Nigerian court grants extradition of al Qaeda suspect to U.S.

Reuters News
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Posted: Aug 28, 2013 9:59 AM

ABUJA (Reuters) - A Nigerian court granted a request on Wednesday for one of its citizens to be extradited to the United States to face charges of assisting the Yemeni branch of al Qaeda.

U.S. and Nigerian authorities accuse Lawal Olaniyi Babafemi of travelling to Yemen with members of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in 2010 and 2011, and receiving $8,600 in order to return to Nigeria and recruit English-speaking radicals.

"Lawal Olaniyi Babafemi ... is not contesting these proceedings," Justice Ahmed Mohammed said in the Federal High Court in Abuja.

Babafemi, 32, also known as "Abdullah Ayatollah Mustapha", was in the United States for some of the time that he and AQAP are alleged to have had links.

He returned to Nigeria last year and was detained by the West African nation's secret service. He faces at least 10 years in jail in the United States if convicted.

The United States and other Western powers fear Nigeria, which is suffering its own Sunni Islamist insurgency by Boko Haram militants in the north, could become a springboard for attacks by al Qaeda-linked militants.

With a population of more than 160 million, half of them Muslims, widespread poverty and strategic importance as an oil supplier, Nigeria has long been in the sights of global jihadist groups, analysts say.

On Christmas Day in 2009, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian from a wealthy northern family, made a botched attempt to blow up a plane flying from Amsterdam to Detroit.

He had made two trips to Yemen and admitted links to AQAP, which also claimed the attack.

(Reporting by Camillus Eboh; Writing by Tim Cocks; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)