Radical Islamist preacher Abu Hamza al-Masri and four other terror suspects are on their way from Britain to the US after a court rejected their last-ditch bid to block extradition.

A legal saga that has dragged on for more than a decade in the courts of Britain and Europe finally ended on Saturday when the Egyptian-born former imam was whisked from prison and flown out of a military airbase.

Two senior judges at the High Court in London dismissed the men’s pleas to be allowed a stay of extradition and within hours, the suspects were airborne.

Abu Hamza and fellow suspects Khaled Al-Fawwaz, Syed Tahla Ahsan, Adel Abdul Bary and Babar Ahmad, left from the Mildenhall air force base, in eastern England, which is used by the US military.

The two jets provided by the US authorities took off shortly before midnight on Friday, Scotland Yard police headquarters said.

Abu Hamza has been indicted in the US on charges including setting up an al-Qaeda-style training camp for militants in Oregon and involvement in the taking of 16 hostages in Yemen in 1998.

“I am pleased the decision of the court meant that these men, who used every available opportunity to frustrate and delay the extradition process over many years, could finally be removed,” said Home Secretary Theresa May.

“This government has co-operated fully with the courts and pressed at every stage to ensure this happened.

“We have worked tirelessly, alongside the US authorities, the police and the prison service, to put plans in place so that tonight these men could be handed over within hours of the court’s decision.

Just hours before a police convoy took them from the Long Lartin jail in west central England to Mildenhall, the High Court rejected the men’s last-ditch legal bid to block their deportation.

“The applications by all five claimants must be dismissed. It follows that their extradition to the United States of America may proceed immediately,” said judge John Thomas.

Abu Hamza, the 54-year-old Egyptian-born former imam who has a hook for his right hand, failed to convince the judges his extradition should be blocked in order to allow medical tests for his depression.

The judges said they were “wholly unpersuaded” he was unfit to face trial, and added that “the sooner he is put on trial the better”.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled in September all five men could be extradited but the High Court ordered the government to halt their removal while it heard their final appeals.

Abu Hamza rose to prominence in the 1990s when he gave fiery sermons at the Finsbury Park mosque in north London but has been in prison in Britain for eight years for inciting hatred.

Babar Ahmad, 38, has been in prison without trial since 2004 and Ahsan, 32, since 2006. Fawwaz, a 50-year-old Saudi, and Bary, a 52-year-old Egyptian national, have both been behind bars since 1999.

Ahmad and Ahsan, both British nationals who are described as computer experts, are accused of operating websites supporting Chechen and Afghan insurgents.

Fawwaz and Bary were both indicted by the US for alleged involvement in the bombing of two US embassies in east Africa in 1998 which killed hundreds.

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