A Pakistani terror suspect, who was given permission to stay in the UK on the ground that he might face torture in his homeland, has been arrested on a US warrant for his alleged role in an al-Qaeda bombing plot against the New York subway and Manchester. 24-year-old Abid Naseer, who has been described by a judge as "a serious threat to national security", was arrested in the North East yesterday and brought to London to appear in court.
He is believed to have been living under a control order after being detained last year in connection with an alleged bomb plot in Manchester.
Naseer was earlier not charged with any offence and successfully resisted deportation because of fears of ill-treatment by Pakistan's ISI. The US Department of Justice, however, said that investigators on both sides of the Atlantic had found evidence that linked the New York and Manchester terror cells.
Both groups had the same code, using wedding dates to refer to attack timings, when communicating with al-Qaeda leaders in Peshawar, Pakistan. Naseer, who was enrolled at a college in Manchester, wrote in an e-mail that he was planning a wedding between April 15 and 20 last year and hoped "many guests" would attend. Mi5, Britain's internal intelligence service, interpreted the message as referring to the date for an attack on a target in Manchester that would result in mass casualties.
According to a report in The Times, Najibullah Zazi, from Colorado, who is in custody in the US for the subway plot, e-mailed the same person in Pakistan in September 2009 to say "the marriage is ready". His plot was allegedly timed to coincide with the eighth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in the US.
There has also been reference in a New York indictment to the role played by Rashid Rauf, from Birmingham, who has been described as a leader of al-Qaeda's "external operations" programme. Rauf is believed to have been killed in a missile strike from a US drone in Pakistan in 2008.
Also named is Tariq ur-Rehman, who was arrested with Naseer in Manchester last year. Rehman returned voluntarily to Pakistan after his release and is not in custody. The US also named a Saudi, El Shukrijumah, 34, another al-Qaeda leader who is the subject of a USD 5 million FBI reward for information leading to his capture.
"These charges underscore the global nature of the terrorist threat we face," David Kris, US Assistant Attorney General for National Security, said. "They further reflect the effectiveness of mutual investigations and cooperation with our global partners in disrupting terrorism threats."
Naseer and Rehman were among 12 men arrested in Liverpool and Manchester in April 2009 10 of whom were Pakistanis on student visas.
The arrests were carried out at gunpoint in broad daylight after being rushed forward when Bob Quick, then head of counter-terrorism at the Metropolitan Police, was photographed entering 10 Downing Street carrying a briefing note about the operation.
A Home Office spokesman said: "We can confirm that following their extradition request, we are cooperating with the US for the extradition of Abid Naseer. He is wanted there on terrorism-related offences."