DUBLIN — Police arrested Ireland’s most notorious Muslim convert Thursday over his reported death threats against President Barack Obama.
Police said Khalid Kelly, a 44-year-old dubbed “Taliban Terry” by Dubliners, was arrested at his Dublin residence on suspicion of threatening to kill the U.S. leader. He could be held for up to three days before being charged or released.
The arrest came 10 days before Obama’s arrival in Ireland and four days after a British newspaper, the Sunday Mirror, printed an interview with Kelly. He is Ireland’s most outspoken supporter of al-Qaida and its slain founder, Osama bin Laden.
Kelly was quoted as telling the newspaper that he expected al-Qaida to kill Obama during his visit to Ireland in part because the country’s police force is poorly armed. The article said Kelly would like to kill Obama himself but was too well-known to police here.
“Personally I would feel happy if Obama was killed. How could I not feel happy when a big enemy of Islam is gone?” Kelly was quoted as saying.
Obama is scheduled to spend May 23 in Dublin and the village of Moneygall, ancestral home of a great-great-great-grandfather who emigrated to the United States in 1850. Ireland is already ramping up a security operation involving 10,000 police and troops to protect both him and Queen Elizabeth II, who arrives Tuesday in Ireland for a four-day visit.
Kelly, a former Catholic altar boy from inner-city Dublin, converted to Islam while imprisoned in Saudi Arabia in 2000 for selling illegal alcohol.
He since has praised al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden on Irish TV, trained with the Taliban in northwest Pakistan and married a Pakistani woman, and has named one of their two sons Osama.
He told an Irish TV documentary in March that Osama “is a name to be proud of” and now prefers himself to be called Abu Osama — “father of Osama.” But childhood friends and neighbors, who knew him by his pre-conversion name Terry, have nicknamed him “Taliban Terry” instead.
Kelly appears in a 2010 U.S. documentary, “Holy Wars,” inspecting guns for sale in a Pakistani border arms market. He returned to Dublin in April 2010 in murky circumstances. He claimed to have been deported from an unspecified country in Eastern Europe and lost his passport along the way.
Upon his return to Dublin he declared his interest in founding an al-Qaida support group called Islam for Ireland, an idea denounced by the city’s Muslim community leaders.
Kelly says he seeks the imposition of strict Sharia law in Ireland, with public beheadings of drug dealers on Dublin’s main thoroughfare, O’Connell Street.