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Saddam Hussein’s aide, Tariq Aziz, has died in an Iraqi hospital at the age of 79, officials say.

Tariq Aziz served as Iraq’s foreign minister and deputy prime minister and was a close adviser to Saddam Hussein.

He was sentenced to death by the Iraqi Supreme Court in 2010 for the persecution of religious parties under Saddam’s rule but was never executed.

Tariq Aziz surrendered to US troops in 2003 shortly after the fall of Baghdad.

A local health official told reporters that Tariq Aziz was taken to hospital from prison after suffering a heart attack. Initial reports said he had died in prison.

Photo EPA

Photo EPA

He had long been in poor health, suffering from heart and respiratory problems, high blood pressure and diabetes, and his family repeatedly called for his release from custody

Tariq Aziz, who was known for his black-rimmed glasses and love of cigars, first came to prominence while serving as foreign minister during the first Gulf War in 1991.

As a Christian in a mainly Sunni Muslim government, Tariq Aziz was not considered a member of Saddam Hussein’s innermost circle.

A fluent English speaker, Tariq Aziz played a vocal role before the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, meeting Pope John Paul II in the Vatican to call for peace.

However, when Baghdad fell, Tariq Aziz’s lack of influence was reflected in his lowly ranking as the eight of spades in the US military’s famous “deck of cards” used to identify the most-wanted players in Saddam Hussein’s regime.

In 2009, Tariq Aziz was sentenced to 15 years for the execution of 42 Iraqi traders who had been accused of manipulating food prices while Iraq was subject to international trade sanctions.

Five months later, Tariq Aziz was sentenced to another seven years in prison for his role in the forced displacement of Kurds.

Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, who was right-hand man to Iraq’s ex-leader Saddam Hussein, has been killed, Iraqi officials say.

They say the fugitive militant leader died in fighting in Salahuddin province, north of Baghdad. His supporters have denied the claim.

Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, 72, led the Naqshbandi Order insurgent group, a key force behind the recent rise of Islamic State (ISIS).

He was deputy to Saddam Hussein, who was ousted when US-led forces invaded Iraq in 2003 and executed in 2006.

Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri was regarded as the most high-profile official of Saddam Hussein’s Baath party to successfully evade capture after the invasion, and had a large bounty on his head for years.Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri killed in Iraq

He was the King of Clubs in the famous pack of cards the US issued of wanted members of Saddam Hussein’s regime after its defeat.

There have been reports of Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri’s death or capture before. The now dissolved Baath party denied the latest claim.

However, al-Arabiya TV showed a picture of what it said was Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri’s body.

Salahuddin governor Raed al-Jabouri said he had died during an operation by soldiers and allied Shia militiamen east of Tikrit – a city that was recaptured by the government two weeks ago.

Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri is believed to have played a key role in masterminding a major offensive by ISIS in 2014.

ISIS seized swathes of territory in eastern Syria and across northern and western Iraq, in an effort to establish an Islamic “caliphate”.

In recent months Iraqi forces – backed by US-led air strikes since August – have recaptured 25% to 30% of the territory initially lost to ISIS.

ISIS still controls large areas in Iraq, including Mosul, the country’s second largest city.