x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Al Qa'eda 'planned attacks in New York, UK and Norway'

The claim was made by a lawyer acting for the US attorney general who is trying to extradite Abid Naseer, a Pakistani living in Britain, to face terrorism charges.

LONDON // An al Qa'eda group based in Pakistan planned co-ordinated bomb attacks in New York, Britain and Norway last year, a court in London was told yesterday.

The claim was made by a lawyer acting for the US attorney general who is trying to extradite Abid Naseer, a Pakistani living in Britain, to face terrorism charges relating to the New York plot.

Mr Naseer, 24, was said to be a member of a United Kingdom-based al Qa'eda cell involved in a plan that was to include suicide bombings on the New York subway system and the bombing of a shopping centre in Manchester in north-west England.

Earlier this year, Eric Holder, the US attorney general, said the New York attacks could have been "devastating" had intelligence not led to the arrest of key players.

"A wide international conspiracy was conceived by the al Qa'eda external operations leader in Pakistan and the conspiracy extended to planning attacks in the UK, Norway and the United States of America," David Perry, a British barrister acting for the US authorities, told yesterday's hearing.

Mr Perry said that Mr Naseer, who was one of 12 men arrested in counter-terrorism raids in north-west England last year, had travelled to Pakistan in September, 2008, where he was in contact with Tariq Ur Rehman, another UK-based Pakistani.

"Rehman assisted him in the specific preparations for the attack in Manchester and the defendant also made contact with the user of al Qa'eda operational email accounts known only as 'Ahmad'," Mr Perry said.

"Ahmad acted as a facilitator, and using code, Ahmad communicated with other operatives based in Norway and the US who were planning to carry out similar attacks during broadly the same period."

He said that Mr Nasser acted as co-ordinator of the UK plot, conducting reconnaissance of targets, buying bomb-making equipment and maintaining regular contact with the al Qa'eda leadership."

Edward Fitzgerald, Mr Naseer's lawyer, argued that his client should not be extradited as all his alleged offences related to the UK and Pakistan, not the US.

He said that extradition would breach Mr Naseer's human rights as no assurances had been received that Mr Naseer would not be subject to rendition by the US authorities and taken to a third nation to be tortured.

Judge Quentin Purdy said that he would rule on the extradition request in January.

dsapsted@thenational.ae