HK al-Qaeda case suspects agree to US extradition

HONG KONG: Three men held in Hong Kong for nearly four months agreed yesterday to be extradited to the United States, where they are wanted for allegedly trying to buy anti-aircraft missiles for al-Qaeda. 

The three men – two Pakistanis and a US citizen of Indian origin – were arrested on Sept 20 in Hong Kong for allegedly trying to sell a huge haul of heroin and hashish to undercover FBI agents in exchange for four Stinger missiles. 

“I have no objection to be handed over to the United States ... as soon as possible,” one of the suspects, Syed Saadat Ali Faraz, told the Hong Kong District Court through an interpreter. 

The other two suspects are Muhammed Abid Afridi and Ilyas Ali.  

Their lawyer, Jonathan Acton-Bond, did not tell the court why the men, who had been fighting Washington's extradition request since their arrests, had changed their minds. 

Hong Kong leader Tung Chee-hwa needs to give administrative approval for the extradition.  

If he agrees the men are expected to be sent to the United States in “several weeks”, according to another legal source. 

The Hong Kong government said earlier that the men had intended to deliver the Stingers, which can destroy low-flying planes, to al-Qaeda. 

Washington has blamed the radical Muslim group led by Osama bin Laden for the 2001 attacks on New York's World Trade Centre and the Pentagon. 

It is the first time that al-Qaeda-linked activities have apparently been confirmed in the southern Chinese territory. 

Hong Kong has tried to close possible loopholes to guard against being used by terrorists as a money-laundering centre. 

It recently enacted an anti-terrorism law compelling banks and financial institutions to report suspicious transactions and accounts as part of the global fight to deny funding to the extremist militant network. – Reuters 

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