- The Washington Times - Monday, August 8, 2005

A British citizen detained in the London bombings was accused yesterday by U.S. authorities of conspiring to set up a terrorist training camp in Oregon for Islamic extremists to “fight jihad in Afghanistan.”

The accusations against Haroon Rashid Aswat, 30, are outlined in an unsealed criminal complaint as part of a pending extradition request by federal authorities in New York to bring the British-born resident of Indian descent to the United States to stand trial.

A British judge yesterday ordered Mr. Aswat held at a secure complex within Belmarsh Prison in London until a formal extradition hearing Thursday. Mr. Aswat denied any involvement with terrorism during his brief court appearance, saying he would oppose the extradition request.

The six-page criminal complaint said Mr. Aswat and another man were sent to the United States in 1999, arriving in New York and later traveling by bus to Seattle. There, the complaint said, they conspired to establish an al Qaeda training camp in Bly, Ore., between October 1999 and April 2000.

Mr. Aswat had been detained in Lukasa, Zambia, since July 20 in connection with the London bombings. He was deported during the weekend and has not been charged by the British.

British authorities linked Mr. Aswat to the July 7 suicide attacks on the London transit system that killed 52 and injured 700, saying he recruited or otherwise aided the four bombers, all of whom died in the blasts. They said he made more than a dozen calls on his South African cell phone to some of the bombers just before the attacks.

British authorities also have linked him to the al Qaeda terrorist network and have said his efforts in the United States were aimed at setting up al Qaeda training camps for Islamic radicals.

The U.S. complaint said Mr. Aswat once boasted that he had “been in a training camp in Afghanistan and he once saw Osama bin Laden,” the al Qaeda founder and the mastermind of the September 11 attacks.

It also said he remained in Oregon for a month at the end of 1999, meeting with James Ujaama, a Seattle man who the government said found the property in Bly in southwestern Oregon, and with Muslim cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri, also charged in the training camp conspiracy.

Al-Masri, who also is known as Mustafa Kamel Mustafa, was arrested in London in June 2004 during a pre-dawn raid by police from New Scotland Yard on a U.S. extradition warrant and faces a death sentence.

An 11-count indictment handed up in U.S. District Court in New York charged him with hostage-taking and conspiracy to take hostages in connection with an attack in Yemen in December 1998 that resulted in the deaths of three British tourists and one Australian. They were killed in a shootout between Yemeni rescuers and Islamic extremists.

The indictment also said al-Masri provided material support to terrorists, including al Qaeda, in an attempt to set up the Oregon training camp in October 1999 through early 2000. It also said that he provided material support to terrorists, specifically al Qaeda and the Taliban, for facilitating holy war in Afghanistan, and that a co-conspirator told al-Masri that he and others were stockpiling weapons and ammunition in the United States.

Al-Masri, a former nightclub bouncer, is thought to be the founder of an extremist Islamic group known as the Ansar Al-Shari’a, or Supporters of Shariah, which said it supported mujahedeen fighters in Afghanistan, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kashmir. His Finsbury Park mosque in London has been tied to al Qaeda conspiracy suspect Zacarias Moussaoui and convicted shoe bomber Richard C. Reid.

Ujaama pleaded guilty to lesser charges in a plea agreement with prosecutors for his cooperation in pending terrorism investigations. He provided what U.S. authorities have said was key testimony in the indictment of al-Masri.

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