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Iraq's 'Chemical Ali' may be alive

From CNN's Mike Mount

Gen. Ali Hassan al-Majeed, also known as
Gen. Ali Hassan al-Majeed, also known as "Chemical Ali," could be alive

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has said there is a possibility that the Iraqi general known as "Chemical Ali" could still be alive.

U.S. officials thought that he was killed during an air strike on April 5 during the U.S.-led war in Iraq. Now, they are not so sure.

Intelligence from detainees captured in Iraq have led officials to question whether the notorious general, Ali Hassan al-Majeed, was killed in an air strike at his home in Basra, senior Pentagon officials said.

"They attacked locations where they believed him to be. There was some speculation afterwards that they thought that he had been killed," Defense Secretary Rumsfeld said Thursday after meeting lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

"Now, there is some speculation that he may be alive, but I just don't know," he reiterated.

Gen. Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said, "I think through some of the interrogations they think that he may be alive right now."

Al-Majeed, a cousin of Saddam Hussein, had been listed as "believed killed" by U.S. officials but his status was changed to "unknown" this week, the Pentagon officials said.

He is also listed as No. 5 on the U.S. Central Command's list of top-55 wanted Iraqis and is designated as the "king of spades" in the deck of cards given to U.S. soldiers to familiarize them with the country's fugitives.

His opponents called him "Chemical Ali" for his 1988 role in a deadly chemical weapons attack against the Kurds in Northern Iraq.

At a Pentagon briefing on April 7, Pentagon officials released video of the air strike on al-Majeed's home in the southern Iraqi city of Basra. It showed the first laser-guided bomb barely missing the target, and the second destroying it.

"We believe that the reign of terror of Chemical Ali has come to an end," Rumsfeld said at the time. Myers also said, "We believe we were successful with that strike."

On the same day in Basra, an officer with the British military, Major Andrew Jackson, said that a body believed to be al-Majid was found in the rubble after the air strike.

Al-Majeed was also linked to the bloody crackdown on Shiites in southern Iraq after their uprising following the 1991 Gulf War. He was governor of Kuwait during Iraq's seven-month occupation of its neighbor in 1990-1991 -- an occupation that ended with Iraq's defeat in the Gulf War.

Al-Majid was a warrant officer and motorcycle messenger in the army before Saddam's Baath party led a coup in 1968. He was promoted to general and served as defense minister from 1991-95, as well as a regional party leader.

The activist group Human Rights Watch called him "Saddam Hussein's hatchet man."

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