By Fatos Bytyci
PRISTINA (Reuters) - Kosovo signed an extradition agreement with Washington on Tuesday, clearing the way for a man suspected by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) of being an Islamist militant to be sent to the United States.
Kosovo officials told Reuters that the first person who may be extradited is Bajram Asllani, who is listed on the FBI web site as a wanted person who "should be considered armed and dangerous".
In recent years Asllani, 35, has lived openly in the northern Kosovo town of Mitrovica. He is also on the Interpol wanted list.
"Until now, despite very close cooperation with the U.S. authorities in the field of security, the absence of this extradition agreement was a legal obstacle for a successful conclusion of cases," Kosovo President Atifete Jahjaga said after signing the treaty with U.S. ambassador Greg Delawie.
In 2010, U.S. prosecutors in North Carolina unsealed a criminal complaint against Asllani, accusing him of providing material support to terrorism suspects and conspiring to kill and hurt people abroad.
He was accused of having ties and soliciting money from a group of men in North Carolina who were arrested in 2009 for an alleged plot to attack a U.S. Marine Corps base in Quantico, Virginia, according to U.S. prosecutors. Several of these defendants were later convicted of various charges.
The FBI web site said Asllani was an alleged co-conspirator with eight people in the United States "who were allegedly co-conspiring to engage in violent jihad, or holy war, and to raise money for mujihadeen, or warriors engaged in violent jihad."
Asllani denies the charges.
European Union security officials, who maintain a presence in Kosovo, arrested Asllani in 2010, saying they would consider extraditing him to the United States, but he was soon released.
A panel of three European judges serving in Kosovo turned down a U.S. request to extradite him in 2010, saying there was no accord with the United States governing the extradition of Kosovo citizens and that Washington had failed to provide enough evidence.
"I personally have asked to be extradited to the United States because I am not afraid of U.S. justice, I believe in justice because I am innocent," Asllani told local media at the time.
A Kosovo police official said that, apart from Asllani, three more Kosovars were wanted by U.S. authorities.
Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008 and has been recognized by over 100 states, including the United States.
(Reporting by Fatos Bytyci; Editing by Adrian Croft and Raissa Kasolowsky)