LONDON (Reuters) - A Pakistani man accused by British authorities of being an al Qaeda operative who took part in a plot to bomb U.S. and English targets was extradited from Britain to the United States on Thursday to face terrorism charges.
Abid Naseer, 26, was one of a dozen men arrested in April 2009 on suspicion of preparing to cause mass casualties by bombing Manchester city centre in northern England.
He and the other suspects were never charged, but Britain said in addition to the alleged Manchester plot, Naseer was part of a wider al Qaeda cell bent on staging attacks in the United States and Norway.
On Thursday, he was taken by counter-terrorism police from a high security prison in east London to Luton airport, north of the British capital, and handed over to U.S. officials.
He is wanted for trial in the United States for his alleged role in planned suicide bomb attacks on New York City subways in 2009, for which a number of men have already been convicted.
He faces three charges: providing material support to a foreign terrorist organisation; conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organisation; and conspiracy to use a destructive device.
Naseer and 11 others, mostly students from Pakistan, were arrested in daylight raids in 2009 after Britain’s most senior counter-terrorism officer was photographed openly carrying details about the operation.
Britain’s then-prime minister, Gordon Brown, said officers were dealing with a “very big terrorist plot”, but no explosives were found and all the men were later released as there was not enough evidence to charge them.
Britain’s case against them had been based around emails exchanged between Naseer and a Pakistan account believed to be registered to an al Qaeda operative.
British authorities said the emails, which appeared to be discussions about girlfriends and wedding plans, in fact related to ingredients for explosives and they said Naseer posed a serious threat to national security.
The men were ordered to be deported to Pakistan but Naseer won an appeal against the decision because of fears he would be mistreated if he was returned.
He was arrested again in July 2010 when the U.S. warrant was issued, and last month European Court of Human Rights rejected his appeal against the extradition.
Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Alison Williams