Sun, Aug 08, 2004 - Page 6 News List

US cites plans in UK terror case

`A BIT CONFUSING' The suspect's sister called the arrest politically motivated, but the US alleges he operated web sites backing holy war and raised money for the cause

AFP , LONDON

A British citizen facing extradition to the US on terrorism charges was found in possession of three-year-old plans to attack US Navy ships in the Gulf, a US lawyer said on Friday.

"The documents went on to describe the battle group's vulnerability to a terrorist attack and provided specific examples of how the ships might be attacked," US lawyer Rosemary Fernandes told a London court.

Police uncovered the documents in a December 2003 raid on 30-year-old Babar Ahmad's house in south London, Fernandes said, outlining the charges at a preliminary extradition hearing.

His court appearance came as 11 other terrorism suspects, collared on Tuesday in one of Britain's biggest anti-terrorist operations since 2001, were being kept in police custody for questioning.

One of the men was identified by Pakistani intelligence officials as Abu Eisa Al-Hindi, accused by both Islamabad and Washington of being a senior Al-Qaeda figure.

Thirteen men in all were apprehended in Tuesday's raids, but one was released the following day while a second man, identified only as K, was let go without charges late Friday.

Ahmad was arrested in a separate operation on Thursday after a US request to extradite him for allegedly using US-based web sites and e-mail to raise money to support terrorist acts in Chechnya and Afghanistan.

Ahmad allegedly had e-mail links to one of the men suspected of planning the Moscow theater siege in October 2002, which led to the deaths of more than 120 hostages. He was also accused of operating a series of web sites supporting Islamic holy war.

Fernandes said Ahmad had been found with documentation on the formation of US ships operating at the entrance to the Persian Gulf, specifically on their movements on April, 29, 2001.

After details of the warrant were read to him, Ahmad was asked if he understood.

"Not really. It's all a bit confusing to me," he replied, before being remanded in custody to appear again at Bow Street Magistrates Court in a week. No application for bail was made.

Speaking later Friday, one of Ahmad's sisters described his arrest and request for extradition as "politically motivated."

"There is no proof of his involvement in terrorism," she said. "It is all lies.

Anti-terrorist officers have been given until August 8 to question the 12 men, aged 19 to 32, who were arrested on Tuesday.

Under Britain's Terrorism Act 2000, police can question terrorist suspects for up to two weeks without charge if granted extensions.

Police have stipulated that Ahmad's arrest was unrelated to Tuesday's anti-terrorist swoop, which involved raids by police in London and three English counties.

Nevertheless, it underscored renewed concerns about the threat posed to British interests by global terrorism, particularly Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network.

One of the 12 detainees, al-Hindi, has been accused by Pakistan and the US of being a senior Al-Qaeda figure.

Unnamed US officials alleged in the New York Times on Friday that Al-Hindi had directed the surveillance of US financial institutions years ago, an alleged discovery that led last weekend to the Bush administration heightening security alerts.

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