The Mullah Krekar Show

Is this the man behind the Oslo terrorist bombing?


Two years ago this month, the U.S. television network NBC had the bright idea to create a reality show about vigilante terrorist hunters who would do something unspecified to terrorists who had evaded the long reach of justice.

The first episode of the execrable series, The Wanted, put the spotlight on Mullah Krekar, an Iraqi national flagged by the United States, the United Nations, and Interpol for his involvement with Iraqi terrorist groups.

The program showed NBC’s terror team stalking Krekar on the streets of Oslo, a venture that was depicted as extremely dangerous, though Krekar was always just a phone call away from any media outlet that would give him airtime. Somehow Krekar escaped NBC’s brand of rough — or at least itchy — justice. For a while, at least.

The Wanted was canceled after two episodes, but the Mullah Krekar Show continued until last week, when he was arrested for threatening Norwegian politicians.

Today, at least one bomb went off in Oslo, targeting government buildings. It’s far too soon to draw any conclusions about who is responsible for the attacks, but Krekar’s long history in Norway will likely be thrust into the spotlight after today’s events.

An Iraqi Kurd, Krekar fled Saddam Hussein’s regime after years spent working with Islamist and jihadi movements. He relocated to Norway under refugee status in 1991.

In Oslo, Krekar enjoyed tremendous freedom to operate as a preacher and an organizer.

Allegedly traveling freely in violation of Norwegian asylum law, he helped create Ansar al-Islam, an Islamist group that enforced Taliban-style governance in Kurdish areas of Iraq prior to the U.S. invasion. After the invasion, Ansar al-Islam became part of the Salafist insurgent alliance known as Ansar al-Sunna.

Although Krekar played an important inspirational role in the insurgency, the Norwegians couldn’t successfully mount a terrorism case against him. Extradition requests reportedly came from Jordan, Iraq, and the United States, but efforts to deport him ran aground on red tape and Norway’s robust legal protections and benefits for refugees.

"He is a walking provocation and is making a mockery out of Norwegian respect for human rights," said Ola Flyum, a Norwegian journalist with whom I have worked, in an e-mail this morning. Flyum has investigated Krekar’s story for years.

"He and his whole family are supported by the Norwegian government, but he continues to threaten people and central leaders," Flyum said. "The Norwegian government has for years tried to find a way out of this dilemma."

Indeed, Krekar showed little concern about losing his safe haven, running his mouth to the press at every opportunity.

In his autobiography, he wrote of meeting Osama bin Laden during the 1990s and called the al-Qaeda leader "a jewel in the crown of Islam."

In a 2003 interview with Dutch TV, he urged terrorist attacks against U.S. interests in Iraq. "Not just the officers, but also the civilians who help the Americans. If anyone so much as fetches them a glass of water, he can be killed," Krekar said.

But in the end, his words would be his downfall. Krekar was indicted last week for threatening death against Norwegian politicians should he be deported.

Among the many indiscriminate statements cited in the indictment, ironically, were statements he made in an interview with the makers of The Wanted — a small posthumous vindication for a really terrible TV show.

J.M. Berger is co-author of ISIS: The State of Terror and is a nonresident fellow at the Brookings Institution.

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