Norway to Deport Ansar Al-Islam Leader

The leader of a Kurdish Islamic guerrilla group operating in northern Iraq was ordered out of Norway on Wednesday for what immigration officials called "a threat to national security" due to alleged Al Qaeda links.

Mullah Krekar, leader of Ansar al-Islam, was given two weeks to leave Norway and three weeks to appeal the ruling.

At a Jan. 14 news conference in Oslo, Krekar denied he or his group had any links to terrorism or ever had any contact with Al Qaeda leader Usama bin Laden.

Although Krekar's lawyer is lodging an appeal with Norway's Immigration Appeals Board, the action may only delay Krekar's deportation, since the Immigration Directorate's recommendations contributed to the deportation ruling.

At a news conference, Minister of Local Government and Regional Development Erna Solberg said her decision stemmed from recent U.N. Security Council discussions on preventing safe havens for terrorism.

"Ansar al-Islam is an armed, Islamic, fundamentalist grouping which I believe there is reason to suppose has a connection to the Al Qaeda network," said Solberg, whose ministry is responsible for asylum-seekers.

She said her ruling also considered a report by Human Rights Watch, which accused al-Ansar of illegally detaining and torturing civilians.

Krekar's refugee status in Norway was undermined by repeated trips to northern Iraq, an autonomous Kurdish region beyond the control of Saddam Hussein's regime.

Immigration director Trygve Nordby said Krekar's activities as a military, political and religious leader during those visits were not consistent with those of an asylum-seeker.

He said Norway's laws permitted the expulsion because there were "reasonable grounds" to believe Krekar's activities in Iraq made him a security risk.

Krekar announced earlier in February that he would stop answering the "American questions" asked by Norwegian special police. Krekar's lawyer said the guerrilla leader was being asked, among other things, about Ansar al-Islam's security apparatus.