BAGHDAD, Iraq – A fugitive confidant of Saddam Hussein (search) who is now believed to be an insurgent leader is sick and losing influence among leaders of the outlawed Baath party, the Iraqi government said Monday.
The government's statement said Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri (search) nonetheless retained his ability to "recruit terrorists and finance terrorist attacks with money he stole from Iraq and transferred to Syria during the rule of the tyrant Saddam."
It did not say what the red-haired al-Douri was sick with, or explain how it knew about his health. Al-Douri is thought to be in his late 60s and little is known about his whereabouts following Saddam's ouster in 2003.
Under Saddam, al-Douri was vice chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council (search), the highest executive body in Iraq. After Saddam's capture in December 2003, al-Douri became the most wanted Iraqi still at large.
With a $10 million bounty on his head, al-Douri is believed to be playing a key role in the two-year insurgency wracking much of Iraq. Former Baathists, embittered by their loss of power after Saddam's ouster, are thought to be a key component of the insurgency.
Other factions include Muslim militants, some of whom are allied with Jordanian-born terror mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his al-Qaida in Iraq group. Former members of Saddam's army also are thought to be playing a role in the Sunni Arab-dominated insurgency.
Al-Douri is believed to lead groups called the New Regional Command and the New Baath Party.
Citing reports, the government announcement said al-Douri's bad health had undermined his sway over Baathist leaders because of his inability to communicate with them.
It said al-Douri was suspected of involvement in the use of chemical weapons against Kurdish villagers in 1988, the brutal suppression of a Shiite revolt in 1991 in southern Iraq and mass executions.
The government did not reveal the source of its information or explain why it was releasing the statement now, but the announcement came one day after an Iraqi tribunal investigating members of Saddam's regime released a videotape. It showed testimony from the ousted dictator's cousin, nicknamed "Chemical Ali" for his alleged role in the 1988 gas attack that killed thousands of Kurds.