Iraqi police on Wednesday arrested Saddam Hussein’s nephew in Baghdad, charging that he served as the top financier of Iraq’s rampant insurgency, senior Iraqi security officials said.
Yasir Sabhawi Ibrahim, son of Saddam’s half brother Sabhawi Ibrahim Hasan al-Tikriti, was arrested in a Baghdad apartment, several days after Syrian authorities forced him to return to Iraq, the officials told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from Cairo. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to deal with the media.
One of the officials, who works as a coordinator between Iraqi authorities and U.S. military intelligence, described the purported financier as the most dangerous man in the insurgency. The other official, who is a senior member of the Iraqi Defense Ministry, said the arrest was a serious blow to terrorist networks.
Both officials said Syrian authorities “pushed” Ibrahim into Iraq but did not hand him over to authorities.
The Syrians were aware of his whereabouts in Baghdad and informed U.S. authorities, who then passed the information to Iraq security forces who carried out a “fast, easy” raid on the fugitive’s apartment, the Defense Ministry official said.
The Iraqi officials believe the suspect was operating Baath Party funds in Syria, Jordan and Yemen and had been running a vast network of insurgents inside Iraq. They also claim he was coordinating between Baathist insurgents and the terror network of Jordanian-born militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
He was believed to be second in command of the Iraqi-led insurgency behind Younis al-Ahmad, a former member of the Baath Party leadership believed to be still in Syria.
Officials in Syria were not available for comment on the arrest.
On July 21, the U.S. Treasury Department froze the U.S. assets of the suspect as well as the five other sons of al-Tikriti, who was himself captured in Syria earlier this year and handed over to Iraq in an apparent good will gesture.
On Sept. 19, Iraq’s Central Criminal Court sentenced another of al-Tikriti’s sons, Ayman, to life in prison on charges he helped fund the insurgency and was a bomb-maker. It was the first known trial of any of the former leader’s family members.
Syria has been under intense pressure from the United States and Iraq to do more to prevent militants and weapons crossing from its territories into neighboring Iraq. Damascus denies actively supporting insurgents battling U.S.-led coalition forces in Iraq, but says it is virtually impossible to lock down its porous desert frontier with Iraq.