Is Powell's Link of Al Qaeda/Iraq Weak?

ByABC News
February 5, 2003, 6:32 PM

Feb. 5 -- As part of Secretary of State Colin Powell's presentation to the United Nations Security Council today, he said there was a "sinister nexus between Iraq and the al Qaeda terrorist network" the nexus being a small, little known terrorist group called Ansar al-Islam, which is now at the center of the U.S. case.

Powell showed a satellite photograph of what he said was a chemical weapons training center in Northern Iraq, used by al Qaeda and protected by Ansar al-Islam.

"Baghdad has an agent in the most senior levels of the radical organization, Ansar al-Islam, that controls this corner of Iraq," said Powell.

The group, whose name means "Supporters of Islam," rules a remote portion of the autonomous northern Kurdish territories in Iraq near the Iran border, which is not controlled by Saddam Hussein. In fact, their leaders say they seek to overthrow Saddam Hussein and his government.

Denies All Links to Iraq

In an interview with ABCNEWS, the man considered the leader of Ansar al-Islam, Majamuddin Fraraj Ahmad, who is also known as Mullah Krekar, denied all allegations that he is in any way linked to Iraq.

"They are our enemy," he said, adding that his group opposes Saddam Hussein because, unlike Osama bin Laden, Saddam is not a good Muslim.

"We believe that Saddam Hussein, him and his group and his ministers also outside of Islam zone," said Krekar.

Ansar al-Islam's 600 or so members impose a strict interpretation of Islamic law on the several thousand villagers under their control, much the way the Taliban did in Afghanistan. At least 40 of their members claim training in Taliban and al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan.

Krekar fought with the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan, along with other Ansar leaders named Abu Wa el and Abdullah Saifii, who fought in Chechnya with al Qaeda and have been harboring many members of al Qaeda in Iraq since the war in Afghanistan.

Krekar lives openly in Oslo, Norway far from Iraq where he sought asylum after he says Saddam tried to kill him. "[Saddam Hussein's secret police] tried to poison me in June of 1990."