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Sunday, June 16, 2024

Norway deported Taliban minister

Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported on Tuesday that a former member of a Taliban government in Afghanistan, who’d been living as a refugee in Norway, was secretly sent out of the country last month. Abdul Rauf Mohammad had come to be viewed as a threat to Norway’s national security.

Abdul Rauf Mohammad speaking at a public gathering in Oslo in 2009. PHOTO: NTB Scanpix/Olav Urdahl/Aftenposten
Abdul Rauf Mohammad speaking at a public gathering in Oslo in 2009. PHOTO: NTB Scanpix/Olav Urdahl/Aftenposten

Mohammad was a health minister for the Taliban in the late 1990s who later sought refuge with the UN in Pakistan. He reportedly told interviewers that he’d come into conflict with the Taliban after criticizing their methods, and that his life was in danger.

Since he possessed a wealth of inside information and the UN agreed he needed protection, he was granted asylum. NRK cited a UN report written at its office in Peshawar in which it was claimed that Mohammad “knows several of the Taliban government’s secrets, which could humiliate them internationally. Taliban will do everything in its power to eliminate him.”

Mohammad then emerged as a valuable informant for western intelligence agencies. NRK reported that it was unclear how and why he ultimately landed in Norway. Several of NRK’s sources said that British intelligence officers wanted him placed in Norway, and he and his family were granted asylum in Norway in December 2000.

Made his own demands
They were settled in Drammen and Mohammad reportedly started telling various police intelligence units about the inner workings of the Taliban. His information became even more valuable after the terrorist attacks against the US on September 11, 2001. Mohammad also started appearing in the Norwegian media, granting interviews to newspapers Drammens Tidende and VG, until he received word that family members still in Kabul had been arrested and executed by the Taliban.

Then Mohammad demanded that Norwegian authorities protect his surviving family members who allegedly had fled to Pakistan, preferably by granting them asylum in Norway as well. He refused to cooperate further if his demands weren’t met. Norway’s police intelligence unit PST reportedly informed Norwegian immigration officials that Mohammad’s cooperation could only continue if immigration agency UDI (Utlendingsdirektoratet) arranged to get his family out of Pakistan and to safety.

They did, but the case set off great controversy within UDI, not least because Mohammad’s family didn’t qualify for asylum under existing regulations. PST’s pressure on UDI was not welcome and several top Norwegian immigration officials claimed Mohammad himself should never have been granted asylum in Norway, given his history with the Taliban.

Imported a problem
NRK reported that as the years went by, it became clearer that Norway had imported a problem in the form of Mohammad. From being seen as a valuable source of information against the Taliban and Islamist extremism, Mohammad became seen as a security risk both for Norway and its allies. He had problems functioning in Norway, not least socially, and a PST official wrote in a report as early as 2001 that he had assaulted his wife and daughter. In 2009 he was convicted for violence and making death threats against his own daughter.

In 2009 Mohammad was also linked to the arrests of several young men on terror charges, with newspaper VG reporting that he had served as their imam and mentor. He denied efforts to radicalize young Muslims in Norway, even speaking at a large public gathering in Oslo and stressing that he instead sought “justice and peace in the world.”

Two years later, Norwegian authorities served him with a warning of deportation based on the interests of national security. In an interview with newspaper Aftenposten in 2012, Mohammad denied he posed a threat to Norway.

“They have no proof that I pose a security risk,” he told Aftenposten. “If Norway or Norwegian soldiers are in danger, Abdul Rauf Mohammad would be the first to help them and defend Norway. Norway is my second homeland. Norway helped me when I was in a dangerous situation.”

He told VG later that he would fight a deportation order, and he had a string of public defenders working for him. In early July, however, his 14-year stay in Norway came to an end. NRK reported that he was arrested and held for a day before being driven to Oslo’s main airport at Gardermoen. NRK was told he was given 24 hours to appeal his deportation but chose not to. On July 8, three weeks before Norway was put under a threat of terrorist attack, he was put on a flight bound for Afghanistan. None of his former defense attorneys would comment, nor would the Justice Ministry or immigration authorities. Berglund



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