'Tiger Hanif' faces extradition over Indian bombings

New Delhi requests legal move after man accused of bombing carried out on Indian Hindus 17 years ago is caught in the UK.

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LONDON // A Muslim man sought across the world for alleged terrorist bombings carried out on Indian Hindus 17 years ago is facing extradition from Britain to India at a court hearing in London.

Mohammed Hanif Umerji Patel, known as Tiger Hanif, was arrested this year by Scotland Yard detectives following a renewed appeal by Interpol to track him down.

An eight-year-old schoolgirl was killed and more than a dozen people injured when Mr Patel and three accomplices allegedly hurled a Russian-made grenade into a crowded bazaar in Surat in January, 1993, Westminster magistrates were told on the first day of the hearing.

Three months later, Mr Patel is said to have led an attack on a crowded railway platform in the town. No deaths resulted although, in the two attacks, a total of 38 people were injured.

The attacks followed a period of religious unrest and riots in Gujarat and Mr Patel, who will be 50 this month, allegedly wanted to "get revenge" on Hindus.

According to the prosecution, he used charitable donations to a Muslim refugee camp to fund the bombing campaign.

Afterwards he fled to Pakistan and eventually ended up in Britain where anti-terrorist police finally found him in February working at a grocery store in Bolton, Lancashire, in north-west England.

The Indian authorities have requested Mr Patel's extradition from the UK to face charges of conspiracy to murder and conspiracy to cause an explosion. He is also accused of helping one of his fellow bombers escape by giving him cash, a weapon and a passport.

The case, which started on Thursday, is due to resume next week.

Clare Montgomery, the prosecutor, told the court: "This defendant took a prominent role in setting up a refugee camp for Muslim refugees. The refugee camp had a fund that was set up to collect donations and it was agreed by this defendant and three other witnesses that the fund would be employed to buy weapons."

In a witness statement to the court, co-conspirator, Mohmad Ghadliali, said that a meeting was called between himself, Mr Patel and two other men, when they decided to obtain weapons "for revenge" on Hindus for attacking Muslims.

Following the Surat attacks, 13 people were jailed for up to 20 years by Indian courts.

"The extradition of Hanif is a test case for counter-terrorism cooperation between London and New Delhi," according to a report by the Indo-Asian News Service (IANS).

"If New Delhi is successful in gaining Hanif's extradition, it will mark a first in ties between the two countries and bring an end to a patchy record on extraditions."

At a court hearing in London this year, lawyers for Mr Patel, a native Urdu speaker who appears to understand little English, claimed that he would face torture if returned to India.

His arrest followed a renewed, worldwide appeal made by Interpol three years ago.

Scotland Yard has declined to say what new intelligence led them to Mr Patel but it was not believed that he had been involved in plotting terrorist activity in the UK.