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Abu Hamza, 4 others tied to al-Qaida arrive in US to face terrorism charges


Islamic cleric Abu Hamza al- Masri is seen in a courtroom sketch in front of a U.S. federal court judge in lower Manhattan on Saturday.

An extremist preacher and four other men accused of terrorism by the U.S. government arrived in New York overnight after they lost a years-long battle to remain in the United Kingdom. All appeared in federal courts within several hours of arriving.

The preacher, Abu Hamza al-Masri, is charged in connection with the abduction of 16 people, including two American tourists, in Yemen in 1998; conspiring to set up a terrorist training camp in Bly, Ore., in 1999; and supporting violent jihad in Afghanistan in 2000 and 2001.

In a final appeal to avert extradition, lawyers for the 54-year-old argued he could not travel because of poor health. The Egyptian-born British citizen has one eye and hooks in place of hands he claims to have lost fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan. Lawyers said he suffers from depression, chronic sleep deprivation, diabetes and other ailments.

Hamza was taken to a lockup next to the federal courthouse in lower Manhattan. He later appeared in court for the first time Saturday wearing a short-sleeved blue prison shirt but without his prosthetic hooks, which he complained had been taken away as he was being transported from London overnight.

His court-appointed lawyer, Sabrina Shroff, asked that his prosthetics be immediately returned "so he can use his arms," The Associated Press reported.

In the 1990s, the fiery anti-American preacher turned London's Finsbury Park Mosque into a training ground for extremist Islamists, attracting men including Sept. 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui and "shoe bomber" Richard Reid.

Hamza, indicted under the name Mustafa Kamel Mustafa, entered no plea, saying only "I do" when asked by U.S. Magistrate Judge Frank Maas whether he swears that his financial affidavit used to determine is he qualifies for a court-appointed lawyer was correct.

Separately, Egyptian Adel Abdel Bary, 52 and Saudi Khaled al Fawwaz, 50, are charged with conspiring with al-Qaida to kill Americans and attack U.S. interests abroad.

Bary is also charged with murder, conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction and other offenses in connection with the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, which killed 224 people and injured thousands more.

Al-Fawwaz and Bary appeared in a New York court and pleaded not guilty Saturday afternoon, AP reported.

Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, called the extradition "a watershed moment in our nation's efforts to eradicate terrorism."

"As is charged, these are men who were at the nerve centers of al-Qaida's acts of terror, and they caused blood to be shed, lives to be lost, and families to be shattered," Bharara said, The extradition "makes good on a promise to the American people to use every available diplomatic, legal, and administrative tool to pursue and prosecute charged terrorists no matter how long it takes." 

Two others — Syed Talha Ahsan, 33, and Babar Ahmad, 38 — pleaded not guilty in a federal court in New Haven, Conn., just hours after their arrival in America, AP said.


Terror suspects Khaled al Fawwaz, center, and Adel Abdel Bary are seen in this courtroom sketch during an appearance in Manhattan Federal Court on Saturday.

Profiles of terror suspects extradited from UK to face trials

They were jailed until trial, and their lawyers declined to comment. Authorities say the men are charged in Connecticut because an Internet service provider there was used to run websites that sought to raise cash, recruit fighters and seek equipment for terrorists, including al-Qaida members.

The five men have been battling extradition for between eight and 14 years. On Friday, Britain's High Court ruled that the men had no more grounds for appeal and could be sent to the U.S. immediately.

British Prime Minister David Cameron hailed the deportation.  

"Like the rest of the public I'm sick to the back teeth of people who come here, threaten our country, who stay at vast expense to the taxpayer and we can't get rid of them," he said, according to The Guardian.

"I'm delighted on this occasion we've managed to send this person off to a country where he will face justice."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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