Saddam Hussein's former deputy Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri
Baghdad - AFP
The TV channel of Iraq's former ruling Baath party on Friday released an audio recording purportedly of the elusive Saddam Hussein deputy some officials said had been killed last month.
Several officials and leaders of Shiite militia groups had claimed to have killed Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri more than a month ago near the city of Tikrit.
Pictures had emerged of the body of a red-haired man bearing some resemblance to Saddam's feared deputy, who is the most senior former regime member believed to still be at large.
The authorities however have since been unable to positively identify the body as Duri's, arguing that they lacked DNA samples for comparison.
Friday's audio recording was released by the Baath party's Al-Tagheer channel.
Duri clearly refers in the recording to events that have happened since rumours of his alleged death surfaced on April 17, notably the deployment of Shiite paramilitary groups in the Nukhayb region earlier this month.
"Nukhayb represents a strategic position for Iran inside Iraq, and one of the aims of occupying Nukhayb is to open a front against Saudi Arabia, and connect with the fronts in Syria and Lebanon after the northern passages were closed," he said.
"I affirm in this gathering that what's happening today in our country is a direct and a comprehensive Persian occupation, under the obnoxious cover of sectarianism," he said.
His words and some aspects of the recording suggest that the recording was made at a meeting, possibly of former Baath officials.
Nicknamed "The Iceman" for his humble origins selling blocks of ice, he was the King of Clubs in the US Army's deck of cards of most-wanted Iraqis.