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Iraqi VP Captured

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Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Former Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan, the "10 of Diamonds" in the U.S. Army's deck of "55-Most Wanted" cards, was arrested in the northern city of Mosul Tuesday, Fox News has confirmed.

Kurdish officials told Reuters that Ramadan, No. 20 on the Army's list of fugitives, was in custody. Agence France-Presse said the information had first come from an anonymous official of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, one of the two major Kurdish political parties.

"PUK fighters captured Taha Yassin Ramadan on Monday at 1500 local time [7:00 a.m. EDT] in Mosul," the source, said to be in the Kurdish-held town of Erbil, told AFP. He added that Ramadan "he has been turned over to American forces."

Al Jazeera, the Qatar-based satellite broadcaster, said Ramadan was captured by PUK troops while wearing peasant clothing as a disguise.

Chief Diane Perry at the Pentagon confirmed that he had been turned over to the U.S. Army Tuesday.

Adel Murad, another PUK official, told Reuters in Baghdad that Ramadan "was detained in Mosul as a result of cooperation between the political parties and residents."

Latif Rashid, a spokesman for the PUK in London, said he was notified of the capture by PUK forces in a telephone call from the PUK spokesman in Sulaimaniyah.

"He was hiding among his relatives or colleagues," he said.

President Bush on Tuesday welcomed the arrest and expressed confidence that U.S. troops would find other wanted Iraqi officials.

"I don't know the facts of where he was, what was going on. I'm really pleased that we've captured the vice president. Slowly but surely we'll find who we need to find," Bush told reporters in Crawford, Texas.

Ramadan, who also served on Saddam's Revolutionary Command Council, was known as "Saddam's knuckles" for his ruthlessness.

Ramadan, 65 years old, was born in Mosul in 1968. He is regarded as a former regime hard-liner and is one of the few participants in the 1968 coup d'etat that brought the Baath Party to power to have survived the many subsequent purges.

He joined the then-underground Baath in 1956 and worked as a bank clerk. After the coup, he headed a court that executed 44 officers in 1970 for plotting to overthrow the new regime.

Ramadan was deputy prime minister during the 1980s and was for a time considered the second most powerful man in Iraq. He remained commander of the Popular Army, the Baathist militia, but was considered to be a secondary figure during the 1990s.

During a 1980s visit to Jordan, Muslim fundamentalists asked Ramadan what the Baath's attitude to Islam was. Muslims were free to pray and follow their faith, he replied, "but if they try to harm the Baathist regime or ridicule its slogans, the regime will break their necks!"

Ramadan is alleged to have been in charge of brutal crackdowns against Kurdish civilians during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, and against southern Shiites following the first Gulf war in 1991, the year he was made vice president.

He lauded the execution of Iraqi officials found guilty of bribery as necessary "lessons for the others" and often took a harder line than Saddam in denouncing the United States, Israel and other states deemed hostile to Baghdad, once describing the U.S. Congress as little more than an extension of Israel's Knesset, or parliament.

During the invasion of Iraq this past March, he addressed Prince Saud al-Faisal, the Saudi foreign minister, as a "loser," a "minion and a lackey," adding that he should "go to hell," according to Reuters' translation.

Ramadan is high on the list of regime figures Iraqi opposition groups say should be tried for war crimes.

For all his ruthlessness, Ramadan faithfully obeyed his mentor. Toward the end of the Iran-Iraq war, Saddam ruled that too many Iraqi officials were getting fat while the troops at the front were fighting for the nation's survival.

He published the weights of his Cabinet ministers and the weights he felt they should be, then gave them 30 days to slim down. The flabby Ramadan was told to shed 60 pounds — and did.

Fox News' Bret Baier and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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