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U.S.: 'Chemical Ali' in custody

Unknown group claims U.N. bomb responsibility

Al-Majid is now in U.S. custody.
Al-Majid is now in U.S. custody.

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Ali Hassan al-Majid, known as 'Chemical Ali,' is in U.S. custody.
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• Interactive: Who's who in Iraq
• Interactive: Sectarian divide
Tuesday's bombing continues stepped-up attacks on facilities in Iraq.
August 7 -- Jordanian Embassy in Baghdad bombed, killing 10
August 16 -- Oil pipeline sabotaged in northern Iraq
August 17 -- Water pipes sabotaged in Baghdad
August 19
-- U.N. headquarters in Baghdad hit by truck bomb

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Ali Hassan al-Majid, known as "Chemical Ali," a cousin of Saddam Hussein and the man thought to have ordered the 1988 chemical attack on Kurds, is in U.S. custody, the U.S. military said Thursday.

Most accounts of the massacre estimate more than 5,000 Kurds died in the attack.

Al-Majid was taken into custody several days ago, the military said. The circumstances of his capture were not immediately available.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Colin Powell said Thursday the United States was looking into a new U.N. resolution that "might call on member states to do more" to bolster security in Iraq. (Full story)

The diplomatic move comes in the wake of Tuesday's bombing in Baghdad that killed at least 23 people, including Sergio Vieira de Mello, the top U.N. envoy in Iraq. (Vieira de Mello profile)

Authorities tracking down leads into the bombing think remnants of Saddam's regime, foreign terrorists or the al Qaeda-linked Ansar al-Islam could have been responsible.

While there has been no confirmed claim of responsibility, Al Arabiya, the Arabic-language TV channel, said it received a claim of responsibility from a group calling itself the "Armed Vanguards of the Second Mohammed Army."

The report said the "statement promised to make war on all foreigners and do similar acts."

Key capture

U.S. officials hunting for weapons of mass destruction, a key pretext for the war against Iraq, hope "Chemical Ali" will provide information about them.

So far, nearly four months after President Bush announced the end of the major phase of the war, such weaponry the Bush administration claims was harbored by Saddam has not been found.

Al-Majid was the king of spades in the deck of cards issued by the military and No. 5 on the list of the 55 most-wanted Iraqis.

He served as a general, presidential adviser, a member of Saddam's inner circle, commander of the Baath Party Regional Command, member of the Revolutionary Command Council, and head of the Central Workers Bureau.

He coordinated the resistance in southern Iraq during the war, according to the coalition, and was the de facto governor of Kuwait after Iraq invaded that country in 1990. (Profile)

In April, coalition officials believed al-Majid was killed in an airstrike on his house, but they later had to retract the claim. He later was thought to have been in hiding in northern Iraq, possibly in Tikrit, home of his clan.

Another key official, Taha Yasin Ramadan, Iraq's former vice president, was reported captured earlier this week. Patriotic Union of Kurdistan officials said their forces captured Ramadan in the northern city of Mosul and handed him over to the U.S. military. (Full story)

Powell exploring new U.N. resolution

Powell and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan spoke to reporters after a meeting Thursday morning in New York.

"We will be working with the United Nations representatives in Baghdad on security matters," Powell said. "We want the humanitarian workers and other workers in Iraq -- reconstruction workers and others -- to have a safe environment."

Powell noted the international presence in Iraq consisting of about 30 nations contributing 22,000 troops under coalition control. Five other nations are in the process of sending troops and 14 other nations are in conversations with the coalition on troop contributions.

"Perhaps additional language and a new resolution might encourage others," Powell said. "There is a willingness to come together to help the Iraqi people."

U.S. defense officials said Thursday there was no immediate need to boost U.S. troop levels in Iraq.

"Boots per square inch is not the issue. You have to have solid intelligence in a conflict such as this, so you can get to the terrorists," said Gen. John Abizaid, head of U.S. Central Command.

Other developments:

• U.S. troops Thursday demolished an unstable corner of the damaged portion of the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad. A single charge was detonated to bring down an area that could not withstand further activity from searchers and investigators, the U.S. military told CNN. There is the possibility that human remains are still in the devastated hulk. Two people were still unaccounted for.

• A security threat prompted U.S. military officials Thursday to evacuate the Baghdad convention center, which holds coalition offices and a media center. The building has been evacuated because of similar threats at least twice before.

• Central Command said an American soldier was killed and two others were wounded late Wednesday night by an improvised explosive device in Baghdad's Karkah district. All were with the 1st Armored Division.

• Tuesday's truck bomb attack was one of the worst incidents in the history of the United Nations. (Full story)

CNN correspondents Rym Brahimi and Barbara Starr contributed to this report.

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