Abu Qatada
Al-Qaeda agrees to free British hostage for Abu Qatada's release Reuters

The al-Qaida has reportedly agreed to release British hostage Stephen Malcolm in exchange for the release of the radical cleric Abu Qatada.

The North African Branch of al-Qaida, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) issued a statement on their website saying: "The initiative to the British government is to release its citizen Stephen Malcolm, who also has South African nationality, if it deports Abu Qatada to one of the 'Arab Spring' countries," reported Reuters.

Stephen Malcolm is believed to be one of the nine westerners who have been held hostage by the militant group since September 2010 in Mali. The group earlier threatened to kill them if the western powers try to attack them in Mali.

The statement has also warned: "If Britain ignores this offer it will bear the consequences of handing Abu Qatada to the Jordanian government."

An AFP report quoting a US SITE report added: "That it [group] has followed Abu Qatada's case for years and that Britain will open the 'door of evil' unto its country and citizens should it extradite him to Jordan."

Abu Qatada, 51, is originally from Jordan and has been convicted in his home country for planning terror attacks.

Qatada has more or less been living under house arrest in London since February after he was released from prison.

The British government has been trying to deport the cleric to Jordan for the past few years; the European Court of Human Rights is also actively considering the move.

Earlier, the European Court of Human Rights said that Qatada may not receive a fair trial in Jordan since unfair methods would have been used against him to obtain evidence, but the British government said it has received assurances of a fair trial.