US charges Egyptian 'plotter'

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FEDERAL prosecutors in New York have charged an Egyptian- born follower of the blind cleric, Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, with plotting to assassinate President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt during a visit to New York.

In the event, Mr Mubarak never came in the spring as planned, so Abduh Mohamed Haggag, 24, was unable to carry out the suicide attack the United States authorities ascribe to him. US officials say that Mr Haggag and several accomplices then planned to try again when Mr Mubarak was due to visit in September. The indictment is the latest in a series against Muslim extremists in New York.

The first eruption of what appeared to be a movement prepared to carry out spectacular attacks in the name of militant Islam came with the bombing in February of the World Trade Center. The Egyptian government says that the Iranians and Sheikh Abdel-Rahman gave the green light to the bombing.

Then last month, US prosecutors announced they had uncovered a plot by Islamic extremists to blow up the United Nations building in New York and kill prominent personalities. These included Mr Mubarak and the UN Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali. Mr Haggag becomes the first person to be formally charged with conspiring to carry out the assassinations. The alleged ringleader was Siddig Ibrahim Siddig Ali, who had a Sudanese passport. In the indictment, Mr Siddig Ali is reported to have told his fellow conspirators that they were going on a suicide mission.

A witness told the authorities Mr Siddig Ali had said that he and Mr Haggag had received training for a secret mission. Mr Siddig Ali explained to the informant that the group was to find out about Mr Mubarak's itinerary and spy on his Manhattan hotel.

Mr Haggag was recently subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury investigating the 26 February bombing of the World Trade Center, which killed six people, and the plot to blow up the UN and other New York landmarks.