The residence of Ali Hassan al-Majid, known as “Chemical Ali” for his use of poison gas against Iranians and Iraqi Kurds in 1988, was bombed Saturday by coalition planes. A coalition spokesman said a personal bodyguard of al-Majid was found dead at the house.
“At this point we can’t say whether ‘Chemical Ali’ was a casualty in that attack but we have confirmed that his bodyguard is a casualty,” Captain Frank Thorp told Reuters at Central Command in Qatar. “It’s very clear we’re one step closer to bringing this regime down.”
News reports said shortly before the bombing the U.S. military had received intelligence reports saying al-Majid had entered the house.
Al-Majid is reportedly a close confidant of Saddam Hussein and one of his top military commanders. Saddam reportedly gave al-Majid command of all of southern Iraq before the war began.
U.S. officials said as many as 3,000 citizens celebrated in the streets of Basra after the bombing raids, but were not sure if the demonstration was related to the attack on al-Majid.
Iraqi officials dismissed the claims that al-Majid had been hit.
“Let them (bask) in their illusions,” said Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf told in Baghdad.
Coalition forces have been reportedly tracking al-Majid across southern Iraq, hoping for a chance to strike at him. U.S. officials said they believe al-Majid commanded troops from the hospital where American POW Jessica Lynch was held before being rescued by U.S. special forces.
“We think that he was there, he had used that area but on the evening of the attack he was not located in that hospital,” Major General Victor Renuart told reporters Saturday. “That’s not to say we haven’t been tracking him down in some other locations and we’ll continue to do so.”