Former Iraqi premier Muhammad Hamza al-Zubaydi has died

Former Iraqi Prime Minister Muhammad Hamza al-Zubaydi, one of the top Saddam Hussein-era leaders captured in Iraq, has died at a U.S. military hospital in Baghdad, the American military said. He was 67.

Al-Zubaydi, a Shiite Muslim, died Friday after being transferred to U.S. 344th Corps Support Hospital when he began "complaining of chest pains," Lt. Col. Guy Rudisill said Monday. Rudisill said it appeared al-Zubaydi died of cardiac arrest, but an autopsy was expected before his body is transferred to his family.

Al-Zubaydi was on the list of 55 most wanted members of Saddam's toppled regime and served as a Revolutionary Command Council member. He led Saddam's forces in the central third of Iraq during the initial stages of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. Iraqi forces captured him on April 20, 2003, in Hillah, about 60 miles (96 kilometers) south of Baghdad, without a shot being fired.

Al-Zubaydi was a leading member of Saddam's once-ruling Baath Party and expected to face the special tribunal currently hearing war crimes charges against the former Iraqi president and his other detained regime members. Al-Zubaydi led the suppression of a Shiite uprising in southern Iraq following Iraq's defeat in the 1991 U.S.-led Gulf War that freed Kuwait from a seven-month Iraqi occupation.

He also oversaw the destruction of Iraq's southern marshes from 1992-98, being videotaped telling army generals to "wipe out" Marsh Arab tribes. He was also in charge of Iraqi forces in Kirkuk during the 1980-88 Iraq-Iran war. He was believed to have been instrumental in the suppression of Iraqi Kurds during that time, including the 1988 Anfal campaign, in which 182,000 Kurds were killed, AP reports.

A. A.

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