US sees Abbas as proof of Saddam's link with terror
US said capture of the veteran Palestine terrorist chief in Iraq proves Saddam's link with terrorism.world Updated: Apr 17, 2003 11:41 IST
The United States has held up the capture of a veteran Palestinian terrorist chief in Iraq as proof of a link between Saddam Hussein and terrorism, and stepped up the hunt for the ousted president and his aides.
But as US Marines raided Baghdad homes, including that of a scientist wanted for her work on banned weapons programmes, European Union leaders meeting in Greece were set to demand a major role for the United Nations in rebuilding Iraq.
The fate or whereabouts of Saddam remained unknown.
The White House said President George W Bush was pleased Abu Abbas, mastermind of the 1985 hijacking of the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro in the eastern Mediterranean, would be brought to justice following his capture in Baghdad on Monday.
"We will track down terrorists, find them where ever they are and bring them to justice," spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters "In Iraq, they can run but can't hide."
Abbas, now in his mid-50s, has long renounced violence and Israel has allowed him to travel to Gaza, declaring him immune from prosecution over the hijacking under a Middle East deal. Washington dropped a warrant for his arrest several years ago.
The Palestinian Authority demanded his release, but Italy said it would seek his extradition.
US forces, meanwhile, launched spot raids around Baghdad in search of people linked to Saddam, who has vanished along with his two sons and most of his associates. Only two out of 55 people on a US "most wanted" list have so far been caught.
"Now that the regime is broken we are pursuing individuals in order to completely remove the potential of the regime ever returning," Brigadier General Vincent Brooks told a news briefing at US war headquarters in Qatar.
It was not clear whether the woman scientist whose home was raided was Suda Salih Mahdi Ammash, known by US intelligence as "Mrs Anthrax", or Rihab Taha, nicknamed "Dr Germ". Both are said by Washington to have been top figures in Iraq's chemical and biological weapons programmes.