BAGHDAD: According to authorities, an Iraqi cleric who escaped from prison and went on the run for two days died on Thursday as security forces closed in on him.
Saad Qambash, the former head of Iraq’s Sunni Waqf, was sentenced to four years in prison earlier this month for fraud.
His escape prompted Prime Minister Mohamed Shia Al-Sudani to remove Baghdad’s security head and close the jail facility in the capital’s Green Zone from which the top cleric had left on Tuesday night.
Qambash was discovered in Mosul, northern Iraq, around 350 kilometers north of Baghdad, according to the Interior Ministry.
The interior and health ministries later stated that the cleric attempted to flee capture.
“During his arrest, he tried to flee — the forces pursued him, but he fainted,” according to the statement, adding that he died before reaching the hospital.
Saad Qambash was discovered in Mosul, northern Iraq, around 350 kilometers north of Baghdad, according to the Interior Ministry.
“The body of the deceased, who suffered from chronic illnesses, does not show signs of bruises,” the statement continued.
According to an Interior Ministry official, Qambash died of a “heart attack,” and an autopsy is scheduled.
On April 11, a judge condemned Qambash to four years in prison for using Waqf funds to purchase a hotel that anti-corruption investigators determined was not “economically viable.”
Because of Tuesday’s escape, Al-Sudani decided “to dismiss Lt. Gen. Hamid Al-Zuhairi, commander of the Special Division” in charge of security in the Green Zone, according to a statement from the premier’s office on Thursday.
The Green Zone is a strongly secured region that houses government offices, embassies, and the mansions of politicians.
The general was sacked “due to insufficient action taken in response to the incident,” according to the statement, and “all those responsible” would be held accountable “and legally punished.”
Al-Sudani also ordered the closing of the Karrada Maryam police station’s unit and the transfer of detainees to other institutions.
An Interior Ministry spokesman stated on Wednesday that eight officers and 18 rank-and-file police personnel had been arrested on suspicion of assisting Qambash’s escape.
Corruption is rampant in Iraq, where public funds are frequently diverted from official coffers.
Since taking office this year, Al-Sudani has consistently claimed to battle “the pandemic of corruption.”