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Five extradited terrorist suspects appear in US courts

By Stephen Lowman –

NEW YORK — Abu Hamza al-Masri, a radical Muslim cleric with alleged ties to al-Qaida, and four other terrorist suspects appeared before U.S. judges Saturday just hours after they lost a long battle against their extradition in British courts.

Hamza and four other suspected terrorists were flown overnight from an air force base northeast of London after a final ruling on Friday by Britain’s High Court that cleared the way for their extradition.

Hamza, Khaled Al-Fawwaz and Adel Abdul Bary appeared before Judge Frank Maas in a New York court. The other two — Babar Ahmad and Syed Ahsan — were taken to a court in New Haven, Conn.

Four of the five pleaded not guilty to the charges after facing formal arraignment. Hamza, the one who entered no plea, is to be arraigned Tuesday morning before US district judge Katherine Forrest.

All five men face life in prison if convicted of the most serious charges.

Hamza, 54, a naturalized citizen of Britain who has no hands and uses a prosthetic hook, came into court without the device, and demanded to have it back, The New York Times reported.

Hamza is to be charged in connection with a hostage-taking in Yemen in 1998 that resulted in four deaths, his role in establishing a terrorist training camp in the U.S. Northwest state of Oregon, and his alleged support for violent terrorist attacks in Afghanistan in 2000 and 2001, according to the Department of Justice.

Abdul Bary, 52, of Egypt, pleaded not guilty to murder charges for his role in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people and injured thousands. He faces a list of 284 charges, including one charge for each of the deaths.

Bary and al-Fawwaz, 50, of Saudi Arabia, were identified by justice officials as being co-conspirators of four other men who were convicted in New York courts in 2001 of involvement in the 1998 Africa bombings. Less than four months after those convictions, al-Qaida launched the deadly attacks on New York and Washington that killed nearly 3,000 people.

Bary and al-Fawwaz allegedly operated an office in London and managed logistics for al-Qaida such as “obtaining fake travel documents and delivering messages,” justice officials said.

Babar Ahmad, 38, and Syed Ahsan, 33, both British citizens, appeared in federal court in New Haven, Conn., where they pleaded not guilty to charges, the New Haven Register reported.

Justice officials said the two men used a Connecticut-based Internet service provider to organize cash, recruits and equipment for terrorists in Afghanistan and Chechnya.

U.S. District Attorney Preet Bharara said the men were “at the nerve centers of al-Qaida’s acts of terror” and called their prosecution a “watershed moment in our nation’s efforts to eradicate terrorism.”

Hamza, who is distinctive for the hook prosthesis on his right hand and a lost eye from injuries he suffered fighting in Afghanistan, was notorious for fiery sermons as imam of Finsbury mosque in north London for many years.

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