WASHINGTON – Reports of a death notice and a mourning ceremony did not fool U.S. forces tracking down Aziz Saleh al-Numan (search), the highest-ranking capture on the list of the 55 most-wanted Iraqis.
U.S. forces captured al-Numan, a former senior Baath Party (search) leader, despite the reported efforts by his family to throw them off track. He was No. 8 on Central Command's list.
Al-Numan "is now in custody of coalition forces," a brief U.S. Central Command (search) statement said Thursday. He was captured by coalition forces Wednesday near Baghdad.
U.S. officials have said al-Numan is one of nine top Iraqi leaders whom the United States wants to see tried for war crimes or crimes against humanity.
Several days ago his relatives reportedly published an advertisement in one of Baghdad's new newspapers saying that he died of a heart attack. It said his sister held a mourning ceremony at her house in the Dawoudi district in Baghdad.
Al-Numan's family had been involved in talks with U.S.-led forces for three weeks, Time magazine reported Thursday in its online edition, Time.com. They wanted assurances that Al-Numan, 62, would not be charged in an Iraqi court and that he would receive treatment for his diabetes, the report said.
A petty officer who answered the telephone at Central Command headquarters in Tampa, Fla., said spokesmen could not be reached late Thursday for comment on the report.
The United States does not offer guarantees to any potential surrender, Time said, but it does assure prisoners of proper medical treatment.
Al-Numan attempted suicide by taking insulin but was stopped by a son, Time reported. U.S. forces eventually surrounded the houses of al-Numan's brother and son-in-law, the report said; they were led by family members to his sister's house, where he was hiding.
Al-Numan was the Baath Party's regional command chairman responsible for west Baghdad. He also is a former governor of Karbala and Najaf.
All full members of Saddam Hussein's toppled Baath Party were ordered Thursday to identify themselves to the U.S. military.
In a statement read on the U.S.-led coalition's Information Radio, Gen. Tommy Franks said the announcement was directed at the upper levels of the party.
"Go to the nearest U.S. military forces and identify yourselves, and then wait to be told what to do," said the statement from the top U.S. commander in Iraq. "There must be no Baath Party activity, because the party no longer exists."
The capture of al-Numan brought to 25 the number of Iraqis from the top-55 list who are in coalition custody, according to the Pentagon's count.
On Tuesday, Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, announced the surrender of Uglah Abid Saqir al-Kubaysi, No. 50 on the list, and a leader of the Baath Party in southeastern Iraq.
The highest-ranked Iraqi from the list of 55 in custody prior to al-Numan's capture was Muhammad Hamza al-Zubaydi, a former deputy prime minister and former member of the Baath Party regional command. He is No. 9 on the top-55 list and was taken into U.S. custody April 20.
Al-Numan was a longtime member of the regional command of the Baath Party. He was once minister of irrigation and agriculture.
He was prominent in the quelling of the Shiite uprising in the south in March 1991 in the immediate aftermath of the U.S.-led attack that ousted the Iraqi army from Kuwait. A Shiite, he had a reputation for cruel treatment of the rebels, accused by opposition groups of killing and torture.
Before the 1991 uprising, when he was governor of Najaf, he was accused of arresting, torturing and killing Shiite clerics during the 1980-88 Iraq-Iran war.
In the 1990 invasion of Kuwait, he was appointed governor of Kuwait for administrative affairs with a rank of minister, along with Saddam's half brother Sabawai, who was governor for security affairs, and Saddam's cousin Ali Hassan al-Majid, who was governor for military affairs.