Iraq's 'Chemical Ali' infamous for 1988 gas attack - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Iraq's 'Chemical Ali' infamous for 1988 gas attack

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BAGHDAD (AP) — Saddam Hussein's cousin Ali Hassan al-Majid, who was hanged Monday, ordered the infamous poison gas attack on the northern Iraqi Kurdish village of Halabja in 1988 that killed 5,000 people and earned him the chilling moniker "Chemical Ali."

Al-Majid was executed a week after he received his fourth death sentence, the final one for the Halabja attack. He bore a striking resemblance to Saddam and was one of the most brutal members of the dictator's inner circle.

The general led sweeping military campaigns in the 1980s and 1990s that claimed tens of thousands of lives — wiping out entire villages in attacks against rebellious Kurds and cracking down on Shiites in southern Iraq.

Al-Majid was one of the last high-profile members of the former Sunni-led regime still on trial in Iraq. His conviction and sentencing on Jan. 17 was his fourth death sentence.

Al-Majid was a warrant officer and motorcycle messenger in the army before Saddam's Baath party led a coup in 1968. He was promoted to general and served as defense minister from 1991-95, as well as a regional party leader.

In 1988, as the eight-year Iran-Iraq war was winding down, he commanded a scorched-earth campaign known as Anfal to wipe out a Kurdish rebellion in northern Iraq. An estimated 100,000 people — most of them civilians — were killed over less than a year. Later, al-Majid boasted about the attacks, as well as the separate March 16, 1988, gas attack on Halabja, where an estimated 5,000 people died.

He was also linked to crackdowns on Shiites in southern Iraq, including the bloody suppression of their 1991 uprising. In a previous trial, he was also sentenced to death for that crackdown.

The previous sentences were not been carried out in part because Halabja survivors wanted to have their case against him heard.

Al-Majid, was Saddam's "hatchet man," Kenneth Roth, head of Human Rights Watch in New York, remarked when the general was touring Arab capitals seeking support two months before the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. "He has been involved in some of Iraq's worst crimes, including genocide and crimes against humanity."

Hazem al-Youssefi, a representative of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, once described al-Majid as a standout in a regime of criminals.


Associated Press Writer Maamoun Youssef contributed to this report from Cairo.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.

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