MILITANT group al Shabaab has warned that Britain will face a terror attack if it deports Islamic cleric Abu Qatada.
The Al Qaeda militants warned of a “disaster” for Britain if the Government attempts to send Qatada back to Jordan.
SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors online activity from terrorist groups, said al-Shabaab had issued a warning on militant forums.
"The British public is also forewarned that it will be the British government, as a result of its imprudence, that shall be liable for any disaster that befalls them, or their national interests," the statement said, according to SITE.
It comes a week after Al-Qaeda threatened to attack Britain if it decides to extradite Qatada.
In a statement signed by Al-Qaeda’s general command and published on jihadist forums, the terror network said Abu Qatada's extradition would “open the gates of evil” on “Britain and its citizens everywhere.”
“We warn the British government against extraditing Sheikh Abu Qatada to Jordan,” where he faces terror charges, said the statement, which called on London to “act with reason and wisdom … or it will regret it.”
The warnings come as it emerged Qatada could be released back into society within days because of the confusion over his deportation appeal to Europe.
Senior immigration judge suggested Mr Justice Mitting indicated that he would reconsider the preacher’s detention if his deportation was “not imminent”.
Yesterday Theresa May, the Home Secretary, was faced with mounting evidence that her officials had made an error over a deadline for Qatada, whose real name is Omar Othman, to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, which may have allowed him to prolong his stay in Britain for up to a year.
Any prospect of a lengthy legal process would greatly increase the chances of the cleric once described as Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man in Europe being granted bail, the judge suggested.
Mrs May insists she was free to arrest Qatada and restart deportation proceedings on Tuesday because a deadline to appeal to the Grand Chamber of the Strasbourg court passed at midnight on Monday.
But Qatada’s lawyers argue that the deadline was 24 hours later, and submitted a last-ditch appeal on Tuesday night.
Legal experts and officials yesterday suggested that Home Office officials were wrong and that Qatada made his appeal within the correct time frame. This could mean that the Home Secretary acted illegally by restarting deportation proceedings prematurely.
Under pressure from Labour, Mrs May repeatedly refused to say whether her officials had asked the court when the deadline was. One MP demanded to know why Qatada’s lawyers had been able to “outwit the very expensive silks of the Home Office”.
Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, warned there could be “serious consequences” if Mrs May’s interpretation of the deadline was wrong.
She accused her of rushing the cleric’s arrest and opening up the Government to the possibility of being sued. “On Tuesday the Home Secretary told us the deportation of Abu Qatada was under way, on Wednesday it stopped,” Miss Cooper said. “On Tuesday she told us there would be no appeal to the Grand Chamber, on Wednesday an appeal was under way.
“Yesterday the Home Office said the appeal deadline was Monday night but the European Court officials said it was Tuesday night. When the Home Secretary is accused of not knowing what day of the week it is, then confusion and chaos have turned into farce. This farce has serious consequences – additional delays, a greater risk Abu Qatada will be put out on bail and a risk he will sue the Government.”
The dispute intensified calls from some Tory backbenchers to ignore Europe and go ahead with the deportation. Charles Walker, MP for Broxbourne, Herts, told Mrs May that ministers “must not delay in getting this scumbag on a plane out of this country”.
Mark Reckless, a lawyer and MP for Rochester and Strood, said the Home Office was “institutionally incompetent” and likened the situation to the television comedy Yes, Minister. “The problem essentially is however much officials mess up, they aren’t held to account, and very often they are promoted,” he said.
Lawyers pointed out that a 40-year-old convention in the Council of Europe, the court’s umbrella body, indicated that any time limit measured in months should run to the same day of the month the judgment was made.
Carl Gardner, a former government lawyer, highlighted rules that dictate when an appeal can be made from the domestic courts to Strasbourg. Case law from the European court states that the clock runs from the day following a judgment.
The court blocked Qatada’s deportation to Jordan on Jan 17. Under either set of guidance, the window to appeal would not have closed before Tuesday April 17.
In a further headache for the Home Secretary, advice from the Council of Europe yesterday said the appeal was lodged “just in time”.