by Stephen Schwartz
THE MAN WHO CALLS HIMSELF Mullah Krekar and claims to be an Iraqi Kurd is not quite a star of the global jihad, but he is worthy of attention nonetheless. Krekar is the emir, or chief, of Ansar al-Islam, a Sunni extremist network that has distinguished itself with murderous attacks all over Iraq. (In October of this year, 11 of Krekar's rank-and-file were executed in Iraqi Kurdistan.)
Krekar was also a key link between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein's regime. The association with Saddam was based on necessity: Saddam knew that because of his atrocities in Kurdistan and the U.S. protective role in that area, he could not reestablish the Baath party there. So he enabled Saudi-financed humanitarian and religious outreach charities to introduce Wahhabism into Kurdistan.
In 1988, Mullah Krekar arrived in Iraqi Kurdistan as an armed Wahhabi missionary. From the beginning of the Wahhabi movement's introduction into Kurdistan the Muslim world was shocked by reports of beheadings ordered by freelance sharia courts, the slaying of Sufis, the targeting of non-Wahhabi Kurdish leaders -- many with long careers as patriotic fighters and tragic family losses at the hands of Saddam -- the desecration of graves, and other depredations.
When coalition troops invaded Iraq in 2003, Krekar's followers unleashed terror. On March 23, 2003, for instance, they were behind a bombing in Iraqi Kurdistan in which an Australian journalist, Paul Moran, was killed and eight others were injured. Krekar's disciple in that case was a Saudi subject, Abd al-Aziz al-Gharbi. Ansar al-Islam acknowledged responsibility for the bombing from inside the Saudi kingdom.
KREKAR'S GIVEN NAME is Najumuddin Faraj Ahmad. He is believed by many observers to be a Saudi posing as a Kurd. He trained in Afghanistan with Osama bin Laden and was a disciple of bin Laden's mentor, the jihadist organizer Abdullah Azzam, who was killed in Pakistan in 1989. Krekar has described bin Laden as the "jewel in the crown of Islam." But perhaps the most interesting fact about Mullah Krekar is that today he runs his affairs from Norway, where he has been a political refugee since 1991.
On December 4, The Washington Post ran a piece about Krekar. The report acknowledged that Krekar has "frequently slipped back into . . . northern Iraq to lead an armed separatist movement called Ansar al-Islam, which has carried out attacks on civilians and U.S. troops." The piece does not go into the details of these attacks. Instead, the Post story concentrated on alleged CIA efforts to pursue Krekar in Norway, and on the Norwegian authorities' disagreeable reaction to Washington's "interference." Someone in the Norwegian government, it seems, recently tipped Mullah Krekar off to the fact that the CIA was on his trail. The mullah demanded official Norwegian protection. How far the Norwegians went to fulfill his requirements is undisclosed. But according to the Post, a CIA operation was blown and Mullah Krekar continues to enjoy life in his northern sanctuary.
Mullah Krekar is wanted by the Iraqi authorities and stated in official terms, his status as a terrorist has been affirmed in the Norwegian courts. He has even been ordered to be deported. But Norway will not send him to Iraq if he faces the death penalty there.
For the Norwegians, the death penalty is a worse evil than massacring whole villages, murdering peaceful Sufis, and trying to impose sharia among the Kurds, as Krekar and Ansar al-Islam, has sought to do.
Europe is demonstrating, once more, its passivity in the face of evil.
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