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Friday, 27 September, 2002, 20:54 GMT 21:54 UK
FBI questions Iraqi Kurd militant
Anti-Saddam Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq
Ansar al-Islam is at odds with larger Iraqi Kurd groups

A lawyer representing Mullah Krekar, an Iraqi Kurd arrested in the Netherlands two weeks ago, has confirmed that his client has been questioned by the US Federal Bureau of Investigations in his Dutch jail.

Mullah Krekar denies allegations laid against his radical Islamic group, Ansar al-Islam. They include claims that it has links with al-Qaeda or Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and has been involved in testing chemical weapons.

In the summer, US officials were quoted as saying Washington had considered sending commandos into northern Iraq. Their task would be to knock out a clandestine chemical weapons laboratory believed to have been set up in a string of villages controlled by Ansar close to the Iranian border.

Mullah Krekar - whose real name is Najm Faraj Ahmad - was arrested at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport after being expelled from Iran.

'Nothing to hide'

Washington made it clear it was interested in Mullah Krekar as soon as he was arrested.

Mullah Krekar
Krekar says political rivals fabricated evidence against him
The Iraqi Kurd is said to have featured in discussions between US Attorney General John Ashcroft and his Dutch counterpart shortly afterwards.

Mullah Krekar's Norwegian lawyer, Brynjar Melling, has now confirmed that FBI agents visited him in prison earlier this week.

Mr Melling said his client had made it clear that he wanted to be questioned by the FBI or other American agencies, to prove that he had nothing to hide.

He said Mullah Krekar answered general questions on a number of issues, such as his group's alleged links with Iran, Iraq and al-Qaeda.

He said Mullah Krekar completely denied allegations that Ansar al-Islam has connections with al-Qaeda or Saddam, whom he describes as an enemy of the Kurdish people.

As for allegations that it had been involved in testing chemical weapons, Mullah Krekar maintains that Ansar is a small group which lives in primitive surroundings and does not have the technological capability to produce such weapons.

He says that when he visited the region he lived in a village called Biara on the Iranian side of the border, and that both Biara and most other villages under his group's control have no electricity or clean water.

Extradition battle

He accuses his political rivals in the region of fabricating the allegations.

Mullah Krekar with three other men
Krekar says Ansar members live in primitive conditions
Mr Melling said that so far the US had not indicated that it intended to apply for Mullah Krekar's extradition.

But he added that he would wait and see what happened after another meeting between the FBI and his client, scheduled for next week.

Meanwhile Mullah Krekar is contesting Jordan's application for his extradition to face drugs charges. He insists that he has never visited Jordan and that he has no involvement with drugs.

He is also fighting Norway's attempts to revoke his refugee status, which he has had since 1991, and right of residency there.

Norway alleges that Mullah Krekar appears to have spent substantial periods of time back in his homeland and is therefore no longer eligible for refugee status.


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