Pakistani accused in British court over 'Al-Qaeda plot'

8th July 2010, Comments 0 comments

A Pakistani man accused of being an Al-Qaeda operative was "deeply involved" in a plot targeting Britain and the United States, a lawyer told an extradition hearing in London Wednesday.

Abid Naseer was arrested earlier Wednesday in northeast England on a US warrant, accused of involvement in a failed Pakistan-based campaign against American and British cities.

The 24-year-old was the "point of contact" in Britain for the alleged transatlantic plot and is accused of planning attacks in Manchester, northwest England, lawyer Melanie Cumberland, for the US government, told the court.

Officials here said US authorities have lodged a request for Britain to extradite Naseer, who was one of five people charged over the plot in an indictment unsealed Wednesday in New York.

US prosecutors have accused Al-Qaeda leaders of directing the conspiracy which included an alleged attempt to bomb the New York subway.

Cumberland said Naseer was alleged to have been an Al-Qaeda operative who participated in the plot.

"The conspiracy was coordinated by Al-Qaeda leaders in Pakistan," she told the late-night extradition hearing at City of Westminster Magistrates Court.

"The targets were in the US and in the UK. Naseer's particular involvement in the conspiracy is alleged to be that he and a number of associates prepared to carry out attacks between April 15 and 20 in Manchester city centre."

The Pakistani faces charges of providing material support to a foreign terrorist organisation and conspiracy to use a destructive device.

"Naseer appears to be the point of contact for the conspiracy insofar as it related to the UK," Cumberland said.

"He is a key part of the UK conspiracy," she said, adding that: "The allegation is he is deeply involved in these activities."

The lawyer said Naseer allegedly went to Pakistan in September 2008 and remained there until November 2008.

On his return to Britain, he communicated with a man identified as Ahmad, who was in contact with Al-Qaeda, the court heard.

Naseer, who spoke only to confirm his name and date of birth, was remanded in custody after the 20-minute hearing.

He was one of 12 men arrested by British counter-terrorism police last year on suspicion of plotting mass casualty attacks in England.

The Pakistani was also accused of being an operative of Al-Qaeda when he was detained in 2009, although he was never charged.

The British government subsequently tried to deport him but while an immigration court acknowledged he was "an Al-Qaeda operative who posed and still poses a serious threat", it ruled his safety could not be guaranteed in Pakistan.

A spokeswoman for Britain's interior ministry confirmed that "we are cooperating with the US for the extradition of Abid Naseer."

© 2010 AFP

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