Reports spread that Saddam's top aide has died

A statement circulated in the name of the Baath Party said Friday that Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, the highest-ranking figure from Saddam Hussein's regime still at large, had died. The report could not be independently confirmed. The report was based on an e-mail sent to a Western news agency and signed by the "Arab Socialist Baath Party, Iraq Command." It said al-Douri died at 2:30 a.m. Friday but gave no indication of the cause. US officials believed al-Douri played a key role in organizing resistance that erupted in 2003 against the US-led coalition and was instrumental in forging links between remnants of Saddam's regime and Islamic extremists. Al-Douri, born in 1942, was one of Saddam's longtime lieutenants and officially the No. 2 man in Iraq's ruling hierarchy when the Baath regime collapsed as U.S. troops occupied Baghdad in April 2003. He was No. 6 on the American "deck of cards" list.