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Saddam's vice president turned over to U.S.

BAGHDAD, Iraq—The former Iraqi vice president known as "Saddam's knuckles" for his ruthless loyalty to the deposed dictator has been turned over to U.S. forces in the northern city of Mosul, the military announced Tuesday.

Taha Yassin Ramadan, once described as Iraq's second most powerful man, reportedly was disguised in peasant clothes when Kurdish fighters captured him Monday night. Ramadan, 65, had served as vice president since 1991. He was No. 20 on the U.S. military's list of most-wanted figures from Saddam Hussein's former regime.

Tales of Ramadan's bloody exploits are legendary to Iraqis, who watched his rise from a low-level bank clerk to a senior Baath Party member who oversaw the executions of 44 officers who had been plotting to overthrow the regime in 1970. On a visit to Jordan in the 1980s, he famously told an Islamic group that Muslims were free to follow their faith, "but if they try to harm the Baathist regime or ridicule its slogans, the regime will break their necks!"

Ramadan was so loyal to Saddam he once shed 60 pounds after the president published the weights of his Cabinet members in newspapers as a way to humiliate them into keeping fit, according to news accounts.

Like many of Saddam's closest advisers, Ramadan disappeared after U.S.-led military forces ousted the regime April 9.

Troops from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, one of the two main Kurdish political factions in northern Iraq, received a tip two weeks ago that Ramadan was in hiding with a friend's family in his hometown of Mosul, said Adel Murad, the group's spokesman. Murad said Kurdish fighters surrounded the home late Monday night and arrested Ramadan, who was unarmed and didn't resist.

Murad said the capture was a victory for Iraqis, who suffered Ramadan's heavy-handed actions for decades. Ramadan's influence had declined in recent years, though many exiled opposition groups still considered him an important figure who should face trial for his transgressions.

"He is responsible for many crimes against Kurds, against Arabs, against Shiites, against all Iraqis," Murad said. "We took him to the Americans so they can keep him in jail with the rest of his colleagues until they go to court for what they have done."


(c) 2003, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

ARCHIVE PHOTOS on KRT Direct (from KRT Photo Service, 202-383-6099): Taha Yassin Ramadan