanted list of roughly 60 suspects accused of orchestrating the ongoing insurgency in the country.
The former Baath officials identified in the document are alleged to have links with a variety of militant organizations that played pivotal roles in the resistance to the US-led occupation and that continue to be a thorn in the side of Baghdad.
Among those identified on the list are Al-Hassan’s brother, who is said to be leading and financing an armed Baathist group in Salahuddin province, north of Baghdad.
Khattab and Ahmed are the sons of Watban Ibrahim Hassan Al-Tikriti, interior minister of Saddam’s regime, and the dictator’s half-brother.
Their father was arrested while trying to cross the border into Syria in 2003 and held in US custody until 2011, when he was handed over to the Iraqi authorities. He went on to publicly criticize the Baath Party and apologize for the crimes committed by its leaders, before dying of natural causes in prison in August 2015. Al-Hassan now believes he has a duty to follow his father’s example and speak out.
“After the death of Saddam, we have had nothing to do with the Baath Party,” he told Arab News.
Al-Hassan accused the Iraqi government of needlessly harassing his brother as part of a political vendetta stemming from his family’s deep ties to the former regime, and questioned whether the publication of the wanted list would be the end of the matter.
“If these charges are proved or denied, does this mean the file will be closed?” he asked. “Iraq is not just for (this government). It is for Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds. It is our Iraq too, so when will this file be closed?”
The Iraqi branch of the Baath Party was formed in the early 1950s as a left-wing nationalist movement, but had morphed into a brutal, autocratic organization dominated by Saddam and his close relatives by the time of the 2003 US-led invasion.
While the clan’s most powerful members have been either killed or on the run since 2003, the list of names handed to the UN suggests the family’s bloody influence lives on in the bombings, ambushes and kidnappings that are still a daily feature of life in Iraq.
Another half-brother of Saddam’s who held a key position inside the former regime and whose children are accused of links to the insurgency is Sabawi Ibrahim Al-Tikriti, head of Iraq’s notorious Mukhabarat intelligence service during the 1991 Gulf War and brother of Watban Ibrahim Hassan Al-Tikriti.
Sabawi died of cancer in 2013, but his sons Ayman and Omar are on the wanted list, as is Saddam’s daughter, Raghad.
Al-Hassan, who last visited Iraq in 2013, said he is ready to return to his homeland and could even put himself forward as an independent candidate in the parliamentary elections scheduled for May.
“I want to tell all Iraqi officials and decision makers in Iraq that we are Iraqis and we are looking to serve the country by any means,” he said.
Al-Hassan said he believes the Baath Party effectively collapsed in 2014, when Saddam’s replacement as its leader, Ezzat Al-Douri, lauded Daesh militants for capturing the city of Mosul, in northern Iraq.
“How can you praise a terrorist organization that has come to occupy and kill your people? This means you are against Iraq and Iraqis,” he said.
Al-Douri’s whereabouts remain unknown and there has been consistent speculation that he was killed some time ago, but he also features on the wanted list as head of the militant group the Army of the Men of the Naqshbandi Order.
The Iraqi government published an additional “Most Wanted” list of 14 names yesterday, which included five suspects from other Arab countries: a Qatari, two Saudis, a Jordanian and a Yemeni. Abu Baker Al-Baghdadi, leader of Daesh, is top of the new list.