Najmuddin Faraj Ahmad, aka Mullah Krekar, at an Oslo court. File photo: AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — The Norway-based cleric, Najmuddin Faraj Ahmad, known as Mullah Krekar, will be tried in absentia in Italy on Wednesday. He faces charges of international terrorism.
Mullah Krekar, who is Kurdish, could be extradited to Italy.
“If he is convicted in Italy, he shall be in Italy. I will take care of that,” Norwegian Minister of Justice Per-Willy Amundsen told Nettavisen, a Norwegian newspaper.
Krekar is recognized as the leader of the terrorist network called Rawti Shax or Didi New and is accused of planning terrorist activities in Europe.
He had earlier faced an extradition request from Italy, approved by Norway courts, before it was withdrawn.
In 2015, European authorities arrested fifteen Iraqi-Kurdish nationals, among them their leader Mullah Krekar, on terrorism-related charges, said Franco Roberti, Italy’s anti-mafia and anti-terror prosecutor, Reuters reported at the time.
Krekar, a flamboyant Kurdish Islamist in exile, is wanted in Kurdistan Region for terrorism charges dating back to late 1990s and early 2000s when he founded the Kurdish jihadist group Ansar al-Islam and declared a caliphate-like entity in the southern Kurdish towns of Biara and Tawela in the run up for the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq.
The US army demolished Ansar al-Islam strongholds in Biara and Tawela with airstrikes and Tomahawk cruise missiles during the 2003 war and dismantled the group’s network.
Kurdish authorities say Ansar al-Islam was responsible for killing and torturing local residents who opposed the caliphate and want to prosecute its leader Krekar.
Rawti Shax recruited foreign terrorist fighters to be sent to Iraq and Syria and provided logistical and financial support, Italian prosecutors allege.
Mullah Krekar has been imprisoned multiple times since he arrived in Norway in 1991 for making inflammatory remarks and death threats, including against now-Prime Minister of Norway Erna Solberg in 2012.
Norway has considered Krekar a threat to the national security. The government has tried to return him to Iraq but his extradition has been obstructed on the grounds he could face the death penalty.