Feds push to extradite Phoenix driving school owner to Iraq

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Maricopa County Sheriff's Office

FILE - This undated booking photo provided by the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office shows Ali Yousif Ahmed Al-Nouri, who was arrested in January 2020 in Arizona as part of an extradition request made by the Iraqi government and has been accused of participating in the killings of two police officers nearly 15 years ago in Iraq. Prosecutors on Friday, April 16, 2021, urged a judge to approve the Iraqi government's extradition request for Ahmed, an Iraqi native who came to the United States as a refugee in 2009 and became a U.S. citizen in 2015. Ahmed has denied involvement in the killings. (Maricopa County Sheriff's Office via AP, File)

PHOENIX – Prosecutors are urging a judge to approve a request to extradite a Phoenix driving school owner to Iraq on allegations that he participated in the killings of two police officers nearly 15 years ago in the Iraqi city of Fallujah as the leader of an al-Qaida group.

They said the evidence provided by Iraqi authorities meets the standard for an American judge to certify an extradition request for Ali Yousif Ahmed Al-Nouri, an Iraqi native who came to the United States as a refugee in 2009 and became a U.S. citizen in 2015. Prosecutors said witnesses saw Ahmed at the scene of the 2006 killings and that another person who claimed to have been part of the al-Qaida group had implicated Ahmed in both deaths.

Lawyers for Ahmed asked the judge in a filing Friday to reject Iraq’s extradition request, saying his defense team hasn’t been able to adequately investigate the allegations because of the shutdown of international travel during the pandemic. They also said Ahmed’s extradition isn’t allowed under a U.S.-Iraq treaty provision that bars extraditions for offenses that are political in nature.

Ahmed, whose extradition hearing in Phoenix has been scheduled for May 25, has denied involvement in the killings and being a member of a terror group.

His attorneys said the violence and turmoil in Iraq traumatized Ahmed and prompted him to flee to Syria, where he lived in a refugee camp for three years before moving to the United States. Authorities said Ahmed spent time in a Syrian prison, though they couldn’t determine what landed him behind bars.

Defense attorneys say Ahmed volunteered in Phoenix’s refugee community and worked as a military cultural adviser, traveling to bases in other states to help personnel as they prepared to deploy to the Middle East to fight the Islamic State. He bought a home in Surprise on the northwestern edge of metro Phoenix and operated the driving school serving largely Middle Eastern immigrants.

In both attacks on the two Fallujah officers, armed men who were wearing masks jumped out of cars, fired on the officers and fled.

In the first shooting, an attacker held a gun to a witness’ head in June 2006, while another attacker who started to fire on a police officer experienced a malfunction with his gun. Another attacker then killed police Lt. Issam Ahmed Hussein. The witness later identified Ahmed, who wasn’t wearing a mask, as the group’s leader, according to court records.