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Saddam's Half Brother Caught

Saddam's Half Brother Caught

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(AP) Saddam Hussein's half brother exulted in power, wealth and violence -- all the things that came naturally to many of the Iraqi leader's relatives.

Barzan Ibrahim Hasan, captured Thursday in Baghdad by U.S. special forces, "might have been more diplomatic, more financially astute," than other members of Saddam's immediate family, "but that's not saying much," said Charles Forrest of the International Campaign to Indict Iraqi War Criminals.

"He was a thug," Forrest said.

Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks of the U.S. Central Command said the 53-year-old Hasan was captured alone in Baghdad on Thursday, and no casualties were sustained by the special forces who detained him or the U.S. Marines who supported them.

Hasan's career illustrates another fact of life in Saddam's Iraq: Being close to the president did not always mean being safe -- over the years, the first family's feuds and rivalries have meant detention and even death for Saddam's brothers, sons or cousins -- and it certainly doesn't mean they are safe now.

The U.S.-led coalition is "relentlessly pursuing" fugitives, Brooks said. Rights groups say they should stand trial for crimes against humanity.

Barzan Hasan was the second of Saddam's three half brothers to be taken into custody; former Interior Minister Watban Ibrahim Hasan was apprehended last week in Mosul in northern Iraq. The third, former security chief Sab'awi Ibrahim Hasan, is being sought, as are Saddam's sons Odai and Qusai.

Hasan, a former fare collector on a Baghdad minibus, directed dozens of operations in Europe and elsewhere against Iraqi dissidents as head of Saddam's intelligence service from 1979 to 1983.

He later fell out of favor. His often unruly behavior, as well as his drinking and womanizing, sometimes embarrassed Saddam.

Nonetheless, he served in the 1990s as Iraq's ambassador to U.N. agencies -- including the U.N. human rights committee -- in Geneva.

And he remained a presidential adviser at the time of his capture; he is one of 52 notorious members of Saddam's regime depicted on a deck of playing cards distributed to American soldiers. Brooks said Hasan has "extensive knowledge" of the toppled regime's inner workings.

Saddam, the only child of his mother's first marriage, "trusted the family more than anybody else, so he relied on them" said Bakhtiar Amin, an Iraqi exile. "It wasn't a government, it was more a group of thugs running the country."

Amin's Paris-based International Alliance for Justice has long sought trials for Iraqi officials. He says Saddam, his half brothers, his sons, cousins and other lieutenants should face charges of crimes against humanity.

Amin's father-in-law, Talib al-Soheil, who helped plot a 1993 coup attempt against Saddam before fleeing with his family, was killed in 1995 in Lebanon, apparently by Saddam's agents in the Iraqi Embassy in Beirut.

Amin said a trial of Barzan Hasan would reveal what many believe was an extensive spying and terror network run from Iraqi embassies around the world.

"These things need to be clarified, there needs to be light shed on these crimes, and not just in the case of my father-in-law," Amin said.

Forrest said Barzan Hasan -- the chief organizer, it is said, of a clandestine group of companies and funds that handled Saddam's wealth -- likely can provide information on billions of dollars Saddam is believed to have hidden outside Iraq.

Saddam, it is clear, entrusted only his family with his wealth and security.

His son Qusai had for years been in charge of the Republican Guard and his father's personal security; just before the war, he was put in charge of defending the capital. Odai, who was older, was seen as too unstable to be given such responsibilities, but nonetheless ran a paramilitary unit that assassinated his father's enemies, put down protests and ruthlessly cracked down on dissidents.

Relations between Odai and his uncles were known to be bad. Odai reportedly divorced Barzan Hasan's daughter Saja in 1995 after she complained of being beaten. Odai reportedly shot and wounded Watban Hasan after a feud over the divorce and over family business.

When Barzan Hasan was recalled from his diplomatic post in Switzerland in 1999, his return to Baghdad was delayed for months, sparking rumors he feared Odai or wanted to defect. While he delayed his return, dissidents said at the time, Saddam put Sab'awi and Watban Hasan under house arrest.

Saddam did not tolerate disloyalty. In August 1995, two of his sons-in-law, both also his cousins, defected to Jordan with their wives. Returning home in the belief they had been pardoned, both men were dead in 72 hours.

Though Saddam promoted his relatives, he expected them to remain subservient.

Gen. Adnan Khairallah, who was the brother of Saddam's wife as well as Saddam's cousin, was killed in a mysterious helicopter crash in 1989. Many thought Saddam eliminated Khairallah because he was becoming too popular.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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