Saad Qambash, an Iraqi cleric, once head of Iraq’s Sunni Waqf, who escaped from prison and went on the run for two days died on Thursday as security forces closed in on him, authorities said.
His escape triggered a decision by Prime Minister Mohamed Shia Al-Sudani to sack a security chief in Baghdad and close the detention facility in the capital’s Green Zone from which the senior cleric had fled on Tuesday night.
The Interior Ministry said Qambash had been found in Mosul in northern Iraq, some 350 km north of Baghdad.
In a later statement, the interior and health ministries said the cleric had tried to escape recapture.
“During his arrest he tried to flee — the forces pursued him but he fainted,” the statement said, adding that he had died before making it to hospital.
The Interior Ministry said Saad Qambash had been found in Mosul in northern Iraq, some 350 km north of Baghdad.
“The body of the deceased, who suffered from chronic illnesses, does not show signs of bruises,” it added.
An Interior Ministry official said that Qambash died of a “heart attack,” and said an autopsy was expected.
On April 11, a court sentenced Qambash to a four-year term for using $36 million of Waqf funds to buy a hotel that anti-corruption investigators said was not “economically viable.”
Because of Tuesday’s escape, Al-Sudani had decided “to dismiss Lt. Gen. Hamid Al-Zuhairi, commander of the Special Division” who oversaw security in the Green Zone, a statement from the premier’s office said on Thursday.
The Green Zone is a heavily guarded area housing government offices, embassies and politicians’ homes.
The statement said the general was fired “due to insufficient action taken in response to the incident,” and “all those responsible” would be held accountable “and legally punished.”
Al-Sudani also ordered the closure of the unit in the Karrada Maryam police station and the transfer of prisoners held there to other facilities.
On Wednesday, an Interior Ministry official said that eight officers and 18 rank and file police had been arrested, suspected of helping Qambash to escape.
Corruption is endemic in Iraq, where public funds are often spirited away from state coffers.
Al-Sudani has repeatedly vowed to combat “the pandemic of corruption” since taking office last year.