World News

UK-based man in worldwide al Qaeda attack plot: court

LONDON (Reuters) - A Pakistani man planned to bomb Manchester city center in northern England as part of a wider al Qaeda plot to carry out attacks in Britain, the United States and Norway, a London court was told on Wednesday.

Abid Naseer, who was arrested in a British anti-terrorism operation last year but never charged, faces extradition to the United States on allegations he provided material support to al Qaeda and conspiring to use a destructive device.

London’s City of Westminster Court, which is overseeing his extradition case, was told Naseer, 24, was suspected of being part of a cell plotting an attack in Manchester, possibly on its main shopping center.

“The allegation is that the defendant was an al Qaeda operative who participated in a conspiracy to attack Western interests by the use of explosive devices,” said lawyer David Perry, representing American authorities.

“A wide international conspiracy was conceived by the al Qaeda external operations leader in Pakistan and the conspiracy extended to planning attacks in the UK, Norway and the United States of America.”

Perry said Naseer had been involved in a cell which had been planning to bomb Manchester between April 15 and 20, 2009.

Naseer was one of 12 men, mostly students from Pakistan, whom police arrested in a major swoop on April 8 last year, hours after Britain’s most senior counter-terrorism officer was photographed openly carrying details about the operation.

No explosives were found and Britain’s case against them was based around emails exchanged between Naseer and a Pakistan account believed to be registered to an al Qaeda operative.

All the men were later released as there was not enough evidence to charge them and they were ordered to be deported.

However, Naseer won an appeal against his deportation to Pakistan in May because of fears he would be mistreated if he were sent home.

The Special Immigration Appeal Commission, which deals with such cases, said it believed he posed a security threat and ideally should be removed from Britain.

Reporting by Michael Holden; editing by Ralph Boulton