Dubai: A former Algerian defence minister has accused Iraq’s ex-president Saddam Hussain of assassinating Algeria’s foreign minister Mohammad Seddiqi Bin Yahia and 13 other people in May 1982.
In his memoirs to be published next month, Major General Khalid Nezzar, who held the defence portfolio from 1990 to 1993, said Saddam wanted to eliminate Bin Yahya because he could not stand that an Arab national could lead mediation efforts to put an end to the war between Iraq and Iran (1980-1988).
In the past, Nezzar has himself been accused of torture and killings during the 1990s civil war in Algeria.
In excerpts of the memoirs posted by his son on a website, Nezzar, also a former member of the High Council of State of Algeria, said former Algerian president Chedli Bin Jadid (1979-1992) did not want to pursue the matter.
Eight foreign ministry staff, a journalist and four crew members were also killed when the Grumman Gulfstream plane crashed 36 years ago as Bin Yahia was en route from Baghdad to Tehran via Turkish airspace.
The assassination of Bin Yahia and his fellow Algerian negotiators meant the loss of more than one year of efforts in dealing with the intricate political and legal issues related to the Iraq-Iran war.
Nezzar said the technical investigation team, headed by Algerian Transportation Minister Saleh Goujil, “found the remnants of an air-to-air missile that had been used to shoot down the aircraft”.
“This missile was one of the Russian weapons received by Iraq. Algeria has the serial number of this particular missile,” he was quoted by Al Sharq Al Awsat daily as saying.
Algerian aviation experts were able to determine the technical specifications of the missile belonging to the Iraqi air force, he added.
According to Nezzar, the Algerian mediation team had great potential to succeed in its efforts to end the war between the two neighbours, but Saddam never accepted that an Arab man would be an arbiter between an Arab (Iraq) and a non-Arab (Iran).
Nezzar said Saddam in his thinking understood the enemy of an Arab country is automatically the enemy of all Arab countries, and the Algerians were interfering in a matter that did not concern them at all.
Bin Yahia achieved international prominence after he helped mediate the hostage crisis between the US and Iran that ended in January 1981.
Saddam was executed on December 30, 2006 after he was sentenced by the Iraqi Special Tribunal to death by hanging for crimes against humanity.