The powerful Iraqi general, known as “Chemical Ali” for ordering a brutal poison gas attack that wiped out thousands of Iraqi Kurds in 1988, was apparently killed Saturday when coalition warplanes used laser-guided munitions to attack his home in the southern Iraqi city of Basra, coalition officials said Monday.
“As far as Ali Hassan al-Majid is concerned, we have some strong indications that he was killed in the raid,” British Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon said Monday. “I cannot yet absolutely confirm the fact that he is dead, but that would certainly my best judgment of the situation.”
Major Andrew Jackson of the 3rd Battalion Parachute Regiment on Monday told the Associated Press that his superiors confirmed that al-Majid’s dead body was found in his home in Basra, along with that of his bodyguard and the head of Iraqi intelligence services.
Al-Majid, a close confident and first cousin of Saddam Hussein, was the commander of Iraq’s southern defenses; his death would deal a major blow to Saddam Hussein’s authority and power structure in the south.
Group Capt. Al Lockwood, spokesman for British forces in the Gulf, said Ali’s death cleared the way for British troops to move into Basra, adding that Iraqi opposition in the south would soon fall apart without its top leadership.
“The regime is finished. It is over, and liberation is here… The leadership is now gone in southern Iraq,” Lockwood told the AP.
Despite this apparent victory for coalition forces in the south, Hoon on Monday cautioned that he expected coalition troops would face strong Iraqi resistance in the days ahead.
During a press briefing from Central Command in Qatar, Brigadier General Vincent Brooks held back from confirming Ali’s death.
“We have no confirmed report on the condition of the man referred to as Chemical Ali,” Brooks told reporters.