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Saturday, 14 September, 2002, 21:17 GMT 22:17 UK
Spotlight on detained Kurd leader
Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq
Ansar al-Islam has clashed with Kurdish guerrillas
Several countries have shown an interest in the leader of a Kurdish rebel group with alleged links to al-Qaeda, who has been arrested in the Netherlands.

Mullah Krekar was detained on Thursday at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport and has now been transferred to a high-security prison at Vught in the south of the country.
Mullah Krekar
Krekar was expelled from Iran earlier in the week

Jordan has requested the extradition of Mullah Krekar under a UN treaty on drug-trafficking, according to Dutch Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner.

Returning from the Danish capital Copenhagen where he met United States Attorney General John Ashcroft, Mr Donner also said the US was "very interested" in the suspect.

And media in Norway, where Mullah Krekar once held refugee status, said he was wanted there for questioning as well over his alleged al-Qaeda links.

Reports say the suspect, who is also known as Najm Al-Din Faraj Ahmad, heads a newly emergent Kurdish Islamic group called Ansar al-Islam, or Partisans of Islam.

Ansar al-Islam controls a strip of Kurdish-populated land near the Iranian border known as Iraq's Tora Bora.

It is unclear which charges, if any, he could face.

Status revoked

The Norwegian authorities revoked Mullah Krekar's refugee status last month because he had travelled back to Iraq and stayed there for long periods.

Vught prison
Krekar is being held in Vught high security prison

Ansar al-Islam is believed to be behind a number of explosions and assassination attempts against senior Kurdish officials.

Sources in the Kurdish region say Iran provides the group with logistical support and facilitates its members' movements and access to the outside world, but Iran denies this.

In fact, Tehran confirmed that it had expelled Mullah Krekar after detaining him earlier this week on the basis that he was an unwanted personality in Iran.

'Jewel in the crown'

Mullah Krekar's links with Afghanistan date back to the war against Soviet occupation in the 1980s.

He studied Islamic law in Pakistan under Palestinian scholar Abdullah Azzam, the mentor of Osama bin Laden.

In an interview that took place in June 2001, Mullah Krekar described Osama Bin Laden as the "jewel in the crown of the Muslim nation".

He has also described democracy as "heresy from beginning to end".

Since its establishment, Ansar al-Islam has instituted a Taleban-style rule in the areas under its control.

Mullah Krekar with three other men
Ansar al-Islam has instituted Taleban-style rule in the areas it controls
There are also reports that his group harbours some 150 "Afghan Arabs", who fled Afghanistan after the US-led attack last year.

Ansar al-Islam forces have been involved in clashes with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, one of the two main parties controlling Iraq's Kurdish region.

They are also thought to be heavily infiltrated by Iraqi intelligence.

Mullah Krekar, 47, was granted asylum in Norway in 1991 and brought his family to join him at a later stage.

Reports say that he has not been in Norway since the 11 September attacks last year.


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