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US Forces Capture 2 More Most-Wanted Iraqi Officials - 2003-07-09


The U.S. military says it has taken two more of the 55 most-wanted Iraqis into custody. The men are former officials in the regime of Saddam Hussein.

U.S. Central Command says coalition forces captured former Interior Minister Mahmoud Diyab al-Ahmed on Tuesday, although it is not clear where. He was number 29 on the coalition's list of most-wanted Iraqi fugitives.

Military officials say number 23 on the list surrendered to U.S. troops in Baghdad, also on Tuesday. He is Mizban Khadr al-Hadi, a high-ranking Baath party official and member of Saddam's revolutionary command council.

Thirty-four of the coalition's 55 most-wanted Iraqis are now in custody. Military officials will not say where they are being held, but they say it is somewhere inside Iraq.

The top three people on the list, however, continue to evade capture. Coalition officials are offering a $25 million reward for information leading to the capture of Saddam Hussein, and $15 million each for information about his sons Uday and Qusay.

The civilian administrator of Iraq, Paul Bremer, said Tuesday that having Saddam still on the loose makes it harder for the coalition to convince the Iraqi people that his regime is over for good.

"I think the noose is going to tighten around his neck as we begin to get people cooperating with us on the rewards program and as we continue to put a lot of intensity behind our effort to locate him and his sons. His days in Iraq are finished," he said.

The coalition authorities are also offering rewards of $2,500 for information leading to the arrest of the people who continue to attack coalition troops and Iraqi police.

On Wednesday, someone fired a rocket-propelled grenade at a U.S. military convoy in the city of Fallujah, 60 kilometers west of Baghdad. Military officials say there were no injuries or damage.

Fallujah has been a hotspot for attacks on U.S. troops, and is considered part of the so-called Sunni Triangle west and north of Baghdad, where continued support for Saddam Hussein is strongest.

Meanwhile, Central Command says its troops have seized more than 400 rocket-propelled grenades being carried in a vehicle traveling on a highway west of Baghdad. They arrested four Iraqi men riding in the vehicle.

Attacks by such weapons, known as RPGs have become so common in central Iraq that U.S. troops are referring to a highway near the capital as RPG Alley.

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