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IraqSide:Iraqi Diary
Backgrounder
Rise and Fall of Chemical Ali
Ali Hassan al-Majid Enjoyed Long Career as Saddam Enforcer
08/22/2007 12:55 PM ET
Ali Hassan al-Majid known as 'Chemical Ali' stands in court as he listens to the verdict being pronounced by Chief Judge Mohammed al-Oreibi al-Khalifah (not pictured) during his trial in Baghdad, 24 June 2007.
Pool/AFP/Getty
Ali Hassan al-Majid known as 'Chemical Ali' stands in court as he listens to the verdict being pronounced by Chief Judge Mohammed al-Oreibi al-Khalifah (not pictured) during his trial in Baghdad, 24 June 2007.

Baghdad, Aug 22, (VOI) – Ali Hassan al-Majid, a cousin of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and a key convict in the Anfal case, has recently grabbed media attention after appearing, along with 14 other former officials and Baath leaders, before Iraq's Higher Criminal Court on Tuesday on charges of crimes against humanity for the crushing of a Shiite uprising after the 1991 Gulf War.

The al-Intifada al-Shaabaniya, or the 1991 uprisings, were a series of rebellions that broke out in 14 southern and northern Iraqi provinces in the aftermath of the 2nd Gulf War in March 1991 against the former regime, which managed to suppress them by mid-April 1991.

Yesterday's trial coincided with the fourth anniversary of Abdul al-Majid's arrest by U.S. forces in Samarra on August 21, 2003. The session was chaired by Chief Judge Muhammad Oraibi al-Khalifa, who sentenced al-Majid to death on June 24 after he was found guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity in the Operation Anfal, in which 182,000 Kurdish civilians were allegedly killed in 1987 and 1988, according to Kurdish figures.

Abdul Al-Majid, dubbed Chemical Ali by Iraqi Kurds for his alleged use of chemical weapons in attacks against them, was born in 1941 in Tikrit, the home town of the former Iraqi leader. He worked as a sergeant in Kirkuk police and became an aide to Iraqi Defense Minister Hammadi Shihab in the early 1970s after joining the Baath Party. He then became head of the government's Security Office, serving as an enforcer for the increasingly powerful Saddam. In 1979, al-Majid called on Saddam, who seized power earlier that year, to get rid of Baath leader Abdul Khaliq al-Samarraie while trying his political opponents for allegedly "conspiring to overthrow the government."

Before the end of the Iraqi-Iranian war (1980-1988), he was given the post of Secretary General of the Northern Bureau of the Baath Party. After the invasion of Iraq in August 1990, he became the military governor of the occupied emirate, otherwise called then by Iraqi authorities "The 19th Iraqi province" but was removed from his position in November 1990.

Following the Iraqi defeat in the war, Abd al-Majid was given the task of quelling uprisings in the Shiite south of Iraq, where many thousands were reportedly killed.

He was appointed as interior minister in 1991 and was then given the post of defense minister. In 1995, he was sacked from his ministerial posts and served as a member of the Revolution Command Council and a Baath official. Before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, he was recalled by Saddam and appointed commander of the southern region of Iraq.

He was arrested by U.S. forces in 2003 and had been listed as the fifth most-wanted man in Iraq.

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