- The Washington Times - Friday, February 8, 2008

LONDON — Britain’s Home Office yesterday approved the extradition of an Islamic preacher who is accused of trying to establish a terrorist training camp in Oregon, a spokesman said.

Abu Hamza al-Masri once led London’s Finsbury Park Mosque, which was attended by both September 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui and “shoe bomber” Richard Reid. One top British counterterrorism official described the mosque as a “honey pot for extremists.”

The Egyptian-born al-Masri was arrested on a U.S. extradition warrant in 2004, but the process was put on hold while he stood trial in Britain and appealed his convictions.

“The home secretary today has signed an order approving the extradition,” a Home Office spokesman said.

Al-Masri has 14 days to appeal. If he does not, he will be sent to the U.S. within 28 days, the spokesman said.

Al-Masri’s lawyers were not immediately available for comment, and the Home Office said it did not know whether they would appeal.

Al-Masri — who has one eye and hooks for hands, which he says were lost fighting Soviet troops in Afghanistan in the 1980s — already has been sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment in Britain for fomenting racial hatred and urging his followers to kill non-Muslims.

If convicted in the United States, al-Masri would carry out the rest of his sentence in Britain before serving any prison term in the U.S.

U.S. officials say al-Masri conspired to establish a jihad training camp in Oregon and sent two supporters to view facilities there.

They also say al-Masri participated in a deadly hostage-taking incident in Yemen in 1998, when 16 tourists were seized. Three British tourists and one Australian visitor were killed in a shootout between Yemeni security forces and the Islamist extremist captors.

Al-Masri, 49, is also accused of facilitating terrorist training in Afghanistan.

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