U.K. seeks extradition of suspect from Pakistan

/ Source: The Associated Press

The British government has requested the extradition of Rashid Rauf, a Briton arrested in Pakistan earlier this month in connection with the alleged plot to blow up U.S.-bound jetliners, Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said Monday.

Rauf — earlier identified by Pakistan as a “key person” in the plot — was being investigated for alleged links with al-Qaida, in connection with terrorist threats in Britain and in Pakistan, said ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam.

Aiden Liddle, a spokesman for the British Embassy, confirmed it had submitted the extradition request, but said it was in connection with a British investigation into a 2002 murder. Rauf moved to Pakistan shortly after his maternal uncle was stabbed to death that year.

Pakistani officials have said Rauf, a British Muslim of Pakistani origin, helped coordinate the alleged plot to bomb trans-Atlantic jetliners that was thwarted in Britain this month.

Britain announced Aug. 10 that it had broken up the plot by arresting about two dozen people across that country. Stricter security rules were immediately imposed at Britain’s airports and elsewhere, causing widespread disruptions in air travel for days.

‘Martyrdom’ videotape
The New York Times reported Monday that British police moved in after surveillance equipment monitored two young Muslim men making a “martyrdom” tape justifying the planned suicide attacks on airliners as revenge against the United States and its allies Britain and Israel.

The Times quoted unidentified British officials as saying considerable progress had been made in planning the attacks, but the alleged plotters had not obtained plane tickets and weren’t ready to strike. Police, however, decided to act because they feared there might be an attack by other plotters unknown to them, the Times said.

Pakistan has detained at least seven people in its own investigation of the alleged plot, but has identified only Rauf.

On Saturday, Interior Minister Aftab Khan Sherpao said Rauf had given Pakistani interrogators “vital clues” about the plot. He also said Rauf had “wider international links” and was in touch with an Afghanistan-based al-Qaida leader. He did not provide any details.

Aslam said the information from Pakistan’s investigation was being shared with Britain.

She also said Rauf had been arrested in Rawalpindi, a city near Islamabad. Intelligence officials said earlier that he was picked up in Bhawalpur, a stronghold of the outlawed militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed in eastern Pakistan.

According to an in-law of Rauf’s, he settled in Bhawalpur after emigrating from Britain and was tied by marriage to Masood Azhar, leader of Jaish-e-Mohammed, fueling suspicions that Pakistani militants could be linked to the jetliner plot.

Britain and the U.S. have praised the role played by Pakistan for its role in thwarting the plot. Pakistan is a key counterterrorism ally of the West but has also been plagued for years by Islamic militancy.