Mullah Krekar (Kurdish: مەلا کرێکار Mela Krêkar; Arabic: ملا كريكار Mullā Krīkār), (born: نەجمەدین فەرەج ئەحمەد, Najmuddin Faraj Ahmad July 7, 1956) is a Kurdish Sunni jihadist Islamic scholar who came to Norway as a refugee from northern Iraq in 1991. His wife and four children have Norwegian citizenship, but not Krekar himself. He speaks Kurdish, Arabic, Persian, some Norwegian and English.
Krekar was the original leader of the Islamist armed group Ansar al-Islam, which was set up and commenced operations in Kurdistan while he had refugee status in Norway. Krekar claims, however, not to have had foreknowledge of the various terrorist attacks performed by the group he was leading. Since February 2003 he has an expulsion order against him, which is suspended pending Iraqi government guarantees that he will not face torture or execution. Norway is committed to international treaties which prohibit the expulsion of an individual without such a guarantee.
Authorities in the Kurdistan Regional Government have repeatedly asked for Ahmad (“Krekar”) to be extradited from Norway. The death penalty remains on the books in the Kurdistan region. Most death sentences have been changed into life sentences since the Kurdistanian authorities took power in 1992, the exception being that eleven alleged members of Ansar al-Islam were hanged in the regional capital of Arbil in October 2006. He has as of 8 December 2006 been on the UN terror list, and as of 8 November 2007 been judged by the Supreme Court of Norway as a “danger to national security”.
On March 26, 2012 he was sentenced to 5 years in prison for making repeated death threats against Norwegian politicians and kurds if they pursued certain civil actions against him. He has appealed this prison sentence. The next day, March 27, 2012, he was arrested by the Norwegian Police Security Service (PST) and Norwegian Police and taken into protective custody and incarceration. This occurred after certain additional statements of a threatening nature were linked to him, suggesting that others might take retaliatory actions against Norwegians if his civil prison sentence were implemented.
In November 2009 controversy erupted when Krekar in an interview with the Arab television channel al-Hiwar said he wanted to establish a new Islamic Caliphate, claiming that for Jihadists there is no legitimate state, with the exception of the Taliban-led Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. For the Islamic “super-state” he wanted Osama bin Laden, Al-Qaida-top Ayman al-Zawahiri or Hizb-e Islami-founder Gulbuddin Hekmatyar as leader, and other radical Islamists as leader, citing for instance Gulbuddin Hekmatyar or Ayman Al-Zawahiri as the foreign minister. As a result, the Progress Party continued their call for the imprisonment of Krekar, and the Labour Party stated for the first time they would form a new task force which would examine if people officially labeled as “danger to national security” could be imprisoned. Azzam Tamimi who had done the interview with Krekar, also said that he felt Krekar had been treated badly in Norway.
Krekar in Norway
Proceedings against Krekar
In August 2002, while Krekar was in Iraq, the Norwegian government revoked his refugee status on the grounds that he had traveled back to his homeland and spent long periods there.
Krekar was arrested in the Netherlands at Schiphol Airport near Amsterdam in September 2002, after Iran denied him entry and sent him back to Europe. He was interviewed by FBI agents (at Krekar’s request, in an attempt to clear his and his group’s name); no extradition request was made. He was deported to Norway in January 2003.
In February 2003 the Norwegian government ordered Krekar to be deported to Iraq, but as of July 2009 the order had not been implemented because of the security environment in Iraq, and the risk that Krekar could face the death penalty there, as Norway will not deport people in these circumstances. Krekar has unsuccessfully challenged the expulsion order in court, with the order being confirmed in September 2005. Norway’s government has said that the new government to be elected in Iraq in December 2005 might permit discussion on whether Krekar’s expulsion order can be implemented.
On March 21, 2003 his arrest was ordered by Økokrim, the Norwegian law enforcement agency for financial crime, to ensure he did not leave the country while accusations that he had financed terrorist attacks using Norway as a base were investigated. Court proceedings against Krekar were however dropped when it proved impossible to prove his connections with the terrorist attacks staged in Iraq by Ansar al-Islam during his leadership. His term as leader ended.
The United States government has declared Ansar al-Islam a terrorist group, but Krekar denies that it was during the time he headed it, and says he no longer does. While Krekar has not been found guilty of anything, a number of his opinions have met little sympathy; he was once recorded claiming that Osama bin Laden is the “jewel in the crown of Islam”. and that he was proud of what Abu Musab al-Zarqawi “has done and that he has become a martyr”.
In September 2005 the Iraqi Justice Minister Abdel Hussein Shandal said that Krekar was wanted in Iraq and should be tried there.
About the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy, he said to the Norwegian media “This is a declaration of war against of our religion, our faith, and our civilization. We Muslims are ready for this.”
Krekar told the Kurdish magazine Awene that he wants to return to Iraq to fight openly against the Iraqi government and the coalition, but that he lacked travel documents from the Norwegian government. He confirmed to a Norwegian newspaper that he had been correctly quoted. The Norwegian minister of labour and migration, Bjarne Håkon Hanssen, responded that Krekar could leave at any time and that he would be given “travel documents within the day. He’ll also get money for airline tickets, taxi cab, and the whole deal. If he really wants to go, that is.” Krekar is still living in Norway.
On December 7, 2006, the United States Department of the Treasury designated mullah Krekar as one of five individuals providing financial support to terrorist organizations. In a statement he is accused of providing funds for Ansar al-Sunnah, an active Iraqi terror-organization descended from Ansar al-Islam. The press release states that “This designation freezes any assets the designees may have under U.S. jurisdiction and prohibits all financial and commercial transactions by any U.S. person with the designees”. Mullah Krekar was later that day added to the United Nations Security Council list of individuals belonging to or associated with the Al-Qaeda organization. All member states of the United Nations are obliged to freeze assets and prevent entry or transit through their territories with regard to the individuals included on the list. Anders Romarheim, a researcher at the Norwegian Institute for Defence Studies, believes that the placement of mullah Krekar on this list is a United States strategy to put pressure on Norway.
On November 8, 2007, the Supreme Court of Norway ruled that Krekar is a threat to Norway’s national security, thus upholding the February 2003 decision by the government to deport him to Iraq. It is still unclear when Krekar will be deported due to Iraq’s death penalty laws. Some politicians asked for Krekar to be put in jail until he is deported.
Threat against Mariwan Halabjaee
In an audio file published on the Kurdish website Renesans.nu during September 2008, Krekar allegedly threatened to kill Mariwan Halabjaee, the Iraqi Kurdish author of Sex, Sharia and Women in the History of Islam, who also resided in Norway. “I swear that we will not live if you live. Either you go before us, or we go before you,” said Krekar. Krekar compared Halabjaee with Salman Rushdie and Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
In February 2012, Krekar confirmed in the Oslo District Court that he had issued a twenty-page fatwa against Halabjaee. The fatwa was sent to several hundred Islamic scholars around the world. While Krekar said he thought he might be able to “guarantee the safety” of Halabjaee, Krekar confirmed that his fatwa “implies” that it is “permissible” to kill Halabjaee in Oslo or anywhere else. Krekar compared Halabjaee to Theo van Gogh, the film director who was killed by an Islamist in the Netherlands in 2004.
Terrorism charges against Krekar
On July 12, 2011, terrorism charges were filed against Krekar for a death threat he uttered against ex-minister Erna Solberg during a news conference in June 2010.
In 2003, agents for the CIA, including Cynthia Dame Logan and Gregory Asherleighs, were sent to Norway. They arrived directly after the abduction of Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr from Milan, Italy. The agents are allegedly wanted within the Schengen area of jurisdiction. A few days before their arrival, Mullah Krekar’s lawyer, Brynjar Meling, asked for police protection of Krekar. The Norwegian Intelligence Service admits it had knowledge of the agents’ visit to Norway, and Meling confirms he had heard rumours that Krekar was to be kidnapped and transferred to Guantanamo Bay. If the operation was not approved beforehand by Norway it would have been a violation of Norwegian law. Mullah Krekar was not kidnapped. According to an article in Newsweek, a Pentagon official proposed inserting a US Navy SEAL team to engage in a “snatch rope” operation against Krekar; however, the plan was allegedly rejected because a shooting confrontation between the SEALs and Norwegian police would have triggered a diplomatic disaster between Norway and the United States.
However, a week later the Los Angeles Times quoted a high ranking intelligence official who claimed that U.S. special forces were in fact inserted in a European country allied with the United States through NATO, in order to carry out a snatch operation under strikingly similar circumstances to the Krekar case. The revelation led to suspicion that the plan was in fact not cancelled, as the Pentagon had stated. According to the Norwegian newspaper Stavanger Aftenblad, which was the original source of the CIA agents’ mission in Oslo, the U.S. special forces, most likely Navy SEALs, had been monitoring a “militant leader” over a period of time, and were in place ready to carry out the snatch. According to the Los Angeles Times, the Pentagon kept the allied country’s government in the dark about the mission, which apparently failed or was aborted.
Offered cash for leaving Norway
In April 2006 businessman Tasawer “Tommy” Sharif offered Krekar NOK 500,000 (approx. US$60,000) if he left Norway, saying that Krekar was “a pest for all Muslims in Norway.” Krekar rejected the offer.
Facebook group collecting donations for the assassination of Mullah Krekar
In November 2007, Norwegian newspapers published the story that a Facebook group had been set up, dedicated to collecting money which would eventually go to an assassin, should one be located. The group statement started with “For the murder of Norway’s enemy #1”. The 28-year-old man who started the group went on to publicize not only his full name, but also a bank account number where money could be deposited. The group had approximately 400 members when Krekar’s lawyer deemed the threat “serious” and said he “hoped the police would investigate the people involved”. The 28-year-old told Norwegian media that the statement was facetious and thus should not be taken literally.
Popular Culture References
In November 2007, mullah Krekar was the subject of a half hour investigative report by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s (ABC-TV) international affairs program “Foreign Correspondent”. The report titled “Norwegian Jihad” was also the centrepiece of a one-hour special report on Norwegian State Television.
“Norwegian Jihad” was also broadcast throughout the Asia Pacific region on ABC-TV’s satellite service “Australia Network”.
In July, 2009, mullah Krekar was one of the subjects of the NBC’s pilot episode of the show “The Wanted”, describing him as “responsible for killing hundreds of westerners”.
In early 2012, the Netflix series “Lillyhammer” featured a scene in which a Norwegian police officer gets into an argument with an Arab immigrant over whether the show “24” is unfair to Arabs, and when his partner intercedes, he complains that the immigrant “is giving me the whole mullah Krekar routine over here”.
During the night of 24 January 2010, 3 shots were fired through one of the windows of Krekar’s apartment in Oslo. The attack was investigated as an assassination attempt. Krekar’s son-in-law was mildly injured by one of the bullets. Kurdish groups were cited as possible or likely perpetrators.
Decision to leave Norway
In early January 2012, Krekar announced in an interview with a Kurdish online newspaper Rudaw from the Kurdish Autonomous Region that he would be leaving Norway and returning to the Kurdistan region soon, saying “My return to the Kurdistan region has become a major political issue.” He also predicted that, “My death will cost Norwegian society. If, for example, Erna Solberg (Norwegian Prime Minister) throws me out of the country and I die as a result, she will suffer the same fate.”
Conviction for death threats
On 26 March 2012, Krekar was sentenced to 5 years in prison for making death threats. He appealed. On 26 March 2012, Krekar was re-arrested for making threats against two Kurds and the Conservative Party leader Erna Solberg. On August 29, 2012, Oslo District Court tacked an additional year onto the five Mullah Krekar had been sentenced to in March, 2012.
Decision on appeal
On 6 December 2012, the Court of Appeal acquitted Krekar of charges of incitement to terrorism, but found Krekar guilty of four counts of intimidation under aggravating circumstances. The Court of Appeal ordered that Krekar pay 130,000 kroner in damages compensation to each of the three Kurds he threatened, and to serve two years and ten months in prison, less the 255 days he was in custody.
For the 2013 Norwegian parliamentary election Krekar called on Muslims in Norway to vote for either the Labour Party, the Socialist Left Party or the Red Party. He explained that since there was not yet enough Muslims in Norway to form a separate political bloc, Muslims had many strategies in common with Norwegian leftists.
According to the Turkish Kurdish daily Özgür Gündem, Mullah Krekar had attended a meeting in Amman (Jordan), June 1, 2014, to prepare the invasion of Iraq by Daesh. The newspaper published the facsimile of record of the Turkish secret services in this conspiracy
On 20 January 2015, it was revealed that Krekar would be forcibly relocated (Norwegian: tvangsbosettes) to the village of Kyrksæterøra in Trøndelag. This decision was made by the Police based on an order from the National Police Directorate.
February 2015 Arrest
On 20 February 2015, it was reported that Krekar was arrested in an article titled Radical preacher who praised Charlie Hebdo killers arrested. Krekar is quoted in this article saying that when a cartoonist “tramples on our dignity, our principles and our faith, he must die.” The aforementioned article also reports that, “Krekar, who was only freed from prison late last month, was arrested Thursday night on accusations of inciting crime, police said.” Therefore, the primary reason for Krekar’s arrest by the Norwegian Police was the allegation that he incited crime by his statements. The article cites no other reason for Krekar’s arrest.
November 2015 Arrest
On November 13, 2015 it was reported that Krekar was arrested in prison in Norway on November 11 “in a coordinated police swoop on Islamist militants planning attacks.” He and 14 other Iraqi Kurds and one non-Kurd were “arrested in countries across Europe in collaboration with police from Italy, the UK, Norway, Finland, Germany and Switzerland.” The BBC reported that the raids targeted Rawti Shax, “which seeks to establish a caliphate in Iraq’s Kurdistan region.”
Krekar’s statements refer to the Charlie Hebdo newspaper whose cartoonists were gunned down in Paris for allegedly drawing cartoons that Kreker refers to. The attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris was described by the French President François Hollande who said, “An act of exceptional barbarism has been committed in Paris against a newspaper. A paper, in other words, an organ of free speech.”
- (Norwegian) (2003). Med egne ord (“In My Own Words”). Autobiography. Oslo: Aschehoug. 246 pp. ISBN 82-03-22968-9. Translated from Arabic.