Mullah Krekar
Leader of Kurdish Ansar al-Islam

Mullah Krekar
Source: Insight News TV

NameNajmuddin Faraj Ahmad (1956-)
Also Known AsMullah Krekar
Fateh Najmeddin Faraj
Najeddin Faraj Ahmad
Abu Sayyid Qutb Fateh Karikar
Sheikh Karikar
Mala Krekar
The EnigmaNajmuddin Faraj Ahmad, or Mullah Krekar, is an enigmatic man suspected of being the leader of the Kurdish (and international) terrorist organisation Ansar al-Islam (Helpers of Islam). His own claims are contradictory and clearly aimed to sow confusion. He has stated that he ceased to be Ansar al-Islam's leader in May 2002 (amongst other dates) but he did not protest when introduced as Ansar al-Islam's leader during an al-Jazeera interview. He migrated to Norway in 1991, but in a 1997 interview he discussed his continuing role as a logistical commander in the Islamic Movement of Kurdistan (IMK). Krekar has denounced claims that he is connected to al-Qaeda as CIA lies, but his own autobiography states that he sought funds from Al-Qaeda's spiritual leader Usama bin Laden. He has participated in peace marches although his legal defence explicitly states that Ansar al-Islam is a military organisation waging war, and Krekar has appeared on television praising the massacre of his enemies. He has become the darling of the Norwegian progressive left despite implementing Shariah law's hudood punishments in Kurdistan and opposing women's emancipation.
Who is Mullah Krekar?
Personal InformationBorn 1956 in Sulaimania, northern Iraq, Krekar's primary and secondary education took place in Iraq. He graduated in Arabic Language from the Sulaimania College in 1982.
Krekar has at least four children and his choice of names is illuminating. They are:
  • Sayyid Qutb (the progenitor of the modern jihadi strand of Salafi Islam)
  • Ma'alim ('Milestones', named after Qutb's seminal book, Ma'alim fi'l Tariq, Milestones on the Road, which laid the ideological groundwork for almost all Islamic terrorist groups since 1966)
  • Zhilal ('Shadow', named after Qutb's commentary on the Quran)
  • Ibnu Taymiyyah (named after Ibn Taymiyyah, the radical medieval scholar whose teachings have been appropriated by radical Islamic movements including al-Qaeda, Maulana Maududi, Qutb and the Wahhabis).
  • Krekar migrated to Norway as a refugee in 1991 and brought his family in later years. His mother, wife and children now live in a council flat in Oslo's Gronland district, and receive welfare payments. Krekar's brother, Khalid Faraj Ahmad, also lives in Norway with his own wife and children.
    EducationKrekar completed a jurisprudence degree in Pakistan under Abdullah Azzam, who was also a mentor to al-Qaeda leaders Usama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, and was of central importance in the development of al-Qaeda's internationalist outlook. Krekar's PhD thesis, submitted at the University of Sind, concerned "The methodology of Da'wa in the story of Moosa (Moses)" It seems probable that Krekar had some involvement with the Afghan jihad which was then being waged by the 'Afghan Arabs', who were led by Azzam.Krekar with IMK cadre, 1998
    Krekar with IMK comrades in 1998. Source
    Jihadi ActivitiesIn 1988, many of the Afghan Arabs who had learnt the new, al-Qaeda interpretation of Jihadi Salafism returned to their home countries to found Islamic terrorist organisations. Krekar returned to Iraq in 1988, and was given responsibility for the military office of the IMK1 In 1995 he was placed in charge of the group's 'office of planning and implementation'. In his 1997 interview with Australian publication Nida'ul Islam, Krekar stated that he still held that role, in addition to responsibility for 'the movement in Europe'. In 1996, Sharia law and punishments (hudood) were imposed on the areas under the control of the IMK. 1 Established in 1985.
    IMK's goal, according to Krekar, was to replace the Iraqi Ba'ath regime with an Islamic regime (distinguishing IMK from nationalist Kurdish groups that sought to establishing an independent Kurdish state). In recent years, Krekar has heaped abuse on the two Kurdish secular parties, stating that when his group took power, the leaders of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) would have their hands cut off.
    Indeed, Krekar was or still is the spiritual leader of Ansar al-Islam (much as bin Laden is the spiritual leader of al-Qaeda). Ansar al-Islam has been at war with the PUK for some years.
    Mullah Krekar on al-Jazeera
    Left: Appearing on al-Jazeera television, Krekar was introduced as the leader of Ansar al-Islam, and did not correct the interviewer. In Norway, he had claimed no longer to be associated with Ansar al-Islam. Krekar's lawyer claimed the interviewer was working for the Americans.
    Right: Mullah Krekar during one of his many court appearances.
    Ansar al-Islam has been implicated in bombings across Europe, and it appears to have operated facilities in Iraq that manufactured the powerful poison ricin. It is thought that these facilities were the source for the ricin found in Europe during 2002 and 2003. Krekar has also been named in connection with the August 2003 bombing of the UN mission in Iraq and the 11 March 2004 Madrid bombings. In the latter case, one of the main suspects allegedly repeatedly met with Krekar.
    Krekar and Al-QaedaThere has been extensive debate over whether Krekar is connected to al-Qaeda and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. During the buildup to the 2003 US-led war in Iraq, the regimes in Iraq, Iran and Syria set up 'pipelines' to funnel Islamic radicals into Iraq. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, now the chief al-Qaeda commander in Iraq, is believed to have made his way from his base in western Iraq, through Iran to Ansar al-Islam camps.22 Krekar rejects claims that he was an agent of Saddam Hussein, but they shared two common enemies at this time: the secular Kurds and the American-led coalition.
    It is alleged that Krekar was the link between the al-Qaeda and Zarqawi. Krekar has repeatedly denied a connection to either al-Qaeda or Zarqawi. Setting aside Krekar's close association with Abdullah Azzam at a time when Azzam was working closely with bin Laden and other founders of al-Qaeda, numerous reports have linked Krekar to the group. Krekar even states in his book, In My Own Words, that he attempted to obtain funds from bin Laden in Peshawar during the late 1980s.
    Many of Krekar's closest allies have trained with al-Qaeda, and indeed Ansar al-Islam's forerunner, Jund al-Islam, was created with the blessings of Usama bin Laden, and in the presence of several al-Qaeda representatives. Jund al-Islam formed from two groups, Aso Muhammad Hassan's Second Soran Unit and Abdullah al-Shafi'i's Tawhid Islamic Front,3 both splinters from the IMK, and was provided with a $300,000 grant from al-Qaeda on its foundation. Members of both constituent groups had trained with al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, and indeed a scanned picture of Aso Muhammad Hawleri's IMK membership card was recovered from a captured al-Qaeda computer in 2001.4 Both these individuals have continued to be close collaborators of Mullah Krekar, standing in as leaders of Ansar al-Islam when necessary. In other words, Mullah Krekar's Ansar al-Islam is not simply an independent Islamic movement; it is made up of several al-Qaeda-linked groups that consolidated under al-Qaeda supervision and with al-Qaeda's funds. Mullah Krekar's closest colleagues in Ansar al-Islam have worked closely with al-Qaeda for many years.3 See report on founding of Jund al-Islam.
    4 Alan Cullison, Inside Al-Qaeda's Hard Drive, Atlantic Monthly, September 2004.
    Document found on Muhamad Atef's computer
    Aso Muhammad Hassan's Islamic Movement of Kurdistan identity card. This image was found on the hard drive of a computer abandoned by al-Qaeda. Aso is a close colleague of Krekar, one of the founding members of Ansar al-Islam and its forerunner, Jund al-Islam.
    Source: Alan Cullison, The Atlantic Monthly.
    Krekar the NorwegianDespite ostensibly living on welfare in an Oslo council flat, Krekar spends much of his time traveling around Europe and the Middle East. For at least a year after the September 11 attacks, Krekar was out of Norway, and by August 2002, he was back in Northern Iraq and allegedly coordinating suicide attacks including one that killed an Australian journalist. Ansar al-Islam has also claimed responsibility for attacks outside Iraq, such as the attack on the HSBC office block in Turkey.
    He has been repeatedly arrested and released, as the Norwegian authorities debated whether he was a threat and if so what was to be done about him. Norway is now negotiating with Jordan, which recently sentenced Krekar in absentia to 15 years' hard labour, for the Mullah's extradition.
    Krekar has, bizarrely, become something of a celebrity in Norway. Some on the left have treated legal action against him as a witch-hunt. In one instance, Krekar reported a female Muslim comedian, Shebana Rehman to the police for lifting him off the ground during a television programme. Rehman was subsequently pilloried for cultural insensitivity by several Norwegian commentators.
    As Nida'ul Islam said in 1997, "[Krekar is] Currently residing in Norway as a political refugee, where he has good efforts in Da'wa"55 Da'wa normally means proselytism, but in this usage could best be translated as propaganda.
    Update: Norwegian courts have now decided that Krekar will be extradited to Iraq provided the Iraqi government can give assurances he will not be executed. (Norwegian law prohibits extradition where the prisoner could face the death penalty.) Source: AKI, 19 April 2005.
    AuthorTrevor Stanley

    Many of the resources used in researching this profile were found in the archives of Bjørn Stærk's weblog, which has tracked the Krekar saga for several years.
    Read and comment on Bjørn Stærk's post relating to this article.

    TimelineThis timeline does contain some gaps, a reflection of the difficulty of verifying the often contractory claims made by, and about, Krekar.

    1956: Born, Sulaimania, Iraq.
    1982: Graduated in Arabic Language studies, Sulaimania.
    1980s: Studied under Abdullah Azzam in Pakistan
    1988: Allegedly met Usama bin Laden, requested money 'for orphans' through intermediaries.
    June 1988: Completed PhD studies at Sind University, and returned to join IMK
    1991: Came to Norway as a refugee, later brought his family
    1992: Appointed head of IMK's Military Wing
    May 1992: The date Krekar has claimed he ceased to be head of Ansar al-Islam.
    1995: Appointed head of IMK's office of Planning and Implementation
    1997: Extensive interview published in Nida'ul Islam, in which Krekar describes Kurdish political history and in particular the basis of the new Islamic Movement in great detail. He also calls for donations to the support the mujahideen.
    2001: For at least a year after September 11, Krekar was out of Norway
    August 2002: Reports Krekar was back in Northern Iraq.
    2002: Involved in planning suicide bombings in Iraq, including one which killed an Australian reporter.
    12 September 2002: Krekar arrested by Dutch authorities at Schipol airport, later released.
    19 February 2003: Norwegian immigration officials say they will expel Krekar because his terrorist connections were not known when his refugee status was granted. Immigration director Trygve Nordby said "There are big differences between the information we have now and what we knew then." (BBC)
    21 Mar 2003: Krekar's arrest ordered by Økokrim, a Norwegian law enforcement agency.
    2 Jan 2004: Krekar arrested in Norway
    13 January 2004: A court in Norway ruled that Krekar should be released, but another court overruled the decision: "There is in the court's opinion reasonable cause to suspect that the accused has had - and still has - a central position in Ansar al-Islam." See also: BBC report
    17 February 2004: Krekar released from custody after defence claimed evidence was gained by torture at the hands of the PUK.
    April 2004: Mullah Krekar releases his autobiography, "In My Own Words", in Arabic and Norwegian.
    April 2004: Krekar reports comedian Shabana Rehman to the police for lifting him off the ground during a variety programme. Members of the left intelligentsiya criticise Rehman, who issues a response.
    June 2004: Placed under house arrest; supposedly handed control of Ansar al-Islam to Abu Abdullah al-Shafi'i.
    June 2004: Norwegian court case against Mullah Krekar dropped due to insufficient evidence.
    19 April 2005: Norwegian courts say Krekar will be extradited to Iraq provided the Iraqi government can assure them Krekar will not be executed. (Norwegian law prohibits extradition where the prisoner could face the death penalty.) AKI
  • In My Own Words - an autobiography published in Arabic and Norwegian.

    Krekar is reported to have published over thirty books, including translations, original works and books of poetry.
  • Krekar's book, 'In My Own Words' (Norwegian translation)
    Sources The Atlantic Monthly: Inside Al-Qaeda's Hard Drive, Alan Cullison, September 2004.

    Insight News TV: 08'26" interview with Mullah Krekar by terrorism expert Jonathan Miller.

    Nida'ul Islam: 1997 Interview with Krekar (Karikar) under the title "An Official from the Islamic Movement in Kurdistan provides A Comprehensive Analysis of the Kurdish Cause". This interview provides stunning insights into Krekar and the kurdish Islamic movement. Nida'ul Islam, published in Sydney Australia, published an exclusive interview with Usama bin Laden in 1996.

    Iraqi Kurdistan Dispatch: Al-Sharq Al-Awsat report - This report on the founding of Jund al-Islam (Soldiers of Islam, fore-runner to Ansar al-Islam) with the blessing of Usama bin Laden, provides valuable information on the group of Afghan Arabs who were associated with Krekar in Iraq - Abu-Wa'il, Abu-al-Darda, Abu-Yasir and Warya Hawliri.

    Iraqi Kurdistan Dispatch: More on connections between Ansar al-Islam and al-Qaeda 20 August 2002.

    MEIB: The Islamist Threat in Iraqi Kurdistan by Michael Rubin, December 2001.

    Jamestown Foundation: Analysing Ansar al-Islam by Mahan Abedin, June 2004.

    Human Rights Watch: Ansar al-Islam in Iraqi Kurdistan Human Rights Watch's backgrounder on human rights abuses carried out by Ansar al-Islam, based on the group's research and visits to Ansar-controlled areas.

    The Norway Post: UDI: Krekar will be expelled - a recent (8 March 2005) article reporting that the Norwegian Immigration Directorate has announced Krekar "would lose his refuge[e] status, his travel documents, as well as his work and residence permits in the interest of national security." This announcement comes after Krekar lost his appeal against the February 2003 decision to strip him of refugee status.

    Aftenposten: Krekar Faces Deportation 8 March 2005.

    Aftenposten: Mullah Krekar presented as head of Ansar al-Islam on al-Jazeera; accepts the title. 9 January 2004.

    Aftenposten: Kurdish Refugee Under Investigation - 22 August 2002. The article discusses early indications that Mullah Krekar was an international terrorist. Krekar was in Iraq at the time of the article's publication.

    Norwegian Immigration Dept: Advance warning for deportation of Mullah Krekar - 13 September 2002 press release warning Mullah Krekar of his possible deportation.

    Newsweek: I Met Bin Laden - 2003 interview with Krekar.

    Telegraph: Islamic exile ordered bombings from Oslo, claims CIA - 18 January 2004, Damien McElroy. Ansar al-Islam leader's memoirs - an article discussing the release of Krekar's autobiography in April 2004.

    Aftenposten: Case dropped against Krekar - an article about the ongoing case against Krekar.

    ABC Australia: Western Intelligence Investigates al-Qaeda-linked Organisation - transcript of a feature on Australian current affairs programme The 7:30 Report.

    BBC: Dutch prolong kurd leader's custody - an article relating to Krekar's arrest by Dutch authorities. The Dutch eventually compensated Krekar for his incarceration. 20 September 2002.

    RFE/RL: Extremist Group Ansar Al-Islam Benefits From Murky Past, Tenuous Links
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    See AlsoAso Muhammad Hassan aka Aso Hawleri, Ibn Taymiyya, Abdullah Azzam, Sayyid Qutb, Usama bin Laden, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi

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