Skip to main content
Iraq Transition

U.S. frees high-value Iraqi detainees

'Dr. Germ' and 'Mrs. Anthrax' among those released

Rihab Taha, the head of Iraq's biological weapons program, has been released from U.S. custody.



• Interactive: Who's who in Iraq
• Interactive: Sectarian divide


Dick Cheney

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- The U.S. military has released eight former Baathist detainees of high value, a military spokesman said Monday.

Among them are two female biological weapons experts: Rihab Taha, the head of Iraq's biological weapons program, also known as "Dr. Germ;" and Huda Salih Mahdi Ammash, a top weapons scientist, known as "Mrs. Anthrax," CNN has learned. Both were captured a week apart in May 2003.

A lawyer for both women, Badie Arif, confirmed their release, saying that in all 25 detainees were freed, eight of whom were considered high-value.

The U.S. military spokesman, Lt. Col. Barry Johnson, would not release details on the detainees except to say the release occurred Saturday as part of a detainee review process. (Watch report on who got released -- 1:11)

"We no longer had cause to hold them since they are no longer under investigation for crimes," Johnson said in a statement.

At the time of the invasion, Ammash was No. 39 on the U.S. military's list of most wanted Iraqis. She has reportedly been ill recently.

Taha was not on the most-wanted list.

Arif identified other freed detainees as Hussam Mohammed Amin, the former head of the national monitoring directorate in charge of dealing with weapons inspectors and No. 34 on the U.S. list; former education minister Humam Abdul Khaliq (No. 43 on the list); former atomic scientist Hazim al-Rawi; former Uday Hussein aide Aseel Tabra; scientist Thamir al-Taie; Ibrahim al-Ani, a former member of Iraqi intelligence; scientist Dhia Mahir al-Tikriti; former prison director Hameed al-Janabi; and former transport minister Ahmed Murtadha.

Arif also is the attorney for former deputy prime minister Tariq Aziz, who still is being held.

Arif said 27 high-value detainees are being held without charge, and 65 high-value criminals have been detained and charged with crimes. Among them are Saddam Hussein and his seven co-defendants.

Deadly day

Attackers targeted two deputy governors and a local police chief in and around the capital Monday morning.

Gunmen severely wounded Deputy Baghdad Gov. Ziad Tariq al-Zuba'i and killed three of his bodyguards, police said. A civilian was also wounded.

A few minutes later, a car bomb exploded outside a children's hospital in western Baghdad, killing two civilians, and wounding the head of Dora police along with seven other people, police said.

Another car bomb in Muqdadiya, outside Baghdad, targeted Diyala's deputy governor. Five civilians were wounded, but the intended victim was unhurt, the U.S. military said.

In an attack Monday evening, gunmen ambushed a vehicle carrying 11 civilians, killing four women and wounding four others, including a child, the Iraqi army and hospital officials said. The attack happened south of Baquba, outside Buhritz, in Diyala province.

Cheney visits Iraq

Vice President Dick Cheney paid a surprise visit to Iraq on Sunday, meeting with U.S. and Iraqi officials, and U.S. troops. (Full story)

His visit came as President Bush addressed the nation, reiterating his case for staying the course in Iraq, despite the heavy human and financial toll involved. (Full story)

Also Sunday, a U.S. Marine was killed by small arms fire in Ramadi, the U.S. military said. The Marine was assigned to the 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward). The death brings to 2,156 the number of American troops killed in the Iraq war, 1,690 of them in hostile action.

Other developments

  • As a German woman held hostage more than three weeks in Iraq is released, many questions remain. (Full story)
  • Spanish police arrested 15 people suspected of recruiting fighters for Iraq's insurgency, Interior Minister Jose Antonio Alonso said. One of the people arrested, an Iraqi, had close access to al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, according to the Interior Ministry. (Full story)
  • Ukraine marks its last day as part of the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq. The Ukrainian 81st Task Force was involved in providing security in Wasit province, training Iraqi soldiers and assisting civil projects. Eighteen Ukrainian soldiers have been killed in Iraq.
  • A rise in gas prices prompted Iraqi Oil Minister Ibrahim Bahr Al-Ulum to threaten to resign Monday. He said money earmarked for 2 million Iraqi families in need was meant to be distributed before the price increase. Al-Ulum also said that officials had planned to gradually increase the price, not have it jump up all at once.
  • CNN's Dana Bash, Arwa Damon and Mohammed Tawfeeq contributed to this report.

    Story Tools
    Subscribe to Time for $1.99 cover
    Top Stories
    Get up-to-the minute news from CNN gives you the latest stories and video from the around the world, with in-depth coverage of U.S. news, politics, entertainment, health, crime, tech and more.
    Top Stories
    Get up-to-the minute news from CNN gives you the latest stories and video from the around the world, with in-depth coverage of U.S. news, politics, entertainment, health, crime, tech and more.
    Search JobsMORE OPTIONS

    © 2007 Cable News Network.
    A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
    Terms under which this service is provided to you.
    Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us. Site Map.
    Offsite Icon External sites open in new window; not endorsed by
    Pipeline Icon Pay service with live and archived video. Learn more
    Radio News Icon Download audio news  |  RSS Feed Add RSS headlines