Saddam Hussein's henchman 'the King of Clubs' (72) killed in fighting in Iraq
ONE of Saddam Hussein's last surviving henchmen has been killed near the northern city of Tikrit after helping to mastermind Iraq's insurgency and supporting the jihadists of Isil, officials said yesterday.
The body of Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, who spent 24 years as Saddam's deputy on the Revolutionary Command Council, was discovered on a battlefield after he was killed by Iraqi soldiers and allied Shia militiamen, according to Raed al-Jubouri, the governor of Salahuddin province. Douri (72) was one of "12 terrorists" who died, added Mr Jubouri.
Douri evaded capture for 12 years after Saddam's downfall, reinventing himself as the leader of the Naqshbandi Order, one of Iraq's main Sunni insurgent groups dedicated to fighting the Shia-led government.
More recently, Douri allied with the terrorists of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil). Along with other former pillars of Saddam's regime, he gave Isil a backbone of military professionalism and experience, along with access to smuggling networks which developed when Iraq was crippled by sanctions in the 1990s.
Douri's death has been falsely reported before. This time, the authorities released a photograph purported to be of his body with a distinctive red beard. The government promised to carry out DNA tests. After the Anglo-American invasion in 2003, the US military developed a set of playing cards to help troops identify the "most wanted" members of Saddam's regime. Douri appeared as the King of Clubs. But he evaded capture and went on to mastermind attacks on US forces and Iraq's new government.
For years, Douri was believed to be in Syria, but he retained an operational role in the insurgency and played a part in Isil's offensive. When the terrorists seized the city of Mosul last June, Douri released an audio recording praising Isil and urging Iraqis to join its effort to "liberate" the country. But the relationship between Isil and the Naqshbandi Order has soured, apparently over issues including the murder of Moaz al-Kasasbeh, the Jordanian pilot who was burned to death in February.
If confirmed, Douri's death would be "important, but not a game-changer", said Charlie Winter, a Middle East researcher at the London-based Quilliam Foundation, adding that the Naqshbandi Order's importance to Isil had diminished, as their alliance has weakened. (© Daily Telegraph, London)