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Iraqi Militant Faces Charges in Norway - 2004-01-03

The founder of an Iraqi militant group is facing charges in a Norwegian court, following his arrest. Mullah Krekar has been identified as the founder of the Iraqi-based Islamic militant group, Ansar al-Islam. His lawyer, Brynjar Meling, told the Associated Press news agency that his client is accused of cooperating in the attempted murder of his political enemies in northern Iraq from December 2000, until April 2001.

Norwegian authorities say he was arrested at his home in Norway Friday, and questioned at a police station in Oslo. They say the new charges are based on an investigation that began almost one year ago, but are not terror related.

The Ansar al-Islam organization operates in the mountains of northern Iraq, and is regarded as a terrorist organization by the United Sates and the United Nations.

The group is suspected of being behind a series of unsolved car bombings and suicide attacks in Baghdad and of links with Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida terrorist network.

However, Mullah Krekar has denied any links with al-Qaida and any connections with recent bombings and terrorist attacks in Iraq, which he says he fled during the rule of Saddam Hussein.

Mullah Krekar has been arrested before. He was taken into custody in September 2002 in The Netherlands and questioned by U.S. FBI agents before being released and deported to Norway where he again was arrested.

Authorities subsequently released him after a court could not find sufficient grounds to hold him on terrorism charges.

For more than a decade Mullah Krekar has had refugee status in Norway, but authorities are now challenging that because he has frequently returned to Iraq.