Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Islamic terrorism in Britain: 5 of the 8 people under arrest are said to be doctors

Kim Sengupta:

A suspected secret cell of foreign militants, believed to be linked to al-Qa'ida and using British hospitals as cover, are being questioned over the terrorist attacks in London and Glasgow.

Five of the eight people under arrest last night are said to be doctors. Another of those detained is the wife of one of the doctors, who is a medical assistant working for the NHS. The home of a sixth doctor is said to have been searched by police. Late last night an Australian television network reported that a suspect wanted in connection with the attacks had been arrested in Brisbane.

Attention has been focused on a group of nationals from the Middle East, who had not previously attracted the interest of security agencies.

Until now, cases of Islamist terrorism have involved mainly Muslims who were born and brought up in Britain. The alleged arrival of teams from abroad to carry out attacks, their identities unknown to the domestic law agencies, adds another dimension to the terrorist threat being faced in the United Kingdom.

Following the link between the attacks in London and Glasgow, control of the investigation was transferred to Scotland Yard. With the security alert staying at the highest possible level and warnings that another attack may be "imminent", police carried out 19 raids across the country, arresting nationals from Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Iraq. Among those arrested was Mohammed Jamil Abdelqader Asha, a 26-year-old neurologist who was born in Saudi Arabia but is of Palestinian origin and was travelling on a Jordanian passport. He and his 27-year-old wife, a medical assistant, were arrested on the M6 in Cheshire, in connection with the attempted bombings in London.

Also under arrest was Bilal Talal Abdul Samad Abdulla, an Iraqi from Baghdad who arrived in the UK in April 2006. He is said to have been one of the two men in the Cherokee Jeep in the Glasgow airport attack, and is suffering from third-degree burns.

His companion, under arrest, is also from Iraq, while two other men, aged 25 and 28, arrested in Paisley yesterday, were said to be doctors from Saudi Arabia.

Police carried out a controlled explosion on a blue Vauxhall car yesterday at Royal Alexandra Hospital, in Paisley, near Glasgow, where Dr Abdulla worked and where he is being treated for his injuries. It was the second such detonation at the hospital, following a white BMW on Sunday. Strathclyde Police said the two vehicles were "connected" with the airport attack.

Dr Asha, 26, has been in Britain since 2005 and had worked at the North Staffordshire Hospital, where his office was being searched yesterday following a raid at his home at Sunningdale Grove in Newcastle-under-Lyme. There were police searches in the same town two miles from Dr Asha's home at Priam Close, Bradwell, which, according to neighbours, was rented by another doctor and his wife.

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