Two women accused of making biological weapons for Saddam Hussein’s government are among a group of high profile detainees who have been released.
Nicknamed Dr Germ and Mrs Anthrax, Rihab Taha and Huda Ammash have been in custody since May 2003. They had admitted working on germ warfare programmes, but said any weapons were destroyed well before the US-led invasion.
The former Iraqi nuclear minister Houmam Abdel Khaliq was another of the total of 26 prisoners freed because the American military no-longer considered them a security threat. Analysts believe the move is part of a US and Iraqi government drive to appease Sunni muslims, who were dominant under Saddam’s regime.
It may have had some impact, as Sunnis turned out in far greater numbers in last week’s election than they did in January’s vote. Nevertheless the partial results being released suggest that the main Shi’ite Islamist coalition will be the dominant group in parliament.
It is at odds with Washington over key issues like human rights and links to neighbouring Iran.