BAGHDAD (Reuters) – U.S. forces in Iraq are freeing “Dr Germ and “Mrs. Anthrax”, two of Saddam Hussein’s leading biological warfare experts, following the failure to find weapons of mass destruction, lawyers said on Monday.
Partial results from last week’s parliamentary elections suggested that Shi’ite Islamists would hold on to their dominant position in Iraqi politics. And bomb attacks in three cities signaled an end to a lull in violence during the vote.
The two weapons experts, British-trained microbiologist Rihab Taha and U.S.-educated genetic engineer Huda Ammash, were captured by U.S. forces in May 2003 after Saddam was ousted.
The women admitted working on Saddam’s biological and germ warfare projects but said such weapons were destroyed long before the U.S. invasion.
Baghdad lawyer Badia Aref said Taha and Ammash were among 26 senior detainees in the process of being released. U.S. military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Barry Johnson said eight “high-value detainees” had been freed on Saturday, and were among 27 senior prisoners judged to be eligible for release.
The U.S. State Department said Taha was released because U.S. forces could not justify keeping her as a security threat. “Her internment was no longer necessary for imperative reasons of security,” State Department spokesman Justin Higgins said.
“She has been fully screened. We do not believe she is linked to terrorists or other violent actors in Iraq.”