Three men accused of terror group membership fight extradition

From the Bradford newspaper the Telegraph and Argus

Three men alleged to be key members of an Islamic State-affiliated terror group that plotted to execute attacks across Europe and kidnap diplomats are fighting extradition from Britain.

Bakr Hamad, Zana Rahim and Awat Hamasalih held senior positions in Rawti Shax, a “trans-national, radical and fundamentalist group”, whose purpose was to carry out violent acts in the West, it is claimed.

Via cells in Britain, Italy, Germany, Greece, Sweden, Finland and Norway, as well as Middle Eastern nations, it aimed to “intimidate the population and to put pressure on public powers and international organisations”, according to prosecutors.

The Sunni-Kurdish group’s primary objective was to overthrow the government of Kurdistan and establish a caliphate alongside Islamic State (IS) territory in Syria. But when its leader, Mullah Krekar, was arrested and jailed in Norway in 2012, it prompted the group to draw up plans to kidnap and hold dignitaries, including the British ambassador, to barter for his release.

Hamad, 38, of Kingston-upon-Hull, Rahim, 32, of Derby and Hamasalih, 38, of Birmingham, were arrested last Thursday as part of coordinated raids across Europe led by the Italian authorities. The trio appeared in custody at Westminster Magistrates’ Court where prosecutor Daniel Sternberg, representing the Italian authorities, described the alleged threat posed by the group.

He said: “The organisation aimed to establish caliphate in Iraqi Kurdistan and sought to establish cells in Europe to share and disseminate jihadi material and to participate in jihad in Iraq and Syria together with Islamic State and Al Nusra.” 

The organisation was structured with secrecy at its core and its members communicated online through a “virtual headquarters” called KurduIslam, the court heard.Mr Sternberg continued: “It drew up plans to carry out violent actions against European and Western targets to intimidate the population and to put pressure on public powers and international organisations.”

Hamad, of All Saints Street, Kingston-upon-Hull, Rahim, of Curzon Street, Derby and Hamasalih, of Finchley Road, Birmingham, all denied consent for extradition at an earlier hearing. 

Mr Sternberg described Rahim as a “leading man” of Rawti Shax, an offshoot of the Kurdish-Iraqi jihadist network Ansar al-Islam. “He is the son-in-law of Krekar and is described as a close collaborator in the direction of the organisation,” he said, adding he often acted as the group’s spokesman and an “administrator” in its chatrooms. Rahim headed the group’s “press and distribution committee” charged with disseminating the leader’s orders and propaganda which he also appeared in, it was said.

The material was smuggled out of the Norwegian prison by family members and visitors, although Rahim was also a trusted conduit for passing sensitive information on to the leader, the court heard. Various financial matters were part of Rahim’s job description in the network, as was protecting the security of its chatroom, the court heard.

He added Rawti Shax also discussed ways of waging violent jihad in Scandinavia in 2012. An Italian member of the cell claimed Krekar had told him the organisation was “ready to bring missiles to Norway to carry out jihad,” the court heard.

Italian prosecutors issued European Arrest Warrants for alleged terrorist activity that began in 2011 and continued until last week’s arrests. If their extradition is approved by Senior District Judge Howard Riddle they will be sent to answer charges of conspiracy to commit international terrorism or subverting democracy.