Iraq's Defense Ministry has announced the arrest of the most wanted man in Iraq: Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, a deputy to Saddam Hussein. Other officials say at least 70 people were killed in the operation.
Defense ministry officials say Iraq's National Guard backed by U.S. forces made the arrest on the outskirts of Tikrit - Saddam Hussein's home town and a stronghold of support. Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri was the most senior aide to Saddam Hussein and the most senior official to escape capture, until now.
Interior Ministry officials say clashes surrounding the arrest left at least 70 dead. Another 80 supporters of Mr. al-Douri were captured.
U.S. officials have not confirmed the arrest.
But Iraqi officials says the arrest operation began when Mr. al-Douri was receiving medical treatment at a clinic in Tikrit, and that he may suffer from leukemia. Blood tests are to be conducted to confirm his identity.
Celebratory gunfire erupted in the streets of the Iraqi capital Baghdad as word of his arrest was spread.
U.S. officials suspect Mr. al-Douri has helped orchestrate the continuing insurgency against coalition forces in Iraq, organizing, funding, and fostering an alliance between former Baath party officials and Islamist elements.
Mr. al-Douri, 62, has been a lifetime friend of Saddam Hussein, serving as his deputy on the Revolutionary Command Council. The pair worked together to plot the 1968 coup that brought Saddam to power. Mr. Al-Douri's daughter was married briefly to Saddam's son, Uday.
Mr. al-Douri also commanded military forces in the north of Iraq during the U.S. invasion last year.
The United States listed Mr. al-Douri as the sixth most-wanted man in Iraq at the time of the invasion last year, earning him the rank of king of clubs on the deck of cards made to represent the former government's hierarchy.
The five most senior names on the list - including Saddam Hussein and his two sons - have all either been captured or killed.