Middle East

King of Clubs Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri: Saddam's ally and enforcer

File photograph from 2002 of Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri Image copyright AP

Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri was one of Saddam Hussein's most trusted allies, and one of his most ruthless enforcers.

He was the most senior figure to have evaded capture following the US-led invasion of the country, and most recently was the leader of the militant Naqshbandi Order.

The militia, which included loyalists of Saddam Hussein's outlawed Baath Party, played a key role in a Sunni rebellion which helped Islamic State seize large swathes of Iraq in the summer of 2014.

After Saddam Hussein's execution in 2006, the Baath Party named Douri - by now in hiding - as its new leader.

The US military, which marked him as the King of Clubs in its deck of playing cards featuring former members of the regime, later said Douri was the "single most significant regime figure" still at large.

They accused him of co-ordinating some of the attacks on US-led forces and offered a $10m reward for his capture.

Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri was one of the key plotters in the coup that brought the Baath Party to power in 1968.

In later years, he served as Saddam Hussein's number two in the powerful Revolution Command Council, as vice-chairman.

Image copyright AP

Douri was deputy commander-in-chief of the armed forces, and held a senior post on the committee responsible for northern Iraq when chemical weapons were used in 1988, killing thousands of Kurds.

War crimes charges were issued against him in Austria.

When the first Gulf War broke out in 1991, The New York Times newspaper quoted Douri as warning the Kurds not to cause trouble.

He allegedly reminded them of the chemical attack with the words: "If you have forgotten Halabja, I would like to remind you that we are ready to repeat the operation."

Narrow escapes

Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri was born the son of an ice-seller in 1942 near Tikrit, Saddam Hussein's home town.

He joined the Baath Party, rising swiftly through the ranks after the coup. In the 1970s, he served as both agriculture and interior minister.

He travelled abroad frequently as the Iraqi leader's envoy and was sent to woo neighbouring states during the pre-war stand-off with Washington.

At the 2002 Arab summit in Beirut, Douri broke the ice by publicly shaking hands with the Kuwaiti foreign minister - whose country Iraq invaded in 1990 - and embracing the Saudi crown prince, whose kingdom Saddam Hussein had threatened to attack.

Douri had several narrow escapes - one an assassination attempt in Karbala in 1998, and managing to avoid arrest in Vienna in 1999 for suspected crimes against humanity while on a private visit for medical treatment.

He was also reported killed several times in the years following 2003, but each proved to be false.

Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri's daughter was briefly married to Saddam Hussein's elder son, Uday, who - together with his brother Qusay - was killed by US forces in Mosul in July 2003.

Four of Douri's nephews were captured in January 2004, two months after the arrest of his wife and daughter.

Related Topics