Zambia to deport terror suspect to Britain

Zambia has officially announced that it will deport the alleged mastermind behind the July 7 London bombings to Britain. Haroon Rashid Aswat, 30, was arrested in the Zambian capital Lusaka on July 20.

Aswat, whose name appears on an international list of terrorist suspects, is wanted by the US in connection with a plot to establish a training camp at a remote ranch near Bly, Oregon, six years ago.

He comes from Dewsbury, West Yorks, the home town of Mohammed Sidique Khan, 30, the eldest of the four suicide bombers responsible for the attacks in London on July 7.

Aswat and Khan were reportedly in telephone contact shortly before the bombings, but British security sources have played down the possibility of a link between Aswat and the attacks.

Zambia's president, Levy Mwanawasa, said: "We had discussions with the governments of the US and Britain and finally agreed that Mr Aswat should be deported to his country, which is Britain," reports News Telegraph.

According to Los Angeles Times, Investigators also want to interrogate Aswat here about his alleged involvement in other terrorist activity, a British official said Wednesday.

"It seems that Zambia will send him here," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "Not because he's thought to be some kind of mastermind of the London bombings, as some newspapers have suggested. We are being very cautious about such allegations. He is wanted for questioning in regard to Al Qaeda terrorism."

The official said he did not think there had been serious tensions with Washington about where Aswat should be sent. Aswat might still be sent to the U.S. to face charges if British investigators cannot build a case against him, the official said.

"I guess it's more straightforward to have him sent here because he is a British citizen," the official said. "I don't have the impression that the U.S. tried to have him extradited from Zambia. We and the Americans both agree that we would like to have him questioned."

Aswat is a well-traveled figure who has been under U.S. and British scrutiny for several years. He has been living in South Africa and traveling extensively in Africa at a time when Western counter-terrorism agents are increasingly concerned about the rise of Islamic extremism on the continent.

South African intelligence agents had Aswat under surveillance in the months before his arrest in Zambia at the request of American and British counterparts, officials said Wednesday.

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