WASHINGTON, Feb. 6 (UPI) -- The country that harbors Mullah Krekar, the leader of a Kurdish Islamic organization with links to al Qaida made public Wednesday in U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell's U.N. presentation, will not detain or extradite him until three investigations into his ties are completed.
In an interview with the spokesman for the Norwegian Foreign Ministry Thursday, Karsten Klepsvik told United Press International his country would neither detain nor extradite Najm al-Din Faraj Ahmad -- Krekar's real name -- until three simultaneous investigations into him are completed.
"We are a country under the rule of law," Klepsvik said. "We cannot take any shortcuts. Until proven guilty (Krekar) is presumed not guilty." The three investigations ongoing in Norway revolve around Krekar's asylum status; pending charges in Jordan regarding his role as a heroin dealer, and his ties to al Qaida.
At the United Nations Wednesday, Powell did not mention Krekar by name but did mention his organization, Ansar al-Islam, and said the organization hosted al Qaida operatives fleeing Iran from Afghanistan and controlled the area of northern Iraq where al Qaida had established an explosives and poisons training camp.
"Baghdad has an agent in the most senior levels of the radical organization Ansar al-Islam that controls this corner of Iraq," Powell said. "In 2000, this agent offered al Qaida safe haven in the region. After we swept al Qaida from Afghanistan, some of those members accepted this safe haven. They remain there today."
On Thursday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's ranking democrat, Senator Joe Biden, D-Del., peppered Powell with questions about Krekar and his whereabouts. He asked why the United States had reportedly called off an air strike on one of their training camps and why the United States had not urged the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan to eliminate the organization's stronghold.
PUK is a pro-American Kurdish party that has sovereignty over about half of northern Iraq that falls under the no-fly zones. "If Ansar is such a threat, why is its purported leader walking around free in Norway giving interviews? And the reason I ask the question is it's the only thing out there that sort of undercuts our sense of urgency," Biden asked Powell, to which the secretary said he would not respond in open session.
It has been widely reported that Ansar al-Islam was created a month before Sept. 11, 2001, in meetings between senior al Qaida leaders and Kurdish Islamists. Krekar has lived in Norway on and off, however, since the early 1990s, when he was initially granted asylum in that country after claiming he could not return to northern Iraq.
Klepsvik noted that his government was aware that Krekar had returned to northern Iraq several times since initially moving to Norway. In September last year, Iran arrested Krekar, detained him for one week and then sent him to the Netherlands where he was questioned by Dutch authorities for his links to terrorism.
European and U.S. officials tell UPI the United States also questioned him. Between September and January, Krekar was detained, but in January he was allowed to depart for Oslo, where he now resides.