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Bin Laden gave "blessing" for UK doctors bomb plot

July 5, 2007

July 6, 2007

Bombing plots ‘were carried out with bin Laden's blessing'

undefined Deborah Haynes in Baghdad, Jeremy Page in Delhi and Martin Fletcher

The London and Glasgow bomb plots were carried out with the approval of Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaeda leader, a top foreign intelligence source said last night.

"It was an established fact from Day 1 that al-Qaeda was behind this and it was planned by its followers in Great Britain with bin Laden's blessing," the source told The Times.

British security officials were more guarded, saying that it was too early to say whether the plot was masterminded by some foreign hand or hatched in Britain.

The warning an al-Qaeda leader in Iraq delivered to Canon Andrew White, a British cleric working in Baghdad, in April certainly suggested that he knew of the doctors' plot. "Those who cure you will kill you," the man said.

The Times also learnt yesterday that Bilal Abdulla, 27, the Iraqi doctor who allegedly helped to drive a Jeep into the front of Glasgow airport last Saturday, disappeared for a year during his medical training in Baghdad. He is thought to have visited Pakistan or Lebanon.

A friend who attended the Medical College of Baghdad University with Dr Abdulla told The Times that he was a religious fanatic, and that in 2001 or 2002 he mysteriously abandoned his studies for a year.

"There was some talk that he went outside Iraq to develop his religious culture. I heard that he went to Lebanon or Pakistan," the friend said.

On his return Dr Abdulla adopted a much more intense demeanour and isolated himself from his former friends. "He became more radical, but not to the degree that he took part in actual actions or clashes. He kept silent and became more isolated. He prayed and he kept himself away from the rest of the group."

Dr Abdulla was born in Britain, where his father was working as a doctor, and has a British passport. His family returned to Baghdad when he was 5. He showed religious leanings from an early age, attending Friday prayer each week and even sounding the call to prayer from his grandfather's mosque.

At medical school he fell in with "a group of radicals and extremists". "They carried extremist thoughts," said a friend, who also went to the elite college. "They had beards and talked about religion. He was against people wearing Western clothes and asked female doctors to put on a headscarf and gloves."

After he graduated in 2004 he went overseas — the friend did not know where — and finally turned up in Scotland, where he worked at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley.

Dr Abdulla appears to have met some of the extremists during several periods he spent living in Cambridge. Police are presently searching several properties in the city.

One of those suspects is Khalid or Kafeel Ahmed, the man with whom Dr Abdulla drove a jeep into Glasgow airport. Mr Ahmed is thought to be another key figure, but he remains critically ill in the Royal Alexandra hospital in Paisley and his true role and identity remain unclear.

He was originally believed to be a doctor working at that hospital and the brother of Sabeel Ahmed, 26, the Indian doctor arrested in Liverpool last Saturday.

The Australian Medical Association said yesterday that a Khalid Ahmed applied numerous times, using slightly different names, to work as a doctor for the Western Australia Department of Health between February 2005 and January 2006. He was repeatedly rejected because his professional qualifications and character references were inadequate.

"It was quickly picked up in the process that he was the same bloke," a spokesman said.

Sabeel Ahmed also applied to work for the Western Australia Department of Health in January 2006. He made one unsuccessful application.

A cousin of Sabeel Ahmed in Bangalore told The Times yesterday that he did not have a brother called Khalid but did have one called Kafeel.

Investigators are still trying to piece together precisely how the eight suspects knew one another, but sources told The Times that a few could soon be released without charge.

A week after the event it also remains unclear whether the plot was directed from overseas or hatched by conspirators in Britain. "It's just too early to tell," a source said.

While Dr Abdulla appears to have been radicalised long before he arrived in Britain, other suspects may have been converted to the cause of Islamic militancy while living here.

The Government's new Office of Security and Counter-Terrorism is engaged in an intensive search for the "trigger point" that persuades Muslims who may dislike Britain's role in Iraq or the Middle East to engage in terrorist plots against the state.

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