Muslim doctor in Australia arrested in UK car bomb terror plot
July 2, 2007
Terror suspect arrested in Brisbane
LATEST: A 27-year-old Gold Coast hospital registrar has been arrested at Brisbane airport in relation to the UK bomb plots.
The Brisbane resident - who is not an Australian citizen - was arrested at the airport at 11pm (1am this morning NZ time) last night. He had been attempting to leave the country on a one-way ticket.
He has not been charged.
Australian Attorney-General Philip Ruddock confirmed his employment at the Gold Coast Hospital at Southport and said a search warrant had been executed at the premises.
The man is the third doctor to be detained by authorities over the attacks and the fourth associated with a hospital, with UK police sources naming two arrested in Britain as Bilal Abdulla, who trained and qualified in Iraq in 2004, and Mohammed Asha, who qualified in Jordan the same year. Asha's wife is among the suspects being held, police said.
Several other search warrants were also issued and executed for further investigation in Brisbane.
Queensland Premier Peter Beattie said there was no direct threat to Brisbane.
Brisbane Airport Corporation spokesman Jim Carden said he believed the man was arrested while trying to depart the airport's international terminal.
The terrorism alert in Queensland has not been changed and remains at "medium".
The man is the eighth person detained over the plot to blow up car bombs in London and Scotland.
British police have confirmed the arrest but would not say where it took place.
A spokeswoman for Queensland police said the arrest had been handled by Australian Federal Police agents.
"We believe (an arrest) has happened in Brisbane, but we don't know where, when or how," the spokeswoman said.
"We are still being briefed on what has happened and we hope to have more information soon."
The Australian Federal Police have so far refused to comment.
British police said in a statement the man was arrested at an undisclosed location in connection with the investigation into the incidents in London and Glasgow.
"He remains in custody," British police said.
Those arrested are linked to a plot to detonate two car bombs loaded with fuel, gas canisters and nails in London and an attack on Glasgow airport in Scotland over the weekend using a fuel-laden Jeep Cherokee.
Three of those detained had links to a hospital at Paisley, a town just outside Glasgow, the BBC reported.
Britain has seen a marked increase in terrorism-related attacks since the September 11 strikes on the United States and since it joined US forces in invading Iraq in 2003.
However, previous assaults, including an attack on London's transport system in July 2005 which killed 52 people, have tended to involve radicalised, British-born Muslims, not educated attackers from overseas, security experts say.
In what authorities have described as a "dynamic investigation", police cordoned off the hospital in Paisley, and carried out several controlled detonations.
The hospital, the Royal Alexandra, is where Abdulla worked, staff said, and where he is also believed to be treated for severe burns after taking part in the attack on Glasgow airport, when his vehicle was turned into a fireball.
Fearing further attacks, police banned cars and other vehicles from directly approaching airports and security measures were stepped up across the country as authorities kept the threat level at "critical", the highest rating.
A police source said the investigation was going very well and they expected to make more arrests. The source said the plot bore "all the hallmarks" of al Qaeda and there had been no warning of the attack on Glasgow airport.
The series of foiled and actual attacks pose a test for Prime Minister Gordon Brown, a Scotsman who replaced Tony Blair only last week and who has come under pressure from some quarters to change policy on Iraq and withdraw British troops.
Blair was known for an aggressive stance on security and a foreign policy which strongly supported the United States in Afghanistan and Iraq. The bombers who struck London in 2005 said in videos they were punishing Britain for Blair's policies.
Support has already come in from US President George W Bush, who called Brown to commend him for his response to the series of bomb plots and to offer assistance.
Bush, who phoned the prime minister from his Air Force One presidential jet after talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, reaffirmed the United States "is prepared to offer any assistance desired and noted the importance of continued co-operation," said White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe.
As well as the arrests of Abdulla, Asha and his wife, two more men, aged 25 and 28 and also believed not to be from Britain, were detained in Paisley on Monday morning, NZ time. The seventh suspect was seized in Liverpool earlier.
A British security source said it was premature to say whether all those arrested were foreigners. "That's still an area that's being looked at."
Home Secretary (interior minister) Jacqui Smith said Britain was facing a "serious and sustained threat of terrorism" and urged the public to remain alert. Addressing parliament on Monday, she praised the security services for their quick work in rounding up suspects but said a threat remained.
In Amman, Jordan, the father of Mohammed Asha described his son as a good Muslim, not a fanatic, and expressed incredulity that he could be involved in an al Qaeda-style bomb plot.
"I am sure Mohammed does not have any links of this nature because his history in Jordan and since he was a kid does not include any kind of activity of this nature," he told Reuters.
He said Mohammed and his wife were happy with their lives in Britain and had had a son here about 18 months ago.
Police and ministers said protective security measures would be stepped up across Britain, particularly at transport hubs.
Dave Bryon, an aviation consultant and former director of British airline bmibaby, said attacks on airports posed a less controllable security threat than those targeting flights.
"When it's a landside incident you actually have very limited control, because not only have you got travellers, but you have people meeting and greeting, people dropping off ... and the taxi drivers and chauffeurs," he said.
The Brisbane Times, Reuters, AAP.
Terror Timeline: The foiled car bombs
Since paramedics stumbled on a car bomb in central London, events have rapidly unfolded to an inquiry that reaches as far as Australia.
Friday June 29, 1.25am:An ambulance is called to the Tiger Tiger nightclub in central London to treat a person who had been injured in a fall. Paramedics notice smoke coming from a Mercedes parked in front of the club in Haymarket, in the West End, and alert police.
2am: A police bomb squad find the car is packed with petrol, nails, gas cylinders and a detonator. The squad defuse the explosives.
2.30am: A second Mercedes parked illegally in Cockspur Street, which runs between Haymarket and Trafalgar Square, is ticketed, then towed away an hour later to a car compound off Park Lane.
1.40pm: Jacqui Smith, the new Home Secretary, says the UK is "currently facing the most serious and sustained threat".
2pm: Police close Park Lane to investigate the second Mercedes after attendants at the compound report smelling gasoline. Officers also briefly close Fleet Street to investigate a suspicious vehicle which is later declared safe.
9pm: Scotland Yard says the Park Lane Mercedes contained similar explosives materials to the first car. No suspects are identified.
Saturday June 30, 3.00pm: Minutes before the attack on Glasgow Airport, detectives try to contact a lettings agency in the village of Houston, near the airport. It later emerges that the agency let a property to one of the men involved in the incident.
3.15 pm: Two men ram a Jeep Cherokee into the main entrance at Glasgow's international airport. The vehicle crashes into the glass doors and bursts into flames before the two occupants are wrestled to the ground and arrested by police. One suspect suffers serious burns and is taken to hospital, where his condition is critical. The other man is later named as Iraqi doctor Bilal Abdullah.
8.15pm: The Government raises Britain's security alert level to critical - the highest possible level, indicating terror attacks are "imminent".
8.40pm: Prime Minister Gordon Brown urges Britons in a televised address to be vigilant and support the emergency services.
9.15pm: Another two people, a 26-year-old man and a 27-year-old woman, are arrested on the M6 in Cheshire in connection with the attacks. Police sources later name the man as Dr Mohammed Asha, 26, of Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire. The woman, dressed in traditional Muslim dress, is believed to be his wife.
9.30pm: Police say the attack on Glasgow airport and the attempted car bombings in London's West End are linked.
Sunday July 1, 12.50pm: Police confirm a fifth person, a 27-year-old man, has been arrested in Liverpool in connection with the national terror alert.
4.15pm: Officers say a controlled explosion was carried out on a car at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley, where one of suspected Glasgow airport attackers was taken after being injured.
Monday July 2, 12.00pm: Detectives say two more men, aged 28 and 25, were arrested at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley.
3.30pm: Ms Smith tells the Commons that 19 addresses have now been searched as part of the fast-moving inquiry.
6:10pm: Strathclyde Police confirm that two more controlled explosions have been carried out on a vehicle in the car park of the Royal Alexandra Hospital.
8.45pm: A man is arrested in Stansted Airport by police investigating a suspect bag.
9:00pm: Scotland Yard say an eighth person was arrested tonight in connection with car bomb attacks on Glasgow Airport and London.
Tuesday July 3, 1.30am: Australian police announce they detained a man at Brisbane Airport after receiving advice from UK authorities. The man, a 27-year-old registrar at Gold Coast Hospital, in Queensland, had been due to get on a international flight, with a one-way ticket. Australian police say they are also interviewing a second doctor.
4.55am: Police say a controlled explosion has been carried out on a suspicious vehicle parked outside Forth Street Mosque in Glasgow.