Suspects in Britain Bomb Plot Linked by Family, School, Work
Sunday, July 8, 2007
LONDON, July 7 -- The ambulance crew was on a routine call: A boozy reveler at the Tiger Tiger nightclub had fallen and banged his head.
But as the medics approached the crowded club just before 2 a.m. on Friday, June 29, something caught their eyes. A pale green Mercedes, parked outside the club's front door, seemed to be smoking.
Their call to police set into motion an anti-terrorist investigation that has spread from London's theater district to Scotland, India, the Middle East, the United States and the remote western Australian gold mining town of Kalgoorlie. The investigation centers on what police believe is the first Islamic extremist terror network to use car bombs in Britain, targeting downtown London and the Glasgow airport.
The eight suspects detained by police are highly educated and have overlapping family, work and school links. Six are foreign doctors or trainee doctors working in British hospitals; two of the doctors inquired about continuing their medical training in the United States. The suspects include a husband and wife, and three members of an Indian Muslim family.
The only suspect charged so far, Bilal Abdulla, is an Iraqi doctor described by relatives and friends as being furious over the Iraq war. Abdulla, 27, was living in Cambridge and occasionally preaching at a mosque there while four of the other suspects were living or studying in that famous university town.
Police investigators believe Abdulla and Kafeel Ahmed, an Indian citizen with a doctorate in aeronautical engineering who is also known as Kahlid Ahmed, were the main players in the plot. The two rigged car bombs in London intended for remote detonation, police said, and then drove to Glasgow. With police tracing them to that city, they rammed a Jeep Cherokee at high speed into the terminal at the Glasgow Airport in what was intended to be a spectacular suicide bombing.
On Friday, Abdulla was charged with conspiracy to cause explosions in connection with the London and Glasgow incidents. Wearing a white sweat shirt, he made his first court appearance in London on Saturday, speaking only to confirm his name and date of birth.
Terrorism analysts said the plot could be one of the first cases of Islamic extremist organizations in Iraq exporting terror attacks to Europe. Counterterrorism authorities estimate that a few hundred people who left Europe to fight in Iraq have returned. Some of them have been arrested in France, Italy and Sweden on suspicion of plotting local attacks or raising money for terrorist groups.
Three Iraqi men are on trial in Germany after being arrested there in December 2004. German authorities say the men plotted to assassinate then-Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi during a visit to Berlin. The defendants are accused of belonging to an Iraq-based network called Ansar al-Islam.
In April, the U.S. Embassy in Berlin warned of an increased security threat against U.S. installations in Germany. German media later reported that the threat was believed to originate from Iraqi-based terror networks.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown has said he believes the London-Glasgow plot is linked to al-Qaeda. A senior British Anglican cleric in Baghdad, Canon Andrew White, said in an interview that in April, he met in Jordan with a man who he later learned was an Iraqi Sunni insurgent. White said the man warned of attacks on Britons and Americans and also said "Those who cure you will kill you."
"It is far from clear at the moment" if those involved in the London-Glasgow bombing attempts "were radicalized before coming here or after," said one British government security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. But the official added, "We have to be open to the possibility of people returning from Iraq."