Pakistani Student Britain Couldn’t Deport was ‘Involved in Planning Attack in US’

By Duncan Gardham for The Daily Telegraph

A suspected terrorist who Britain is unable to deport has been arrested on suspicion of plotting to bomb New York’s underground system. A US warrant was issued for Abid Naseer, who is accused of helping an al-Qaeda cell planning suicide bomb attacks in the city. Naseer was arrested on Wednesday in Middlesbrough, sources said, and the US authorities have requested he is extradited for trial.

He was among a group of 12 men arrested in Manchester last year accused of plotting to blow up shopping centres, but was never charged. Naseer, 24, was subsequently released and is thought to have been put under a control order and electronically tagged. In May the Special Immigration and Appeals Commission ruled that he was connected to al-Qaeda but could not be deported back to Pakistan on human rights grounds.

However, US authorities believe he stockpiled July 7-style bomb making materials for the planned attack in Manchester. The same type of material was to be used in the thwarted bomb attacks on the New York Metro.

He is also believed to have been in touch with the same senior al-Qaeda commanders.

The US Department of Justice (USDoJ) said the American plot was “directly related to a scheme by al-Qaeda plotters in Pakistan to use Western operatives to attack a target in the United Kingdom.”

Naseer is accused of providing material support to al-Qaeda and conspiracy to use a firearm in New York and elsewhere. According to a US statement, “large quantities of flour and oil were found” when Naseer’s address in Cheetham Hill, Manchester was raided by police.

The operation, codenamed Pathway, had to be brought forward 24 hours after Assistant Commissioner Bob Quick was photographed entering Downing Street to brief the Prime Minister with details of the raids visible.

Two members of the US cell, Najibullah Zazi and Zarein Ahmedzay have pleaded guilty to planning to conduct suicide bombings in New York using improvised explosive devices made from supplies such as hydrogen peroxide, acetone, flour and oil – ingredients similar to those used in the July 7 attacks five years ago.

In other addresses, Greater Manchester Police allegedly found surveillance photographs of public areas in Manchester – thought to be the Arndale shopping centre – and maps of Manchester’s city centre posted on the wall with one of the locations from the surveillance photographs highlighted.

Another student called Tariq ur-Rehman who returned to Pakistan after he was released from British custody, was allegedly recruited at the same time. The US Department of Justice said ur-Rehman was not in custody.

A US indictment says Naseer and ur-Rehman were members of a terrorist cell coordinated by Rashid Rauf – a British al-Qaeda commander who was also involved in the July 7 attacks of 2005.

Rauf is thought to have been killed in Pakistan by a missile from a US drone in November 2008 but according to the indictment the plot was also allegedly directed by Adnan el-Shukrijumah, known as “Hamad”, a 34-year-old Saudi citizen with a $5m price on his head from the FBI, and Saleh al-Somali, another al-Qaeda commander.

All three were said by the US to be leaders of al-Qaeda’s “external operations programme”.

The students were allegedly recruited in Peshawar, Pakistan in November 2008 along with the leader of the US plot, Najibullah Zazi.

After returning to Britain, Naseer allegedly sent emails to the same account that a man calling himself Sohaib, but also known as Ahmad and Zahid, was using to communicate with the US cell on behalf of al-Somali.

The Daily Telegraph previously reported that MI5 tipped off the FBI about the US plot and published the emails that used the names of girls as code words for bomb-making ingredients and a wedding to refer to the planned attack between April 15 and 20 last year.

Zazi had agreed a similar code, the Americans say, and emailed Sohaib that the “marriage is ready” just before he left Colorado for New York City in early September last year.

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