Monday, February 3
Iraqi Islamist denies link with Baghdad
Richard Norton-Taylor, The Guardian, February 3, 2003
The leader of the Islamist group cited by the US as evidence that Saddam Hussein is supporting al-Qaida yesterday denied he had any links with the Iraqi dictator.
Mullah Krekar, leader of Ansar al-Islam, said that far from promoting links with the Iraqi regime, he wanted to see the end of it.
"I am against Saddam Hussein. I want [Iraq] to change into an Islamic regime", he said in a telephone interview with the Guardian.
Whitehall sources with access to intelligence yesterday also denied claims by President Bush and Tony Blair of links between President Saddam and al-Qaida. Colin Powell, the US secretary of state, said last week there was evidence of links between Baghdad and al-Qaida.
.... Mr Krekar said his group, which controls villages near the border with Iran had about 700 Kurdish members.
They are fighting the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan.
The group is believed to harbour about 120 al-Qaida supporters who fled from Afghanistan.
"Baghdad's writ genuinely does not run there," said a senior Whitehall source.
US and British intelligence agencies also believe the group has links with Chechen rebels and is trying to make chemical weapons.
Mr Krekar denied this, adding that he had "no contacts" with Islamists in Britain.
He was speaking from Norway where he lives after spending four months in a jail in Holland.
Mr Krekar was detained there in September after arriving on a flight from Iran because Jordan had asked for his extradition, accusing him of drug trafficking. He was released for lack of evidence. His lawyer, Victor Kope, suggested yesterday that Mr Krekar had been detained because of US pressure.