Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri as American Army's 'King of Clubs'
Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri as American Army's 'King of Clubs' Reuters

Iraq's health ministry does not have DNA test results from a close relative of Izzat al-Duri that could determine whether Saddam Hussein's long-fugitive deputy has been killed, a spokesman said Friday.

"The ministry does not have any DNA test (results) for any relative of Duri at the present time," ministry spokesman Dr. Ziyad Tareq told AFP.

He added that such results are necessary if DNA testing is to be able to positively identify a man killed a week ago by pro-government forces as Duri.

For years, Duri has been the most senior member of Saddam's regime still at large.

Killing him would be a major victory for Baghdad, but Duri has previously been reported dead or captured only to resurface in subsequent audio or video messages.

Ketaeb Hezbollah -- one of the most powerful pro-government militias in Iraq -- transferred the body of the man, who bears some resemblance to Duri, to the government amid tight security on Monday.

The group's spokesman, Jaafar Husseini, told AFP that two men captured by Ketaeb Hezbollah who had seen Duri in the past six months said the dead man was him, but that account could not be independently confirmed.

Husseini said the man was killed near the town of Al-Alam north of Baghdad and his body was later transferred to the paramilitary group.

That squared with an account from Omar Abdullah al-Jbara, a leader in the local forces from Al-Alam, who said volunteers and police clashed with a group of men on April 17, killing 12, including one who resembled Duri.

The Army of the Men of the Naqshbandiyah Order -- known by its Arabic initials JRTN and believed to be close to Duri -- took part in a sweeping offensive that overran large areas north and west of Baghdad last June.

But little has been heard from JRTN and other groups since, with the Islamic State (ISIS) jihadist group, which led the drive, dominating the conquered territory and establishing a self-proclaimed "caliphate".

Al-Duri was vice president of Iraq at the time of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. Nicknamed "The Iceman" for his humble origins selling blocks of ice, he was the King of Clubs in the America Army's deck of cards of most-wanted Iraqis.

Duri's home town of Dawr was retaken in March as part of an operation that eventually saw pro-government forces recapture Tikrit, Saddam's hometown.

During the battle of Tikrit, Saddam’s tomb was virtually leveled, with a video showing all that remains of Hussein's once-lavish tomb are the support columns that held up the roof.

(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)

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