WASHINGTON – It could just be more of Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf's trademark disinformation, but there were reports this week that he committed suicide.
Two Iranian newspapers reported that Saddam's notorious spinmeister, whose outlandish briefings on the state of the Iraq war earned him the nickname "Comical Ali," hanged himself shortly after the fall of Baghdad last week.
The newspapers Al Wifaq and Mardomsalari said the story of al-Sahhaf's "suicide" came from unnamed Iraqi war refugees in the town of Dehlorn.
The reports said al-Sahhaf was ordered to stay at his post and continue to give the impression that Saddam was in control even while other regime leaders and military commanders were fleeing.
Al-Sahhaf was said to have hanged himself last Wednesday, hours after U.S. forces took control of Baghdad.
Are these reports accurate? Or were they planted by the master of disinformation himself in the hope that U.S. forces won't look for him?
Centcom and Pentagon officials say they have no confirmation al-Sahhaf is dead and say reports of his demise, to paraphrase Mark Twain, may have been greatly exaggerated.
Even more intriguing is the fact that despite his high profile during the war, the former information minister is not one of the 55 most wanted regime figures whose faces and names were put on decks of cards that were distributed to U.S. troops in Iraq.
"He's a person of interest to us to be sure, but not a major one," said a U.S. intelligence official.
Al-Sahhaf has become something of a cult figure as he continued to insist that, as U.S. forces stormed into Iraq and raced toward Baghdad, "the infidels" were being "slaughtered."