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Hong Kong to Extradite Terror Suspects to US - 2003-01-06

Three men suspected of trying to swap drugs for Stinger missiles will not fight extradition from Hong Kong to the United States. The men are suspected of planning to sell the missiles to the al-Qaida terror network. Syed Saadat Ali Faraz and Muhammed Abid Afridi both from Pakistan, and Ilyas Ali, a U.S. citizen, had been fighting Washington's extradition request for more than three months. Monday, the men suddenly agreed in a Hong Kong court to be sent to the United States for trial.

Wayne Walsh, a Hong Kong government attorney working on the case, said "the defendants changed their mind at the last minute and have consented to surrender to the United States and they've signed documents in court this afternoon to that effect. The evidence presented by the United States suggested that one of the motives was certainly to make money."

Mr. Walsh adds the evidence does not suggest the men's actions were politically motivated.

The defendants were arrested after they met U.S. undercover agents in a hotel room in Hong Kong. They allegedly agreed to take four Stinger missiles as payment for heroin and hashish, saying they would sell the missiles to the al-Qaida terror network. Stinger missiles are shoulder-fired weapons that can bring down low-flying aircraft.

The defendants' lawyer did not say why the men changed their minds.

The three men will face charges in the United States of supporting terrorists and conspiracy to import drugs. They could be sentenced to life imprisonment if convicted on the drug charges. The terrorism charges carry 15 years in prison.

The men will be sent to the United States after Hong Kong's leader, Tung Chee-hwa, gives his administrative approval for the extradition. Officials say that should be done within a few weeks.