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Top Iraqi Scientist Captured

Top Iraqi Scientist Captured

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- Coalition forces have captured one of Iraq's top biological weapons scientists, defense officials said Monday.

Huda Salih Mahdi Ammash, among the top 55 most wanted members of Saddam Hussein's fallen regime, was taken into custody on Sunday, a Defense Department official said. He had no other details about the development.

U.S. intelligence officials said that Ammash, 49, is believed to have played a key role in rebuilding Baghdad's biological weapons capability since the first Persian Gulf War in 1991.

In one of several videos of Saddam released during the war, Ammash was the only woman among about a half-dozen men seated around a table. The videos were used as Iraqi propaganda as invading forces drew closer to Baghdad and it was not known when the meeting happened nor what was the significance of her visibility on camera.

American officials say Ammash is among a new generation of leaders named by Saddam to leading posts within Iraq's Baath party.

On the Pentagon's list the 55 most wanted, she is number 53 and referred to as the party's Youth and Trade Bureau Chairman.

The U.S. officials said she was trained by Nassir al-Hindawi, described by United Nations inspectors as the father of Iraq's biological weapons program.

Ammash has served as president of Iraqi's microbiological society and as dean at University of Baghdad.

Ammash and al-Hindawi are among Iraq's top weapons scientists. Others include Amir al-Saadi, a chief chemical weapons researcher, and Dr. Rihab Taha, a woman who was dubbed "Dr. Germ" by inspectors.

Her father was a high-level party revolutionary who was believed to have been ordered killed by Saddam, officials said.

Ammash received a master of science in microbiology from Texas Woman's University, in Denton, Texas, and received an undergraduate degree from the University of Baghdad. Ammash, 49, later spent four years at the University of Missouri-Columbia in pursuit of her doctorate in microbiology, which she received in December 1983.

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

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