NEW YORK -- A radical Muslim cleric whose fiery sermons at a London mosque were blamed for influencing followers to embrace a holy war against the United States arrived in New York early Saturday along with two other terrorism suspects after losing a battle to fight extradition from Britain.
The three -- Mustafa Kamel Mustafa, also known as Abu Hamza Masri; Adel Abdel Bary; and Khaled al Fawwaz -- were expected to make appearances in federal court in Manhattan later Saturday.
The charges against Masri include orchestrating the 1998 kidnapping of a group of tourists in Yemen, which left four hostages dead; conspiracy to help set up a terrorist training camp in Oregon between 1999 and 2000; and providing material and other support to anti-U.S. Jihadists in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
An indictment says Masri, 54, an Egyptian-born citizen of the United Kingdom, used funds collected at the Finsbury Park Mosque in London, where he preached, to pay for travel expenses for himself and alleged co-conspirators to meet with terrorists and oversee training operations. Among other things, prosecutors say Masri gave thousands of dollars to an associate to take to Afghanistan in 2001 to set up a computer lab that would “service Taliban officials” and be controlled by the group and Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
In Manhattan, U.S. Atty. Preet Bharara called the extradition of the three a “watershed moment.” “These are men who were at the nerve centers of Al Qaeda’s acts of terror," said Bharara.
Masri is charged with 11 terror-related counts, two of which – conspiracy to take hostages and hostage-taking – carry life sentences upon conviction.
Fawwaz, 50, a Saudi citizen, is accused, among other things, of working with Bin Laden in 1994 to set up a media office in London to publicize the Al Qaeda leader’s statements and to act as a cover for funneling money, messages and equipment to Al Qaeda cells worldwide. While in London, he is accused of having issued a “declaration of Jihad against Americans” on behalf of Bin Laden.
Bary, a 52-year-old Egyptian, is accused of acting as chief of the London cell of Egyptian Islamic Jihad, a job he allegedly was given by its then-leader, Ayman Zawahiri. Zawahiri became Al Qaeda's chief after U.S. forces killed Bin Laden in 2011. In addition to being charged with conspiring with Al Qaeda, Bary is charged with murder, use of weapons of mass destruction, and other terror-related offenses in connection with the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. The attacks killed 224 people.
Fawwaz faces four terror-related charges, including conspiracy to murder and conspiracy to kill U.S. nationals. All of them carry life sentences. Bary is charged with 284 offenses, including the murder counts stemming from the embassy attacks.
The best-known of the three is Masri, an Egyptian-born cleric who became a naturalized UK citizen. For years he found a pulpit at the Finsbury Park Mosque, where his anti-Western railings were blamed for prompting the so-called shoe bomber, Richard Reid, to hide explosives in his sneakers and try to bring down an American Airlines jet in 2001. Masri is blind and wears a metal hook in place of his right hand. He says he lost his sight and both hands in a land mine explosion in Afghanistan.
British authorities arrested Masri in 2004 on charges of inciting racial hatred and soliciting murder of non-Muslims. That prompted the U.S. effort to extradite him to face additional charges on American soil. The extradition came after Britain's High Court on Friday rejected Masri’s last-minute petition to block it on medical grounds.
Two other alleged terrorists, Babar Ahmad and Syed Talha Ahsan, also were extradited overnight from Britain and were due in court in Connecticut, where a grand jury indicted them on charges of supporting terrorism activities.