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Muslim Cleric Faces Extradition to US on 11 Terror Charges - 2004-05-27

Controversial Muslim cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri was returned to custody by a British judge following his arrest early Thursday on an extradition warrant issued in the United States. The Egyptian-born Muslim radical is facing 11 terror-related charges in America and is also wanted in Yemen.

The fiery cleric who preached at London's Finsbury Park mosque heard the extradition charges read out in a court on the grounds of a London prison.

Among the allegations Abu Hamza al-Masri is facing in the United States is hostage-taking in Yemen and supporting the al-Qaida terror network. He is also charged with providing resources to terrorists and setting up a terrorist training camp in the U.S. state of Oregon.

Britain's chief law-and-order official, Home Secretary David Blunkett, said that the extradition process is under way.

"I immediately supported the Americans in being able to provide the paperwork and to undertake the judicial process in relation to his extradition," he said. "Of course, it is a judicial process and I have got to be very careful not to interfere with that, but I think everyone who has been concerned about this man will want us to get it right."

Mr. al-Masri was arrested before dawn Thursday and his home in west London was searched by the anti-terrorism squad. Police seized several items, including videos, documents and a briefcase.

Under British law he can now be held for up to two months before making another court appearance. Lawyers say the extradition process can take many months.

Mr. al-Masri, who is a well-known figure in Britain, has been fighting deportation from Britain after he was stripped of his citizenship in April 2003.