WASHINGTON – "Chemical Ali" (search) is apparently alive and well.
Senior defense officials told Fox News that they are now convinced that Ali Hassan Al Majid is alive and kicking, despite the fact that he was listed as "presumed dead" after an April 7 bombing strike on his home north of Basra (search).
But defense officials say the United States now has Majid's brother in custody, and as a result of interviews with him and others, U.S. Central Command has removed Chemical Ali from "presumed dead" to "still at large."
"Chemical Ali" got his name because he was in charge of deploying chemical weapons against the Kurds (search) in 1988. He was put in charge of the southern district of Iraq before the war by his cousin, former dictator Saddam Hussein.
Al Majid served in many positions in Saddam’s government including defense minister, interior minister, security chief, military governor of Kuwait and director of the Revolutionary Command Council. Al Majid was known for his ruthless tactics and was a key player in Hussein’s 1996 family massacre after Hussein Kamil, Saddam’s son-in-law, revealed Iraqi weapon secrets after defecting to Jordan.
Al Majid orchestrated the gassing of Kurdish villages as part of a 1988 campaign against Iraqi dissidents known as “Anfal.” Al Majid ordered helicopters to deploy enough chemicals to destroy every living thing in the villages. Intelligence experts estimate that 50,000 to 100,000 people were killed in Operation Anfal.
It was widely believed that Al Majid might try to use chemical weapons against U.S. and coalition troops as they approached from the south, but that scenario never played itself out.
British commanders said they were convinced Chemical Ali was dead back in early April but, over time, the evidence never developed to back that up.
The announcement comes on the heels of reports by defense officials that captured Iraqi prisoners haven’t yielded as many leads on weapons of mass destruction as they would have liked.
Senior defense officials told Fox News that it is obvious that top Iraqi leaders in custody are lying to interrogators about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs.
The infamous Huda Mahdi Ammash, dubbed “Mrs. Anthrax” for her work on Iraq's bio-weapons program, has failed multiple polygraph tests, senior defense officials said.
"The sense is that all of these people who were tied to Iraq's WMD program had a pre-determined story that they were going to use if they were caught," said one official.
Another official, however, said that there are some new interviews with other prisoners that have provided some "new details" that the United States is following up on.
Fox News' Bret Baier and Ian McCaleb and The Associated Press contributed to this report.