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UK wants Rashid Rauf deported

August 27, 2006

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PESHAWAR, Aug 26: UK has formally asked for deportation of a key suspect in the transatlantic flight bombing plot but Pakistan has indicated it still needs him for investigation, sources said.

The sources said that Britain had approached the foreign affairs ministry in Islamabad seeking the deportation of Rashid Rauf, the main suspect.

“The request is pending with the foreign office,” the sources said, adding that it would be processed when it was passed on to the interior ministry.

All that Interior Minister Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao could say was that his ministry had not received any such request.

Foreign Office spokesperson Tasnim Aslam said she was unaware of any request for Mr Rauf’s deportation, but said that arrangements between Pakistan and Britain provided for such a possibility.

“There is mutual legal assistance arrangement through the joint judicial cooperation working group which provides for such a possibility and cooperation. Yes, the possibility (for Rauf’s deportation) exists. It can not be ruled out”, she told Dawn on phone from Islamabad.

The sources, requesting anonymity, said the 26-year-old suspect, who had been picked up from Bahawalpur, had been charged with forging documents. He has not been charged with any terrorism-related offences. An FIR was registered against him at the Islamabad Airport police station in Rawalpindi.

He was produced before a magistrate in Rawalpindi again on Friday after his 14-day remand had ended. He was remanded for another 14 days.

The sources said it might take four to five weeks to process the case for Mr Rauf’s deportation back to England.

They said Mr Rauf had been charged with another offence. Though they did not specify the charge, they made it clear that the new charge was also not related to terrorism.

“He was needed for further investigation and hence the request for further remand,” the sources said.

The sources said that Mr Rauf had been under surveillance for over a month but his movements were closely watched and monitored a week before his arrest.

They said that Mr Rauf had made several calls to plotters in England hastening his arrest. A computer and some computer disks were recovered from his possession.

The sources did not say what those phone calls were all about but said that the British investigators, despite having initial differences with the US and Pakistan on when to proceed against the plotters, concurred to arrest them once the main suspect was in custody.

The sources claimed that Mr Rauf was not only a key suspect, who had met the Al Qaeda mastermind, but was also instrumental in directing finances to the plotters through South Africa.