'Al-Qa'ida' terror suspect Abid Naseer extradited to US

  • @kunaldutta

An al-Qa'ida suspect accused of masterminding a plot to detonate bombs in Manchester and New York has been extradited to the US.

Abid Naseer, a Pakistani national who came to Britain on a student visa, was described as posing "serious threat to the national security of the UK". But the Crown Prosecution Service was unable to find enough evidence to charge the 26-year-old, from Cheetham Hill, Manchester.

US prosecutors took a different view, however. They accused him of plotting to blow up Manchester's Arndale and Trafford shopping centres in 2009, and colluding with US-based terrorists to bomb the New York subway network.

Today, Mr Naseer, who was being held at Belmarsh Prison in south-east London, was escorted to Luton Airport and met by US officials who took him into custody and flew him to America. He is expected to appear at a federal court in Brooklyn on Monday.

It marks a significant development in a chain of events dating back to 2009, when intercepted emails between Mr Naseer and an al-Qa'ida suspect in Pakistan called "Ahmad" led to a series of dawn raids and 12 arrests in the UK, which the then Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, described as a "very big terrorist plot". Though the police and MI5 believed the photos of suspects posing around central Manchester was evidence of reconnaissance, the CPS concluded that there was no realistic prospect of conviction.

In July 2010, the FBI charged Mr Naseer and said it wanted to try him in New York following his re-arrest. The agency alleged that he was part of a wider plot which also included a thwarted suicide attack in New York. A British judge approved his extradition a year ago.

US evidence suggested that al-Qa'ida attacks in the US, England and Norway were being planned, while email messages about weddings, marriage, girlfriends, computers and weather were codes that referred to attacks and ingredients for making bombs. If convicted in the US, Mr Naseer faces a maximum penalty of life in prison.

His extradition to the US follows that of the radical cleric Abu Hamza and four other suspects three months ago. A spokesman for the Home Office said: "His case is now a matter for the US authorities."