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Senior Saddam official in custody

Muhammad Hamza Zubaydi is depicted on a playing card distributed by the U.S. Defense Department.
Muhammad Hamza Zubaydi is depicted on a playing card distributed by the U.S. Defense Department.

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DOHA, Qatar (CNN) -- Muhammad Hamza 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 ousted regime's will. 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 Zubaydi torturing and shooting prisoners in 1991 after the Shiite uprising in Nasiriya, Time magazine reporter Brian Bennett told CNN.

Zubaydi 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.

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 Arab tribes.

As Saddam's central Euphrates regional commander from 1998 to 2000, he reportedly 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.

Free Iraqi Forces captured Zubaydi in coordination with the U.S. Army's Special Operations forces, the Time reporter said, adding that officials suspect Zubaydi might have information on possible weapons of mass destruction sites.

He is the queen of spades on the deck of cards featuring wanted Iraqis handed out to U.S. troops.

Central Command confirmed Tuesday that Jamal Mustafa Abdallah Sultan al Tikriti, Saddam's son-in-law and former deputy chief of tribal affairs, was also in coalition custody.

The Iraqi National Congress announced Monday that its forces had captured him.

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