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Former Iraqi General Vanishes in Denmark - 2003-03-17

A former Iraqi army chief of staff has disappeared from his home in Denmark, where he had been under house arrest pending an investigation for war crimes. The former general is considered a leading figure in the opposition to Saddam Hussein.

Former Iraqi army chief Nizar al-Khazraji, 64, vanished early Monday from his home in the Danish town of Soroe, 100 kilometers west of Copenhagen. Family members expressed ignorance of his whereabouts. His son told reporters the former general had gone outside their home for a cigarette and did not return.

Mr. Khazraji had been under house arrest since last November. He was ordered to surrender his passport and to report regularly to authorities pending an investigation of war crimes allegations against him.

Mr. Khazraji had been Iraq's army chief and a close confidant of Saddam Hussein in the late 1980s, at the time Iraqi forces allegedly used chemical weapons against Kurds in northern Iraq. But he was fired after criticizing the invasion of Kuwait, and fled to Jordan in 1995. He applied for political asylum in Denmark in 1999.

Danish authorities began investigating the war crimes allegations last November after Mr. Khazraji stated publicly that he was planning to return to Iraq to lead a military insurrection against Saddam Hussein. He called the allegations part of a campaign by Iraqi agents to discredit him and damage the opposition.

The former general is known to be widely respected in Iraq, especially within the army. He told reporters at his home recently that it would take only a small rebellion among disaffected army commanders to cause a chain-reaction that would topple Saddam Hussein without a full-scale military invasion.