'Chemical Ali' Denies Killing Hundreds of Kurds in Anfal Campaign, Claims He Had Them Displaced

Saddam Hussein's cousin Ali Hassan al-Majid told a court Thursday he ordered the displacement of Kurds from their villages in northern Iraq in the 1980s but denied claims that he executed hundreds of Kurdish fighters.

Al-Majid, known as "Chemical Ali" for allegedly using chemical weapons against the Kurds, is one of six defendants who still face charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity stemming from a military campaign code-named Operation Anfal during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war. More than 100,000 Kurds were killed.

Saddam was also charged in the case but was executed Dec. 30 after being found guilty in a separate trial of involvement in the deaths of 148 Shiite Muslims.

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"I am responsible for the displacement and I took this decision on my own without going back to the high military command or Baath Party officials," al-Majid said.

But he denied claims that he had executed 300 Kurdish rebels, adding that Saddam ordered him to pardon them despite their alleged confessions that they committed crimes in an Arab village. Kurds, while mostly Sunni Muslims, are not Arabs.

Earlier, the prosecution played audio tapes said to be of al-Majid in which he described all Kurds as "saboteurs."

In another tape, a voice said to be of al-Majid could be heard claiming he once received a letter from Kurdish leader and current Iraqi President Jalal Talabani asking to hold talks and show willingness to present concessions with a condition that the government abstain from demolishing Kurdish villages.

The trial was adjourned until Jan. 23.