Fugitive Baathists Pledge Support to New Leader Izzat Ibrahim After Saddam Hussein's Execution

A previously unknown group of Iraqi Baathists pledged allegiance to Saddam Hussein's fugitive deputy Izzat Ibrahim and named him the "legitimate president of Iraq," a statement issued by the group said Sunday.

The statement was distributed in Amman at the Jordan branch of Saddam's Baath party where dozens of people came to pay condolences for the former president who was hanged to death Saturday. The statement was apparently sent from the Baath party in Baghdad.

"In the name of Baghdad's Citizens Gathering, we pledge allegiance to Gen. Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri as the legitimate president of Iraq and the chief of the armed forces," said the statement.

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Ibrahim, Saddam's former deputy and now a fugitive with a $10 million bounty on his head, has not been seen since the fall of Saddam's regime in April 2003. He is believed to be leading Baathists participating in the insurgency that has left thousands of U.S. and allied troops dead.

The unknown group praised Ibrahim as "the chief commander of the glorious national resistance who would lead the battle to liberate occupied Iraq from the American, British and Iranian occupation." The Baath party was dissolved after Saddam's regime fell.

The one-page statement also expressed its "congratulations to the Iraqi people for the martyrdom of Saddam Hussein, the hero and the father of the three million Iraqi martyrs."

It was apparently referring to Iraqis killed during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, the 1991 Gulf War and Iraqis who died during the 13 years of sanctions following the 1991 war.

"We vow to liberate our country from the heinous criminals, neo-Zionists and the Persians in order to restore Iraq's unity," it said.

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