British police charge Iraqi doctor over failed car bombings
LONDON, July 7 (AP): An Iraqi doctor arrested in connection with the failed car bombings in London and Glasgow became the first person charged in the case Friday, police said.
Bilal Abdullah, 27, was charged with conspiring to cause explosions after he was arrested at Glasgow Airport, where a Jeep Cherokee he was traveling in rammed into a terminal building last week, a police spokeswoman said on condition of anonymity in line
with force policy.
``I have now made the decision that there is sufficient evidence and authorized the charging of Bilal Abdullah with conspiracy to cause explosions," said Susan Hemming, an anti-terrorism prosecutor.
Prosecutors said he would appear at City of Westminster Magistrates' Court on Saturday.
Seven other suspects remain in custody, including a man hospitalized in critical condition in Scotland with severe burns. Two of the suspects made inquiries about working in the United States, the FBI said Friday.
An FBI spokeswoman said Mohammed Asha and another suspect had contacted the Philadelphia-based Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates, as first reported in The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Asha, a Jordanian physician of Palestinian heritage, contacted the agency within the last year, but apparently did not take the test for foreign medical school graduates, said the spokeswoman, Nancy O'Dowd.
"He was applying, (but) we don't believe he took the test," she said. She could not confirm the name of the second suspect to make inquiries.
On June 29, authorities defused two car bombs that had been set to explode near packed nightclubs and pubs in central London. The following day, two people rammed a Jeep Cherokee loaded with gasoline canisters into the main terminal at Glasgow's airport. The car, loaded with crude bombs, crashed and caught fire, seriously burning one of the suspects.
Abdullah was known by others as an intensely militant Muslim at the University of Cambridge. His status at the university is unclear, but records show he graduated in Baghdad in 2004.
All eight suspects were foreigners working for Britain's National Health Service, six from countries in the Middle East and two from India, and investigators are pressing to find what brought them together.
Asha was arrested on a highway Saturday night along with his wife. In Jordan, security officials said Asha had no criminal record, and friends and family said they found it hard to believe either he or his wife were connected with terrorism.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Britons could expect intensified security checks in the weeks ahead.
A host of major public events are under way now or about to begin, including the Wimbledon tennis tournament, the Tour de France in London, and a Live Earth concert starring Madonna.
The country also is planning several ceremonies Saturday to mark the second anniversary of London suicide bombings that killed 52 commuters and wounded hundreds on July 7, 2005.
Britain's intelligence agencies are focusing on the suspects' international links, said one British intelligence official and another government official. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to the media.
MI5, Britain's domestic intelligence agency, said on its Web site that some Britons had joined the Iraqi insurgency.
"In the longer term, it is possible that they may later return to the UK and consider mounting attacks here,'' the Web site said.
Al-Qaida in Iraq is believed to have become better organized since Abu Ayyub al-Masri, an Egyptian, took it over from Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian who was killed by coalition forces a year ago. Iraqi officials also have said the terrorist group is now delegating more authority to sympathetic cells in other countries.
Police also are reportedly trying to determine if Abdullah and the alleged driver of the Jeep, Khalid Ahmed, had taken part in the attempted bombings in London and whether they were the ringleaders of a cell containing all the suspects.
Ahmed, identified by staff at Glasgow's Royal Alexandra Hospital as a Lebanese physician employed there, is now being treated for horrific burns after the failed Glasgow attack.
In Australia, police seized computers from two hospitals Friday as they explored connections between the British plotters and Muhammad Haneef, an Indian doctor arrested there. Australian police said a number of people were being interviewed as part of the investigation.
Muslim groups in Britain placed advertisements in British national newspapers in praise of the emergency services and to declare that terrorism is "not in our name," borrowing the slogan from the mass protests in Britain against the invasion of Iraq.