Ansar al-Islam leader threatens to document his links to US

AFP 02/04/03

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The suspected leader of a Kurdish Islamic extremist group threatened in an interview published Saturday to produce evidence of his contacts with Washington prior to the September 11 suicide hijackings.

"I have in my possession irrefutable evidence against the Americans and I am prepared to supply it ... if (the United States) tries to implicate me in an affair linked to terrorism," Mullah Krekar, who is believed to front Ansar al-Islam, told Al-Hayat newspaper.

He dismissed as "fabrications" reports linking his group to Al-Qaeda, saying they were designed to justify a strike against Iraq.

Krekar told the Arabic-language daily he had been approached by the United States before September 11.

"I had a meeting with a CIA representative and someone from the American army in the town of Sulaymaniya (Iraqi Kurdistan) at the end of 2000. They asked us to collaborate with them ... but we refused to do so," he said.

British and US news reports this week claimed that Krekar, who has enjoyed political refugee status in Norway since 1991, and Ansar al-Islam would be key elements of US Secretary of State Colin Powell's proof of links between Al-Qaeda and Baghdad to be presented to the UN Security Council on Wednesday.

Kurdish officials said the Americans have been paying particular attention in recent month to a mountainous enclave controlled by Ansar al-Islam fighters in Kurdistan near Iran.

The opposition Kurdisih Democratic Party considers the group, whose name means Support of Islam, to be a link between the Baghdad regime and Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda.

Krekar, whose real name is believed to be Fateh Najmeddin Faraj, was arrested in the Netherlands last September and was questioned by US agents about his links while in custody.

Ansar al-Islam is an extremist alliance of Muslim guerrillas including some who reportedly fought in Afghanistan.
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