'Mrs Antharax' dying in US custody claims lawyer

One of Iraq’s top scientists – dubbed Mrs Anthrax – is dying of cancer in US custody a lawyer claimed today.

One of Iraq’s top scientists – dubbed Mrs Anthrax – is dying of cancer in US custody a lawyer claimed today.

Huda Salih Mahdi Ammash is one of two women incarcerated by the US military at an undisclosed location along with other top members of Saddam Hussein’s regime.

The other detainee is Rihab Rashid Taha, a scientist who became known as Dr Germ for helping Iraq make biological weapons.

Lawyer Badee Izzat Aref said that in a meeting with former deputy prime minister Tariq Aziz, his jailed client said Ammash’s health was deteriorating.

“He strongly urged me to do all I can regarding the case of Mrs Huda Ammash because of her health is worsening due to cancer,” Aref told Al-Arabiya satellite network. “It will lead to her death, no doubt.”

Aref called upon Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, US President George Bush, the Red Cross and other international organisations to “uphold their responsibilities and release her.”

“I wanted to address the international public opinion and call for immediate intervention because she is dying,” he said.

US embassy officials in Baghdad were not immediately reachable for comment.

Aref met Aziz – Iraq’s former deputy prime minister and foreign minister - for five hours on December 23 at a detention centre near Baghdad in the presence of the US military.

It was not immediately clear how Aziz could have obtained the information about Ammash’s health. However, Aref had said Aziz told him that he meets with other top Baathist detainees, excluding Saddam Hussein, during a three-hour break everyday.

The case of Ammash and Taha grabbed new attention in September when militants beheaded two American hostages after demanding the release of female detainees in Iraq. The US military says the two scientists are the only women it holds among a detainee population of some 5,000.

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