Terror plot hatched in British hospitals

By Kim Sengupta, Ian Herbert and Cahal Milmo

Published: 03 July 2007

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.

Further searches were carried out in Liverpool at the home of a man who had been arrested after being disabled with a taser gun after police surrounded his car. According to neighbours, the man was a doctor from India who worked at Halton Hospital in Cheshire. A colleague told the newspaper, Muslim News, that the man may have been detained because he was using the mobile telephone and internet account of another man who has recently left Britain. Last night Dr Asha's father, Jamil Asha, asked King Abdullah of Jordan to intercede on behalf of his son. He vehemently stressed to journalists in Amman that his son was not involved in any terrorist activity.

"All he wanted to do was get on with his life. He prays like any good Muslim but was certainly not a fanatic," said Mr Asha. "He was planning to visit us on 12 July. He called me three days ago to check the body sizes of his six brothers and two sisters. My son wanted to buy them gifts from Britain before his departure." Dr Asha's brother, Ahmed, said he was surprised by news of his arrest. "The first news we heard of this was broadcast by an Arabic satellite channel. It's nonsense because he has no terror connections."

Dr Abdulla, who had qualified in Baghdad in 2004, a year after the US-led invasion, has been in Britain since August 2006. He is said to have lived in Jordan before arriving in the UK.

The failed car bomb attacks in London early on Friday morning involved two Mercedes saloons. They had been packed with gas cylinders, petrol and nails with two mobile telephones acting as detonators. The bombers had, according to a security source, tried to detonate the car outside Tiger Tiger bar with four phone calls. Two calls had been made to the car in Cockspur Street, which was later towed away to a car pound. The bombs failed because of a technical mistake.

Detectives believe that a Mercedes involved in the failed attacks in London came from Scotland. They have tracked part of the car's route south last week using number-plate recognition technology mounted in cameras along the M6.

The raids and arrests across the country which followed are said to have resulted mainly from clues gathered from the two cars, including calls made to the mobile telephones.

Homegrown cells


Five men plotted to blow up the Bluewater shopping centre in Kent and the Ministry of Sound nightclub in London with massive fertiliser bombs.

MI5 were watching the ringleaders when, in February 2004, a supervisor at a London self-storage reported three men stashing 600kg of ammonium nitrate fertiliser.

Cell member Jawad Akbar was recorded discussing the nightclub attack: " No one can put their hands up and say they are innocent." Fearful the gang would attack, the police launched a series of raids. Akbar, Omar Khyam, Waheed Mahmood, Anthony Garcia and Salahuddin Amin - British citizens - were convicted at the Old Bailey in April of conspiracy to cause explosions.

* 7 JULY 2005

As the morning rush-hour ended, Shehzad Tanweer, Jermaine Lindsay and Mohammad Siddique blew up the explosive-packed rucksacks they were carrying on London Underground trains at Russell Square, Edgware Road and Aldgate. An hour later, Hasib Hussain detonated his on a number 30 bus in Tavistock Square. They were all from Yorkshire, except Lindsay, who lived in Aylesbury.

The four men were motivated by "fierce antagonism to perceived injustices by the West against Muslims," according to the Government report into the bombings.

A total of 52 people were killed and more than 770 were injured.

* 21 JULY 2005

A fortnight to the day after the 7 July attacks, four attempted bombings took place in central London. Faulty bombs were found on trains at Oval, Warren Street and Shepherds Bush stations and on a bus in Hackney, gifting the police a wealth of forensic evidence.

The trial at Woolwich Crown Court of six men, who deny conspiracy to murder, heard that the bombs were made using chapatti flour and hydrogen peroxide.

The six, Muktar Ibrahim, Manfo Asiedu, Hussein Osman, Yassin Omar, Ramzi Mohammed and Adel Yaha, are all originally from Africa.

The trial jury went out to consider its verdict on 28 June. The jury is still out.


Indian-born Barot plotted to create carnage on an "unprecedented scale" . His plans included blowing up a Tube train in a tunnel beneath the Thames. Barot, from London, was jailed for at least 40 years in November for conspiracy to murder. There was no evidence he had acquired the materials to carry out his attacks, but his plans were found on his computer.