Report: Insurgency leader Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri captured? Update: Given up by Syria?

U.S. officials are already denying it and lord knows Iraqi sources have been wrong about this stuff before (even with respect to Douri himself), but it’s a big enough score potentially to warrant mention and a slow enough news day to earn a post instead of a headline.

Iraqi security forces claim that they have captured the Saddam Hussein’s most senior regime ally.

A man resembling Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri, the vice-chairman of Saddam’s Ba’ath party and the King of Clubs on America’s “deck of cards” most-wanted list, was said to have been taken into custody by Iraqi forces.

Al-Arabiya television said that the man was caught in Hamrin between the provinces of Salaheddin and Kirkuk and was moved to Baghdad where he was said to have been handed over to US forces. DNA tests are being conducted to confirm his identity, the report added…

Abu Mohammed, who was described as Duri’s representative in Syria, told Al-Arabiya that the report was fabricated…

Al-Arabiya quoted “US forces” as saying the person captured “looks like” Duri.

With the possible exception of AQI leader Abu Ayyub al-Masri, he’s the most wanted man in Iraq. Iraqi national security advisor Mowaffaq al-Rubaie told Asharq al-Awsat just yesterday that Douri’s in Syria but some of his Baathists cohorts insist he died of leukemia in 2005. Someone claiming to be his spokesman announced last year that he’d joined the rest of the Sunnis by severing ties with AQI and Time magazine “interviewed” him in 2006 via written questions and answers passed through middlemen. If you’re sitting there thinking this all sounds very Keyser Soze-esque, you’re not alone — and do note that this wouldn’t be the first time a Sunni terrorist outfit had used a phantom figurehead to play on nationalist sympathies in Iraq.

Update: I know, I know. It’s Debka.

Former Iraqi vice president Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, 66, who led the Iraqi Sunni Baath underground campaign against the US Army after Saddam Hussein’s overthrow in 2003, was captured by Iraqi security forces in Salahuddin north of Baghdad. DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s exclusive counter-terror sources report Syrian police pushed him across the border Tuesday, April 23 with a full description to Baghdad of the last top figure of the Saddam regime still at large and his party.

Syria acted to blunt the impact of embarrassing disclosures in the US Congress on April 24 about its covert nuclear site which Israeli raiders destroyed last September.