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Friday, 20 September, 2002, 00:07 GMT 01:07 UK
Dutch prolong Kurd leader's custody
Anti-Saddam Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq
Ansar al-Islam has clashed with anti-Saddam Kurds

A Dutch court has ruled that the leader of an Islamic extremist group with alleged links to Saddam Hussein and the al-Qaeda network is to be detained for another 20 days.

The decision is to allow more time for the authorities to consider an extradition request from Jordan on charges of heroin smuggling.

Mullah Krekar
Krekar was expelled from Iran
Mullah Krekar, also known as Najm Faraj Ahmad, was arrested last Thursday at Amsterdam airport on his way to Norway, where until recently he held refugee status.

US officials have said they are also interested in questioning him.

Mullah Krekar is believed to be the leader of a newly formed Iraqi Kurd group, Ansar al-Islam, or Partisans of Islam, which is thought to be behind a number of attacks against other Kurdish groups opposed to Saddam Hussein.

Ansar is also said to include some al-Qaeda members who fled Afghanistan. Mullah Krekar is not wanted in the Netherlands, but he was picked up by airport customs officials after he was deported from Iran and put on a flight back to Norway via Amsterdam.

Death penalty snag

Jordan has asked that he be transferred to stand trial there for large-scale heroin smuggling.

Mullah Krekar with three other men
Ansar al-Islam has instituted Taleban-style rule in the areas it controls
There is no extradition agreement between Jordan and the Netherlands, but Amman's extradition request is based on a UN treaty on drug trafficking.

The US authorities also want to question Mullah Krekar but up to now they have not asked for permission to interrogate him here.

The Netherlands has agreed to assist the US in its hunt for fundamentalist extremists, but the government will not extradite anyone who could face the death penalty - a punishment that exists both in Jordan and the United States.


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