- Jul 31, 2005
- Reaction score
- Political Leaning
BAGHDAD (Reuters) -
Saddam Hussein's weapons experts known as "Dr Germ" and "Mrs Anthrax" are being released by U.S. forces, an Iraqi lawyer said on Monday, and the U.S. military confirmed several "high-value detainees" were being freed.
Military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Barry Johnson said eight leading detainees had been freed on Saturday.
He said they were among 27 prisoners, considered senior members of the administration overthrown by U.S. forces in 2003, who now posed no threat to security, were neither charged with crimes nor material witnesses and had no intelligence value.
Johnson declined to identify any of the detainees or comment on the fate of those still held prisoner.
Lawyers said Tareq Aziz, Saddam's right-hand man in diplomacy, was among other detainees being considered for release.
Baghdad lawyer Badia Aref said 26 people, including five who were ill, were now in the process of being released. He said among them were Huda Ammash, nicknamed "Mrs Anthrax" by the popular press in the West, and Rihab Taha, dubbed "Dr Germ."
Taha was not on the U.S. most-wanted list but was described by American officials as a former director of the Iraqi bacterial and biological warfare programme.
She has admitted producing germ warfare agents but said all such weapons were destroyed long before the U.S. invasion.
Taha has a doctorate in plant toxins from the University of East Anglia in Britain, and is married to Amir Muhammed Rasheed, a former Iraqi oil minister also in U.S. detention.
The releases come days after U.S.
President George W. Bush said his decision to invade
Iraq followed bad intelligence about Saddam's weapons programme -- but he still had no regrets.
They also come as Iraq's Shi'ite- and Kurdish-led government is trying to reach out to Saddam's fellow minority Sunni Arabs following a successful election on Thursday that saw most Sunnis take part for the first time and Sunni rebels hold their fire.
"They want to reduce the political tension and Jaafari wants to pull the rug from under his opponents' feet," Aref said of Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari.
Saddam and seven others are on trial for crimes against humanity; hearings resume on Wednesday. Dozens of other leading supporters remain in jail.
It seems sort of odd to release Saddams weapons experts while the insurgency is still alive and well in Iraq and likely composed of many Saddam loyalists. What's to stop Dr. Germ and Mrs. Anthrax from joining up with the insurgency?