Suspected al-Qa'ida terrorists arrested in Norway

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The Independent Online

Three suspected al-Qa'ida terrorists with links to bomb plots in Manchester and New York were arrested in Norway today.

The three, who have not been named, were held in raids that followed months of surveillance there.

The move came after counter terrorism officials in Britain and the United States acted to bring members of a sprawling terror cell to justice.

Officials said the same top-level al-Qa'ida masterminds were behind the plots in all three countries.

Prosecutors in the United States want to put five men on trial over a suspected July 7-style peroxide suicide bomb plot targeting the New York subway.

One of them is Pakistan-born Abid Naseer, 24, who was arrested by Scotland Yard detectives in north-east England yesterday.

The former construction site worker is the suspected ringleader of a thwarted plot to bomb targets in Manchester city centre.

He was bound by a control order and electronically tagged after a bid to put him on trial in Britain was aborted last year.

A Government bid to deport him was then controversially blocked by a judge who said his safety in Pakistan could not be guaranteed.

Naseer faces extradition to the United States to go on trial over claims he exchanged coded emails with al-Qa'ida leaders pulling the strings.

He was one of 12 men arrested in April last year during raids in Liverpool and Manchester, known as Operation Pathway.

The raids were brought forward after a blunder by former Met Assistant Commissioner Bob Quick, who accidentally showed secret documents outside Downing Street.

Naseer is accused of travelling to Pakistan in September 2008 and conducting reconnaissance to prepare for the attack.

Last night a court heard he was motivated by "deeply held religious beliefs" and remanded him in custody.

The charges accused him of supporting a foreign terrorist organisation and conspiracy to use a destructive device.

A second man living in Manchester, internet cafe worker Tariq Ur Rehman, is also wanted by the United States authorities.

He fled to Pakistan after being arrested last year and failed in a bid to be allowed to return to Britain.

Two further members of the US cell, Najibullah Zazi and Zarein Ahmedzay, have pleaded guilty to plotting suicide bombings in New York.

US Attorney General Eric Holder said the global plot was one of the most serious terrorist conspiracies since 9/11.

Officials believe the Norway plan was organised by Salah al-Somali, al-Qa'ida's former chief of external operations, who was killed in an airstrike last year.

al-Qa'ida number two, Ayman al-Zawahri, has called for attacks on Norway, which has sent troops to Afghanistan, among other countries.

The Norwegian Police Security Service said the three were arrested on suspicion of "preparing terror activities".