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Pakistani jailed in US for failed terror plot in Britain

A Pakistani man has been jailed in the US for being part of an al Qaeda plot to bomb a British shopping center in 2009. Abid Naseer was given a 40 year term but plans to appeal.

The 29-year-old was jailed on Tuesday after being convicted in March on terrorism charges, including providing material support to the "Islamic State" (IS) militant group.

Naseer was first arrested in April 2009 in a British anti-terrorism operation but the charges were dropped after a UK court found insufficient evidence.

He was later indicted in the US and extradited in 2013, accused of leading an al-Qaida cell that plotted to bomb a shopping center in Manchester, England.

The planned attack was part of a wider global campaign of terror that included attacks against New York's subway and a Danish newspaper.

US prosecutors alleged Naseer had received bomb-making instructions in Pakistan in 2008 and that his arrest had averted mass murder.

Code words

Most of the case hinged on email exchanges between Naseer and a person described by prosecutors as an al Qaeda handler who was directing plots to attack civilians in Manchester, New York City and Copenhagen. Naseer insisted the emails consisted only of harmless banter about plans to get married.

But one prosecution witness, Najibullah Zazi, testified that after receiving explosives training in Pakistan, he received instructions from the same al Qaeda contact as Naseer and was told to use "marriage" and "wedding" as code for attacks.

Zazi and Zarein Ahmedzay, have pleaded guilty to US charges stemming from the New York subway plot. A third man, Adis Medunjanin, was sentenced to life in prison in 2012.

The prosecutor accused Naseer of lying, adding that women's names, used in the emails, actually were code for homemade bomb ingredients: Nadia stood for ammonium nitrate and Huma for hydrogen peroxide.

Noteworthy witnesses

During the trial, five British secret agents testified against Naseer, wearing disguises to protect their identities.

Several documents recovered in the 2009 US raid against Osama bin Laden's compound were used as trial evidence.

Naseer, who was raised in Peshawar, Pakistan and called himself a semi-professional cricket player, represented himself in court.

Often speaking in the third person, he set about portraying himself as a moderate Muslim who was falsely accused. "Abid is innocent," he said in closing arguments. "He is not a terrorist. He is not an al Qaeda operative."

He plans to appeal his sentence.

mm/bw (AP, AFP, Reuters)