Heiko Junge  /  Scanpix via AP file
Ansar al-Islam leader Mullah Krekar, seen here in November, was arrested Friday, his attorney said.
updated 1/2/2004 1:03:20 PM ET 2004-01-02T18:03:20

Mullah Krekar, the spiritual leader of the Islamic militant group Ansar al-Islam, was arrested Friday on charges of helping in a plot to murder his rivals in northern Iraq in 2000-01, his lawyer told The Associated Press.

The charges against Krekar weren’t terror-related and a court hearing will be held Saturday, when authorities will ask that he be held for at least four weeks, said public prosecutor Erling Grimstad.

Krekar was arrested at his apartment by agents with Oekokrim, Norway’s elite police unit, and was being questioned, Grimstad said.

The charges were based on an investigation that started in February, he said.

Accused of attempted murder
“He is accused of cooperating in the attempted murder of his political enemies in northern Iraq during the period of December 2000 to April 2001,” Krekar’s lawyer, Brynjar Meling, told the AP. “As far as I can see, these are matters he has explained to prosecutors before, and it’s strange they’re being raised again.”

Oekokrim declined to comment on the arrest.

Krekar’s brother, Khalid Faraj Ahmad, said he wasn’t allowed to see him after the raid by police.

“They won’t allow me to go in. They want to take him,” he said. “I don’t know what they will do with him.”

Ansar al-Islam, a group of as many as 600 Islamic militants in the mountains of northern Iraq, is regarded as a terrorist organization by the United States and the United Nations.

During a visit to Oslo in September, Attorney General John Ashcroft called it a “very dangerous group” and said the organization maintained a network for terrorist training camps in northern Iraq.

Al-Qaida links denied
Krekar, born Najm al-Din Faraj Ahmad, has repeatedly denied links with al-Qaida, although he has called Osama bin Laden “a good Muslim.” He has also denied any connection with recent bombings and terror attacks in Iraq, or any role in smuggling drugs in Jordan.

He was arrested at the airport outside Amsterdam on Sept. 12, 2002, after Iran had denied him entry and sent him back to Europe, tipping off Western governments that he was on his way.

He was interrogated twice by the FBI while in Dutch custody, and then deported in January to Norway, where he was arrested again.

Krekar has lived freely in Norway since he was released from a Norwegian jail in April after a court found insufficient grounds to hold him on terrorism charges. Police dropped the charges in July, but are investigating him on other charges that they refuse to reveal.

Krekar has had refugee status in Norway for more than a decade, something Norwegian authorities are challenging because he regularly returned to Iraq, the country he had fled during the reign of Saddam Hussein.

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