US & Canada

Abid Naseer 'led Manchester terror cell', says US trial

Abid Naseer, second from left, is arraigned in Brooklyn Federal Court where he pleaded not guilty through his attorney Steven Brounstein, center, to terrorism charges in an alleged al-Qaida plot against the New York City subways. Second from right is Assistant US Attorney Zainab Ahmad 7 January 2013 Image copyright AP
Image caption Abid Nasser (second from left) appears in court in 2013

A Pakistani man extradited from the UK was part of a broad al-Qaeda conspiracy to attack Manchester and New York, a US prosecutor has said.

Celia Cohen told a New York court that Abid Naseer, 28, led a terror cell in Manchester, England.

Mr Naseer, who is representing himself in court, has pleaded not guilty and said evidence would show he had "no extremist or jihadist views".

He could face life imprisonment if found guilty

The jury is expected to hear evidence from six British intelligence agents, who are being allowed to testify wearing wigs and light make-up to protect their identity.

Prosecutors argue Mr Naseer was part of a larger conspiracy planning bomb attacks in multiple places, including Manchester and New York's subway system.

He is charged with conspiracy to provide material support to al Qaeda and conspiring to use a destructive device.

Two men who pleaded guilty to the subway plot - Najibullah Zazi and Zarein Ahmedzay - are expected to testify against Mr Naseer.

Image caption Mr Naseer (seen here in 2010) was previously arrested in the UK over a bomb plot in Manchester

Prosecutors say email account evidence shows all three men were under the direction of the same al-Qaeda handler.

Ms Cohen said Mr Naseer communicated in coded emails with the handle about the plan to attack a shopping centre in Manchester.

A declassified document recovered during the raid on the Bin Laden compound mentions Mr Naseer and refers to the plots in Manchester and New York, prosecutors say.

In opening statements on Tuesday, Mr Naseer said he visited sites like in order to find a wife.

"The evidence at trial will not show the defendant is an al-Qaeda member," he said.

Abid Naseer was one of a dozen men arrested in Britain in 2009 on suspicion of plotting an attack on shopping centres in Manchester.

No explosives were found but the men were ordered to leave the country. Mr Naseer avoided deportation after a judge ruled it was likely he would not be safe if he returned to Pakistan.

Mr Naseer said at the time he went to the UK to gain a degree, not to attack the West.

UK officials arrested him again in 2010 at the request of US prosecutors. He was eventually deported after losing an appeal at the European Court of Human Rights.

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