Matt Dunham  /  Reuters file
Muslim cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri leads prayers at Finsbury Park mosque of north London in 2003.
updated 10/15/2004 1:12:56 PM ET 2004-10-15T17:12:56

British authorities have decided to charge a radical Muslim cleric with terrorist offenses, pre-empting a bid from the United States to try him on similar charges, a British news agency reported Friday.

Press Association, citing unidentified sources, said British charges were likely to be filed next week against Abu Hamza al-Masri, who faces 11 charges in the United States.

The Crown Prosecution Service declined to comment on the report, saying only extradition hearing on the U.S. warrant was scheduled to begin Oct. 19, but that almost certainly would be adjourned if British charges are filed.

Al-Masri, 46, is former head preacher at London's Finsbury Park mosque, which has been linked to terrorist suspects including alleged Sept. 11 plotter Zacarias Moussaoui and "shoe bomber" Richard Reid.

He was arrested in May after U.S. authorities laid 11 charges against al-Masri relating to terrorism, including allegedly trying to establish a terrorist training camp in Oregon, involvement in hostage-taking in Yemen and funding terrorism training in Afghanistan.

U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft had taken the lead in announcing the charges against al-Masri, telling a news conference: "Those who support our terrorist enemies anywhere in the world must know that we will not rest until the threat they pose is eradicated."

The Egyptian-born cleric has one eye and hooks for hands, which he says were lost fighting Soviet troops in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

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