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U.S. arrests senior official of Saddam's regime

Former prime minister suppressed Shiite uprising in 1991

Muhammad Hazmaq al-Zubaydi is depicted on a playing card distributed by the Defense Department.
Muhammad Hazmaq al-Zubaydi is depicted on a playing card distributed by the Defense Department.

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DOHA, Qatar (CNN) -- Muhammad Hazmaq al-Zubaydi, No. 18 on the U.S. list of most-wanted Iraqi leaders, has been taken into custody in Iraq, U.S. Central Command said.

He is the most senior figure from Saddam Hussein's regime arrested so far and has a reputation as a ruthless and violent enforcer of the former regime's will. Al-Zubaydi is a former prime minister and deputy prime minister.

The Free Iraqi Forces -- exiles who are trained to work with U.S. military units providing humanitarian aid -- have a videotape of al-Zubaydi torturing and shooting prisoners in 1991 after the Shiite uprising in Nasiriya, Time Magazine reporter Brian Bennett told CNN.

He is believed to have led the violent suppression of that uprising, in which thousands were killed. He was shown in Iraqi news video kicking and beating captured Shiite dissidents.

Al-Zubaydi presided over the destruction of the southern marshes in 1992-98, and is said to have issued orders to army generals to "wipe-out" specific Marsh Arab tribes.

As Saddam's Central Euphrates regional commander from 1998 to 2000, he continued to suppress Shiite opposition and was linked to many attacks, including the assassination of a leading Shiite cleric, the Grand Ayatollah Al-Sadr, and two of his sons in the Shiite center of Najaf in 1999.

Al-Zubaydi was captured by Free Iraqi Forces in coordination with U.S. Army's special operations forces, Bennett said, adding that officials believe al-Zubaydi might have information on possible weapons of mass destruction sites.

He is the queen of spades on the deck of cards featuring wanted Iraqi leaders that was handed out to U.S. troops.

U.S. Central Command has announced the arrests of six other members of Saddam's regime.

The Iraqi National Congress, an opposition group that has long worked with the United States, said another Iraqi official -- Saddam's son-in-law -- surrendered and was taken into U.S. custody Monday, but there has been no confirmation from U.S. Central Command.

Search for Saddam

The INC said it has reports that Saddam and his sons are alive and still inside Iraq, but U.S. officials say their fate remains unknown.

The United States has completed its evaluation of a residential compound in Baghdad bombed by U.S. forces in the first strike of the war March 20 [March 19 in the United States], and no human remains were found, a military official told CNN on Monday. U.S. forces believed Saddam and other regime leaders might have been in the compound at the time of the strike.

The military official told CNN the site appears to "have been cleaned," and it is now difficult to determine if any bodies were ever there.

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said determining what happened to Saddam and his sons is "on the list of priorities."

The war will be declared over "at some point," he said. "But is it over now? No."

A U.S. Marine was wounded in a firefight in northern Iraq, and the attackers escaped, said Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in a briefing at the Pentagon.

South of Kirkuk, U.S. forces discovered a huge weapons cache that included rockets, surface-to-air-missiles, and artillery rounds hidden in 40 bunkers, Myers said.

Rumsfeld also disputed a newspaper report that said the Pentagon wants to use four bases in Iraq well into the future. There has been "zero discussion" about such an idea among senior administration officials, he said. (Full story)

Iraq's hospitals have been struggling amid the battles and looting. But Myers said Monday that an Iraqi health official led U.S. forces to "three warehouses in Baghdad which contained enough medical supplies to keep all of Baghdad's hospitals stocked for the next six to 12 months."

Garner visits Iraqi capital

Retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Jay Garner arrived in Iraq on Monday to oversee its civil administration while a new government is established.

Garner, on his first visit as head of the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance, visited Baghdad's Yarmuk hospital, as well as a power-generating plant and a water treatment plant.

He assured wary Iraqis that the services they need will be restored as quickly as possible, and that he is in no way the nation's "ruler."

"Coalition forces will provide security for Iraqi ministry of health officials to distribute the supplies to city hospitals," he said.

"The new ruler of Iraq is going to be an Iraqi. I don't rule anything," Garner said. "I'm the coalition facilitator to establish a different environment where these people can pull things together themselves and begin a self-government process and, with our assistance, begin a reconstruction process and end up with a democracy that represents the freely elected will of the Iraqi people."

In the capital and elsewhere, Iraqis lined up at government buildings formerly used by Saddam's regime that are being turned into job centers staffed by U.S. troops. Before entering to apply for work, the Iraqis were searched to ensure they were not carrying weapons.

Other developments

• An Iraqi scientist who claims to have worked in Saddam's chemical weapons program told a U.S. military team that Iraq destroyed and buried chemical weapons and biological warfare equipment days before the war began, according to The New York Times. Members of the team set up to hunt for illegal weapons of mass destruction said the scientist led Americans to material that proved to be the building blocks of illegal weapons, the newspaper reported. (Full story)

• The Pentagon is investigating whether an Iraqi girl handed unexploded cluster bomb or an "improvised explosive device" to a patrol from the 101st Airborne Division in Baghdad on April 19. Four soldiers were injured when the object exploded. Myers said Monday that the child had tried to run away and was taken away by a man at the scene.

• At least one item looted from an Iraqi museum has been seized by customs agents at an unidentified U.S. airport, an FBI official said Monday. The Bureau of Customs and Immigration Enforcement indicated that no arrest had been made, but declined any comment on what was described as "an ongoing investigation."

• The tank commander of the unit that returned fire at a Baghdad hotel on April 8, killing two cameramen, was quoted Monday as saying he did not know the building had been packed with journalists. According to the French newspaper Nouvel Observateur, Capt. Philip Wolford said it wasn't until after the incident that he learned journalists were in the hotel.

• Tens of thousands of Shiite Muslims on a pilgrimage filled the streets of Karbala, reviving a religious tradition that was not allowed under Saddam's rule. The deposed Iraqi president did not allow Shiites to walk to the Tomb of Hussein, a Muslim martyr who was killed more than 1,300 years ago. Many expressed gratitude for their newfound religious freedom, but also called for the United States to leave Iraq.

-- CNN correspondents Jim Clancy, Michael Holmes, Jamie McIntyre, Tom Mintier, Nic Robertson and Barbara Starr contributed to this report.

EDITOR'S NOTE: CNN's policy is to not report information that puts operational security at risk.

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