A suspected British terrorist of Pakistani descent has been indicted in the United States on charges of conspiring with convicted "shoe bomber" Richard Reid to blow up a U.S. airliner in mid-flight and kill Americans, the Justice Department announced today.
Attorney General John Ashcroft said Sajid Mohammad Badat, 25, was charged with seven felony counts, including conspiracy with Reid "and others unknown" to destroy aircraft and commit homicide. Badat, who is currently in custody in Britain while awaiting trial there, faces life in prison if convicted in a U.S. court, Ashcroft said. Badat has denied British charges of conspiring with Reid.
Ashcroft said the United States would attempt to extradite Badat, who was born in Gloucester, England.
"We believe that it's appropriate he face justice in the United States of America, and we will seek his extradition," Ashcroft told a press briefing. "We do understand and recognize the interest the British have in seeking to bring him to justice in the British system," he added. But the United States also has "a keen interest in bringing to justice an individual who the indictment alleges . . . [had an] interest in destroying the lives of Americans."
Ashcroft today called the indictment of Badat "another example of successful cooperation between American law enforcement and its counterparts around the world." He said it was also a case in which U.S. investigators benefited from the "prosecutorial tools" of the Patriot Act.
According to the indictment, Badat conspired with Reid, also a British citizen, to detonate shoe bombs aboard aircraft carrying Americans. It alleges that Badat and Reid coordinated their conspiracy by creating numerous e-mail accounts and traveling to Pakistan and several European countries, including Belgium. It says that at separate times, they visited the British Embassy in Belgium to falsely claim that they lost their British passports and to receive new passports.
Reid was arrested after he was caught trying to ignite bombs hidden in his shoes while he was flying on American Airlines Flight 63 from Paris to Miami on Dec. 22, 2001. The flight was diverted to Boston, where Reid was taken into custody. Reid's aim was to kill all 198 crew members and passengers aboard the plane, including himself, Ashcroft said.
Reid pleaded guilty in October 2002, admitting that he was a member of the al Qaeda terrorist network of Osama bin Laden and declaring himself an enemy of America. He was sentenced to life in prison.
Badat was arrested in Gloucester on Nov. 27, 2003, by British authorities, who later charged him with offenses under Britain's explosive substances and terrorism laws, including possession of illegal explosives and conspiring with Reid and others to cause a lethal explosion.
Seized during Badat's arrest were socks that British authorities said contained traces of explosives and were intended to be filled with an explosive substance and worn tethered around the neck. British officials said the find pointed to possible terrorist plans to construct improvised explosive devices from components concealed separately.
Badat, who has pleaded not guilty in Britain, is scheduled to go on trial there in February next year.
In the Muslim community of Gloucester, Badat is known as a devout prayer-leader at his local mosque and a hard-working, intelligent student. He reportedly spent a few years in Pakistan studying Islam before returning last year and enrolling at the College of Islamic Knowledge and Guidance in Blackburn, England.