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'Mrs. Anthrax' In Custody

Coalition forces have captured one of Iraq's top biological weapons scientists, defense officials said Monday.

Huda Salih Mahdi Ammash, among the top 55 most wanted members of Saddam Hussein's fallen regime, was taken into custody on Sunday, a Defense Department official said. He had no other details about the development.

Ammash, the only woman on the most-wanted list, is number 53 on it. She was known as "Mrs. Anthrax."

In other developments:

  • A council of up to nine Iraqis will probably lead the country's interim government through the coming months, the American civil administrator Jay Garner said Monday. Iraqi faction leaders and U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad said they would meet again in coming weeks and hoped to form an interim government sometime early next month.
  • The World Food Program estimates most Iraqi families have only enough food to last until the end of the month. The WFP is rushing flour, rice and beans to the country, hoping to head off a disaster.
  • Iran urged the United States not to allow an Iranian opposition group to attack the country from Iraq. The People's Mujahedeen is on the U.S. State Department's terrorist list, yet it still signed a truce with the United States on April 15 that allowed it to keep weapons to defend itself against Iranian-backed attacks.
  • U.S. soldiers explored one of Saddam Hussein's most elaborate tunnel complexes buried deep in the mountains, puzzled as to why the Iraqi leader built an entire oil refinery encased in rock.
  • The U.S. military announced the arrest of a former Iraqi intelligence chief, Adil Salfeg Al-Azarui, who is not in the coalition's "deck of cards." The Los Angeles Times reports several Iraqi scientists are talking to former U.N. inspectors about whether to surrender. Some may have information about Saddam's illicit arms programs.
  • Iraqis over the weekend dug up 72 bodies from a shallow mass grave near the southern city of Najaf. Bullet casings also were found near the graves, which witnesses said were filled with men and women executed after a failed 1991 Shiite Muslim uprising against Saddam Hussein.
  • The Iraqi medical staff that treated American Pfc. Jessica Lynch are adamant they took good care of their POW and even tried to return her to U.S. forces themselves, the Toronto Star reported from Iraq.

    U.S. intelligence officials said that Ammash, 49, is believed to have played a key role in rebuilding Baghdad's biological weapons capability since the first Persian Gulf War in 1991.

    In one of several videos of Saddam released during the war, Ammash was the only woman among about a half-dozen men seated around a table. The videos were used as Iraqi propaganda as invading forces drew closer to Baghdad and it was not known when the meeting happened nor what was the significance of her visibility on camera.

    American officials say Ammash is among a new generation of leaders named by Saddam to leading posts within Iraq's Baath party. On the most-wanted list, she is referred to as the party's Youth and Trade Bureau Chairman.

    The U.S. officials said she was trained by Nassir al-Hindawi, described by United Nations inspectors as the father of Iraq's biological weapons program.

    Ammash has served as president of Iraqi's microbiological society and as dean at University of Baghdad.

    Meanwhile, Garner said he expects the newly appointed L. Paul Bremer, former head of the U.S. State Department's counterterrorism office, to take charge of the political process within the American postwar administration. Bremer is expected to arrive in Iraq by next week, Garner said.

    "He will get more involved in the political process. I'm doing all of it and don't want to do all of it," Garner said.

    The Iraqi leaders Garner referred to were Massoud Barzani; leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party; Ahmad Chalabi of the Iraqi National Congress; Jalal Talabani of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan; Iyad Allawi of the Iraqi National Accord; and Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, whose elder brother heads the Shiite group Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq.

    The group has already met several times and Garner said it would probably be expanded to include a Christian and perhaps another Sunni Muslim leader.

    Meanwhile, the northern city of Mosul took a small step toward controlling its destiny Monday, naming a cross-section of residents to run the city alongside the American military until elections can be held, a U.S. military official and news reports said.

    An American soldier died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound in Kuwait early Monday, U.S. Central Command said.

    The incident was under investigation. Another soldier died of a gunshot wound after an apparent accident involving his own weapon in northern Iraq, Central Command said.

    Iraq's American administrators have appointed two Iraqi oil officials and a retired American oil executive to head Iraq's Oil Ministry, a spokesman for the team helping to rebuild Iraq said Sunday. The head of the ministry's advisory board will be Philip J. Carroll, a retired chief executive of Shell Oil Co., Kincannon said. Shell Oil Co. is the U.S. arm of London-based Royal Dutch-Shell Group.

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