Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 3 December 2020

Associates of ISIS-linked 'Mullah Krekar' to be extradited from UK to Italy

The men were part of an extremist group targeting Iraqi Kurdistan

Extremist preacher Mullah Krekar talks to media in Norway in July 2019 after learning he had been sentenced to 12 years in prison in Italy. NTB Scanpix/AFP
Extremist preacher Mullah Krekar talks to media in Norway in July 2019 after learning he had been sentenced to 12 years in prison in Italy. NTB Scanpix/AFP

Two UK-based followers of extremist Islamist cleric Najmaddin Faraj Ahmad, widely known as Mullah Krekar, have lost an appeal against extradition to Italy to serve jail terms for terrorism offences.

Senior leader Zana Rahim, Krekar’s son-in-law, and radicaliser Bakr Hamad were among six men convicted last year in Italy of membership of ISIS-linked group Rawti Shax, and were ordered to serve seven-and-a-half years in prison.

Rahim and Hamad did not appear at the trial. They were arrested in the UK at Italy’s request two days after the July 2019 court verdict and detained in prison as they battled extradition to Italy.

The group, headed by Krekar, seeks to overthrow the Kurdish government in northern Iraq and create a caliphate.

Italian prosecutors said that the group recruited foreign fighters to be sent to Iraq and Syria and gave them financial support. The group’s activities were uncovered after an extensive phone-tapping operation in which they were found to be plotting attacks on European soil and planning paramilitary training camps.

Krekar, who received a 12-year term, was sent to Italy in March from Norway where he fled as a refugee in 1991.

Italian prosecutors said that Rahim was the group’s communications chief and a member of the group’s leadership team.

He visited his 64-year-old father-in-law in prison in Norway to pass on his instructions to other members of the group to travel to Syria. He also kept in close contact with financiers, according to court papers.

Hamad, a UK-based member of Rawti Shax, was said to have radicalised one man who travelled to Iraqi Kurdistan to join ISIS.

He was also accused of spreading extremist content online, acting as a terrorist cheerleader and plotting hostage-taking to try to spring Krekar from previous prison terms.

Krekar has served time in Norway for threatening Prime Minister Erna Solberg. He also praised the brothers who killed 12 people during an attack on the offices of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

Lawyers for Rahim and Hamad contested the extradition telling the UK’s High Court earlier this month that the arrest warrant contained errors.

They also claimed that the legal process was unfair after they unsuccessfully appealed against their convictions at a hearing in Italy which they attended via video link from their London prison.

But High Court judge Ross Cranston dismissed their claims and said they should be extradited.

Their legal teams did not return calls for comment.

Rawti Shax has its origins in the now defunct terrorist organisation Ansar al Islam, also founded by Krekar, which reportedly merged with ISIS in 2014. The UN and US sanctioned Krekar in 2006 because of his links to Al Qaeda and for financing terrorist organisations.

In 2015, European authorities arrested 15 members of Rawti Shax amid claims that members were planning to become suicide bombers and to kidnap Norwegian diplomats.

Updated: October 20, 2020 07:32 PM

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