A Nigerian court on Wednesday ordered the extradition to the United States of a man accused of being a member of the Al-Qaeda affiliate in Yemen and assigned to find English-speaking recruits.
The suspect identified as Lawal Olaniyi Babafemi, aka “Abdullah” or “Ayatollah Mustapha”, is alleged to be a member of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and has been indicted on four charges in the United States, including supporting a foreign terrorist group.
“An order is hereby made that the respondent in this case, Lawal Olaniyi Babafemi … be extradited to the United States of America to face the indictment against him,” said Justice Ahmed Mohammed of the federal high court in Abuja ruled.
“It is also ordered that the respondent … shall be surrendered to the officials of the United States of America not later than 15 days from the order of this court.”
The 33-year-old Babafemi did not contest the extradition. His lawyer said he had been in the custody of Nigeria’s intelligence agency for some two years.
Babafemi did not speak in court other than to confirm to the judge that he did not oppose the extradition.
According to court documents, Babafemi travelled to Yemen between January 2010 and August 2011 to train with the Al-Qaeda group as well as to seek out senior members Anwar al-Awlaqi and Samir Khan.
Yemeni-born American radical cleric al-Awlaqi as well as Khan have since been killed in a drone strike.
In interviews with FBI agents, “Babafemi admitted travelling to Yemen,” the court documents say.
They add that he said “AQAP members gave him … approximately $8,600 in order to return to Nigeria and recruit English-speaking individuals to work in AQAP’s English-language media operation”.
The charges against him in the United States include conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organisation and unlawful use of firearms. The documents say he received firearms training.
The indictment was filed on February 21 in a US district court in the eastern district of New York.
It is not be the first time a Nigerian has been accused of acting on behalf of AQAP.
“Underwear bomber” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab has been sentenced to life in prison in the United States over his failed attempt to blow up an airliner on Christmas Day 2009.
Abdulmutallab travelled to Yemen in 2009 and met with al-Awlaqi.
There was no indication in the documents made public that Babafemi was linked to Nigerian Islamist extremist group Boko Haram, which has been waging a deadly insurgency mainly in the country’s north.
Western nations have closely monitored links between Boko Haram and outside extremist groups. Boko Haram members have trained with Al-Qaeda’s north African affiliate in Mali, but the extent of further cooperation remains unclear.
Nigeria is Africa’s most populous nation, roughly divided between a mainly Muslim north and predominately Christian south.