Britain has deported radical Muslim cleric Abu Qatada to Jordan, ending eight years of government efforts to send him home for trial on charges of alleged terrorism.

A plane carrying the cleric left RAF Northolt in west London at around 2.45am.

A military prosecutor said the 53-year-old is being held at Muwaqar I prison in Amman.

He has been charged with conspiring to carry out al-Qaeda-linked attacks on Americans, Israelis and other westeners in Jordan.

British Home Secretary Theresa May said: "This dangerous man has now been removed from our shores to face the courts in his own country.”

Her efforts to get Abu Qatada out of the country had been frustrated by a series of legal rulings.

"I am glad that this government's determination to see him on a plane has been vindicated and that we have at last achieved what previous governments, Parliament and the British public have long called for," she added in a statement.

Once described by a Spanish judge as "Osama bin Laden's right-hand man in Europe", Abu Qatada has been in and out of jail since first being arrested in 2001.

He was sent back to prison last March for breaching his bail conditions.

Jordan removed the last obstacle preventing Britain from sending Abu Qatada back home last month by approving an extradition treaty satisfying the concerns of British judges that evidence obtained through torture could be used against him.

Ms May said Britain now needed to take a closer look at its human rights laws "to remove the many layers of appeals available to foreign nationals we want to deport".

The saga had been embarrassing for the government, which wants to appear tough on security and immigration.