Released top officials in Saddam's government under U.S. forces protection

U.S. forces are providing protection for most of a group of top officials from Saddam Hussein's government who were recently released from custody, an Iraqi lawyer said Wednesday. The top officials were released after no charges were filed against them, and they included Rihab Taha, who was known as "Dr. Germ" for her role in making bio-weapons for Saddam's regime in the 1980s, and Huda Salih Mahdi Ammash, known as "Mrs. Anthrax," a former top Baath Party official and biotech researcher.

The lawyer, Badee Izzat Aref, said earlier this week that up to 25 officials were released. The U.S. military confirmed that eight individuals formerly designated as "high-value detainees" had been released. Aref said Wednesday that most of those released "are under the protection of the American forces in Iraq until they find a safe haven either in Iraq or abroad."

He did not elaborate, and it was not clear whether the released officials were being kept in safehouses or whether they were elsewhere with American guards. Aref is the lawyer of Tariq Aziz, Saddam's former deputy prime minister, who remains in U.S. custody, and several other high-value detainees being held.

Among those who were released were Hossam Mohammed Amin, the head of the weapons inspections directorate and Aseel Tabra, an Iraqi Olympic Committee official under Odai Saddam Hussein, the former leader's son.

Aref, who spoke to The Associated Press by telephone from Baghdad, said other Saddam-era officials are expected to be released soon to bring the total number released to 65. He said there are more than 200 senior Saddam regime officials in detention, reports the AP. I.L.

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