United States forces bombed the home of Ali Hassan al-Majid in the southern city of Basra on during the war on Iraq. US and British officials expressed confidence at the time that Majid had been killed.
|US bombs may have missed|
But US Central Command and officials at the Pentagon now say they are uncertain.
People had thought that he was dead, but there was always a question mark. That doesn't mean he is alive. No one knows, said a defence official, speaking on condition of anonymity. "He may not have been there," he added.
A US Central Command spokesman said: "There is no disposition next to his name" on its list.
Therefore, he is presumed to be at large, he added. The spokesman said he was unaware of any recent intelligence information that had led to a reassessment of Majid's status.
The US military said after the bombing of Majid's home in Basra with laser-guided munitions that it thought he was dead. It displayed for reporters satellite images of the site before and after the strike.
Majid is on the list of 55 Iraqis in Saddam Hussein's government wanted by the US.
He was dubbed Chemical Ali for ordering a chemical weapon attack against 5,000 Kurds in the Iraqi village of Halabja in 1988 to end a decades-old insurrection. At the time, Iraq was a US ally.
Majid played a leading role in Iraq's seven-month occupation of Kuwait from 1990-91 and in the violent suppression of Kurdish and Shia Muslim uprisings that followed the 1991 Gulf War.
Human Rights Watch called him "Saddam Hussein's hatchet man."