In Britain, frustration over why fiery radical Muslim preacher Abu Hamza al-Masri remained a free man for so many years went all the way to the top of society to the queen, the BBC revealed — a revelation the network has subsequently apologized for.

A day after a European human rights court cleared the way for the extraditionfrom Britain to the United States of al-Masri and four other terrorism suspects, the BBC has said it's sorry for disclosing that Queen Elizabeth II had been upset that the Egyptian-born cleric could not be arrested.

The BBC issued a statement apologizing for "the breach of confidence."

On a radio show earlier today, BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner revealed details of a private conversation he'd had with the queen several years ago in which she expressed concern and frustration that al-Masri could not be arrested and that she had discussed the matter with a former home secretary.

Buckingham Palace and the Home Office both refused to comment on the apology or the reported conversation.

Al-Masri was eventually arrested in 2004 and has fought extradition to the U.S. ever since. He faces terrorism charges in the United States, including allegations that he set up a terrorist training camp in Oregon.

He and the other four men say they would face torture and inhumane conditions in U.S. prisons, in violation of European human rights law — an argument the European Court for Human Rights dismissed Monday, paving the way for their extradition in the coming weeks.

The one-eyed, hook-handed al-Masri rose to prominence in Britain for his fiery anti-Western sermons. Among those who attended the north London mosque where he preached were Zacarias Moussaoui, one of the Sept. 11 attackers, and "shoe bomber" Richard Reid.

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