Founder of Ansar al-Islam denies Al-Qaeda/Baghdad links

10 February 2003
The founder of Ansar al-Islam, the militant Islamist movement based in Kurdish-controlled Iraq, has denied any link to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Mullah Krekar, speaking from his base in Norway, said: 'Saddam Hussein is my enemy. I have never met a member of Al-Qeada.' US Secretary of State Colin Powell in his speech to the UN Security Council on 5 February alleged a network of links between the Ansar al-Islam enclave in northern Iraq, Al-Qaeda and the Iraqi president. Mullah Krekar was not mentioned by name but his organisation, which is on the US list of terrorist groups, was. Powell alleged that Baghdad had an agent at senior levels of the group, and that the agent offered safe haven in the enclave to Al-Qaeda members. Powell also claimed that poisons and explosives were being manufactured in the area. Mullah Krekar also denied any contact with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Al-Zarqawi was the crux of Powell's argument that a network connected Baghdad and Al-Qaeda. He was said to have links to Ansar al-Islam and to high-level Iraqi officials, and now to be running a 'deadly terrorist network' plotting attacks across Europe. 'I have never seen or met him,' said Mullah Krekar, who was deported from Iran in September 2002 for suspected links to terrorism.

Kurdish officials also expressed ignorance of any weapons-making activity in the Islamists' enclave. Kurdish government forces have been fighting sporadically with the group since 2001. They questioned Powell's labelling of the satellite photo, 'Terrorist Poison and Explosives Factory, Khurmal,' as the village of Khurmal is not controlled by Ansar al-Islam but by the more moderate Islamic group, Komala Islami Kurdistan.

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