WASHINGTON - American forces have captured Abid Hamid Mahmud al-Tikriti, Saddam Hussein's presidential secretary and No. 4 on the U.S. most-wanted list of Iraqi leaders, the U.S. military said Wednesday.
U.S. forces captured Mahmud on Monday in Iraq, a statement from U.S. Central Command said. It did not say where in Iraq he was captured.
Third in power only to the former Iraqi president and his younger son, Qusai, Mahmud controlled access to Saddam and was one of the few people he is said to have trusted completely, a U.S. official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
A distant cousin of Saddam, Mahmud is also the ace of diamonds on the U.S. deck of cards portraying leaders of Saddam's regime. The U.S. military calls him Saddam's national security adviser and senior body guard.
Intelligence reports indicated that Mahmud managed access to Saddam by diplomats, media and even doctors, a U.S. defense official said. Only Saddam's sons, Odai and Qusai, could see the Iraqi president without going through Mahmud, said the official, who described the intelligence information on the condition of anonymity.
Qusai, in particular, avoided befriending Mahmud so Saddam would not think they were conspiring against him, the official said.
In the 1990s, Mahmud was put in charge of several security portfolios, including responsibility over places Iraq has been accused of hiding weapons programs. He started his career as a non-commissioned officer in Saddam's bodyguard, eventually being promoted to lieutenant general.
Mahmud may have information on the fate of Saddam and his sons, and he is thought to have details of Iraq's alleged weapons programs. U.S. officials have said they want to try Mahmud for war crimes or crimes against humanity for activities associated with his senior position in the Iraqi regime.
It is unclear whether his capture was related to Wednesday raids near Saddam's hometown of Tikrit.
American troops raided two farmhouses and found $8.5 million in American cash, 300 million to 400 million Iraqi dinars and an undetermined amount of British pounds and Euros, said Maj. Gen. Ray Odierno, commander of the Army's 4th Infantry Division. The troops also found more than $1 million worth of gems and jewels, he said.
The troops captured one of Saddam's bodyguards and up to 50 other people believed to be tied to Saddam's security or intelligence forces or paramilitary groups, Odierno told Pentagon reporters in a video news conference from his headquarters in Tikrit.
"I believe over the next three to four days, you will hear much more about the number of senior Iraqi individuals we have detained here over the last couple of days," Odierno said. He did not mention Mahmud by name.
The U.S. troops also found Russian-made night-vision goggles and other military equipment, as well as various Saddam paraphernalia.
Odierno said he did not know whether the cash was intended to pay bounties for attacks on American troops or to provide the Saddam loyalists with luxuries while they were in hiding.
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