This item is available on the Militant Islam Monitor website, at http://www.militantislammonitor.org/article/id/3754
December 16, 2008
Glasgow Airport terror attack: Bomber found guilty
TORCUIL CRICHTON, Chief UK political correspondent December 16 2008 The Herald (Glasgow)
An NHS doctor who launched terrorist attacks at Glasgow Airport and a London nightclub last year has been found guilty by a jury at Woolwich Crown Court. Bilal Abdulla, a 29-year old British-born Iranian, was found guilty of conspiring to cause murder and conspiring to cause explosions in a case that shook Scotland out of its complacency over Islamist terrorism. Jordanian Dr Mohammed Asha was found not guilty of conspiring to cause murder and conspiring to cause explosions.
Abdulla and Kafeel Ahmed, who died following the attack, were behind the unsuccessful attempt to set off two car bombs in central London and a suicide attack on Glasgow Airport in June 2007. No one was killed in either attack as the combination of gas cylinders, nails and petrol inside the vehicles failed to ignite, a stroke of good luck that police attributed to the inexperience of the doctors turned murderers.
Abdulla was arrested at the scene at Glasgow Airport after a Green Cherokee jeep was driven into the doors of the main departure hall on what was the airport's busiest day of the year. Ahmed, the driver of the jeep, was severely burnt in the attack and died of his injuries four weeks later. Dr Asha, 28, who was described as the shadowy financial backer and the spiritual supporter for the mission, was arrested on the M6 motorway near his Staffordshire home in the aftermath of the attacks. The respected neurosurgeon, a married father of one, was the first person that Abdulla contacted after the failed London bombing attempt and was in touch with the bombers at every stage of planning.
The three men had met as students in Cambridge in 2000. However, the jury decided that Dr Asha should be cleared of both charges he faced. Over eight weeks the seven-woman five-man jury at Woolwich Crown court heard evidence how Abdulla, who worked at Paisley's Royal Alexandra hospital, and Ahmed turned a rented house eigh miles away at 6 Neuk Cresent in Houston into a bomb factory.
The prosecution detailed the movements of the men and the discovery of two Mercedes car bombs loaded with gas cylinders, petrol and nails in the early hours of June 29 last year. One car was left in Haymarket outside the Tiger, Tiger nightclub and the second was left at a bus stop in adjoining Cockspur Street. The bombs failed because of loose connections in the phone detonators and the smothering effect of petrol and gas fumes, jurors heard. The next day, with police closing in on the suspects, a Jeep carrying a similar cargo was crashed into Glasgow Airport in an attempted suicide attack.
Hundreds of travellers fled in terror after the vehicle caught fire and dense, black smoke filled the terminal. Abdulla was arrested after throwing petrol bombs and fighting with police while his companion Ahmed, who later died, doused himself in petrol and set himself alight. Both men in the dock denied the charges against them. Dr Asha claimed he knew nothing of the conspiracy and Dr Abdulla admitted he was motivated by revenge for the Western invasion of his Iraqi homeland but he claimed he wanted to cause damage to property not people
Glasgow Airport terror attack: Timeline of the plot
SEPTEMBER 2004: Kafeel Ahmed arrives in Cambridge to begin his PhD studies at the Anglia Ruskin University.
He moved to the city after completing a degree course at Queen's University, Belfast.
Bilal Abdulla also arrives in Cambridge to study, after completing his degree at the University of Baghdad. Abdulla had first arrived in Cambridge in 1999 on his British passport but returned to Iraq in 2000 after failing to get on to a degree course. He also took a holiday in England in 2002.JANUARY 2005: Mohammad Asha arrives in the UK for a short research posting at Addenbrooke's hospital, Cambridge. During this time he is introduced to Abdulla and Ahmed at the city's Abu Bakr Mosque. Dr Asha had previously completed a similar posting at Addenbrooke's in June 2003.
AUGUST 7 2006: Abdulla starts work at the Inverclyde Royal Hospital in Greenock.
DECEMBER 5: Abdulla's contract at Inverclyde expires and he later begins work as a junior house officer in the medical department at the Royal Alexandra Hospital, Paisley.
FEBRUARY 26: In a Yahoo! Internet messenger conversation Ahmed tells Abdulla experiments' will get under way. This is the first recorded message that work on the bomb plot has begun.
APRIL 17: Abdulla views three-bedroom semi-detached house in 6 Neuk Crescent, Houston, near Glasgow, which will become the bomb factory'.
APRIL 28: Abdulla moves in to Neuk Crescent, eight miles away from Paisley's Royal Alexandra Hospital, where he is working.
MAY 5: Kafeel Ahmed arrives at Heathrow from Bangalore, India, and is collected by Abdulla. The pair then rent a Peugeot.
MAY 6: Abdulla and Ahmed leave Stoke and head north to the bomb factory in Scotland and return the hire car to Glasgow airport
MAY 19/20: Abdulla and Ahmed travel down to London in a rented Vauxhall Astra for a reconnaissance'. They stay at the Newham Hotel in Forest Gate, east London. They are caught on CCTV studying intended targets' in the City late at night. Credit card records locate them in the West End near the Haymarket. They also go on a tourist bus trip of prominent landmarks including Buckingham Palace, 10 Downing Street and Parliament.
MAY 24: Abdulla orders first electrical components for the detonators via the internet from RS Components.
MAY 25: Electrical equipment worth £77.08 bought from Maplin in Glasgow.
MAY 29: Ahmed drives to Keighley, West Yorks, and buys tools and a large quantity of nails and screws from B&Q. In Beeston, Leeds, he buys the first patio gas canister and a propane regulator.
JUNE 2: Ahmed buys the G-reg green Mercedes, later used outside Tiger Tiger, for £700 from David Addison in Warrington, Cheshire. Ahmed used the name Dr Gupta. The car had been advertised on the AutoTrader website.
JUNE 3: Ahmed and Abdulla pay £600 for an F-reg white BMW 525 from John Watson in Glasgow. Ahmed again used the name Dr Gupta. The car was later found abandoned in the car park of the Royal Alexandra hospital by police.
JUNE 5: Ahmed, using the name Parveen Kumar, buys a silver K-reg Mercedes 200E from Thomas Comerford in Broad Green, Liverpool. But after paying £650 cash, Ahmed discovers Mr Comerford is a policeman and within 25 minutes dumps the car in the John Lennon Airport long stay car park, where it is retrieved by police.
JUNE 6: Ahmed travels alone to Sheffield to buy a blue K-reg Mercedes, also advertised in AutoTrader, for £900. This was the second bomb car left in Cockspur Street, central London, driven by Ahmed.
JUNE 8: More electrical components bought from the Maplin store in Glasgow
JUNE 13: Abdulla and Ahmed rent a silver Vauxhall Vectra from Glasgow airport on June 13. It is never returned and found abandoned on July 1.
JUNE 15: Abdulla makes a further internet order from RS Components. Two 25-litre water carriers, oil and batteries bought by Ahmed from Halfords in Hermiston Gate Retail Park in Edinburgh. He travels to Halfords in Dunfermline to buy more containers, oil and batteries
JUNE 16: Ahmed and Abdulla buy metallic green Jeep Cherokee, L-registered, from Albert Harrison, in Hartlepool, after the car was advertised in AutoTrader. Ahmed pays £600 in cash and used the name Rao Kameshwara, from Failsworth, Manchester on the registration documents. Both men had driven down in the Vauxhall Vectra.
Third internet order for electrical equipment from RS Components.
JUNE 18: At Halfords in Preston, Ahmed buys two more 10-litre water carriers, mineral oil and putty. Then at B&Q in Blackburn, Lancashire, he buys another patio gas canister and regulator.
JUNE 19: Ahmed buys aprons, wire rope, tubing and a blow lamp from B&Q, Glasgow.
JUNE 20: Abdulla takes two week holiday from Royal Alexandra Hospital.
JUNE 22: Abdulla and Ahmed visit B&Q in Delph Lane, Warrington, after meeting at the train station. They enter and leave the shop separately, but buy a patio gas canister. They travel to B&Q in Preston and buy another canister. Again they enter and leave the shop separately.
JUNE 23: Both men visit Halfords at the Kingsinch Retail Park in Glasgow to buy a 20-litre jerry can and vehicle bulbs. That night they go to Tesco in Kilbirnie to buy duvets and pillows, later used to cover the gas canisters in the back of the bomb cars. Abdulla is caught on CCTV at a Shell garage in Paisley and a BP in Pollockshaws Road, Glasgow, filling jerry cans with petrol.
JUNE 24: The two men travel south from Scotland to the Snipe Retail Park in Ashton Under Lyme to buy a further gas canister and a 20-litre petrol can.
JUNE 25: Abdulla fills a jerry can with petrol at a Tesco in Helensburgh.
JUNE 26: Bombers buy tyre sealant, a car charger for a satellite navigation system and a can of motor oil from Halfords in Rutherglen Road in Glasgow.
JUNE 27: Final purchases for the bomb vehicles. Butane canisters, a volt metre and tyre weld are bought from Halfords in Clydebank, walkie talkie radios bought from Maplin in Great Western Road, Glasgow, propane gas cylinders, gloves bought from B&Q in Strathkelvin Retail Park, Glasgow. Later batteries, oil and adhesive bought from Halfords in Bishopsbriggs, plus butane gas and blu-tack. Motor oil and duvets bought from Asda on same retail park and in Argos two umbrellas paid for. Abdulla books a hotel room for June 29 in the Newham Hotel, Waltham Cross, east London
JUNE 28: Abdulla and Ahmed prepare the two Mercedes bomb cars in the garage of 6 Neuk Crescent. They had called and tested the mobile phones used in the home made detonators in the early hours of the morning.
In afternoon both cars begin the journey to London. They stop at the Annandale Water service station on the M74 to buy umbrellas at 4.20pm. Just after 7pm they stop at the Knutsford Services on the M6 to eat. At 10.57pm there is a brief stop at the Toddington Services on the M1.
12.08am the cars stop at the London Gateway Services at junction three of the M1 and both are filled up with petrol.JUNE 30:
12.39am the cars are caught on traffic cameras at Marble Arch. They drive along Weymouth Street, Portland Place, Regent Street, Piccadilly Circus, Coventry Street, Panton Street, Haymarket, Pall Mall and Piccadilly Circus for a second time.
At 1.18am Ahmed parks the blue Mercedes in a bus stop in Cockspur Street.
1.24am: Abdulla parks in Haymarket outside the main entrance to Tiger Tiger. He spends several minutes sat inside the car pouring petrol in the footwells and across the seats and arming the electrical circuit. He is caught on the nightclub's CCTV running across the Haymarket. Both had umbrellas to conceal their faces from cameras.
1.40am: Club staff and paramedics at the scene on an unconnected matter raise the alarm.
1.43am: The first emergency services staff arrive.
1.53am and 1.56am: Calls are made to the telephone detonators in both Mercedes, but the bombs do not explode.
2.05am: The two bombers meet up in Edgware Road after taking separate rickshaw rides.
2.30am: A traffic warden issues a ticket for the blue Mercedes parked in a bus stop in Cockspur Street.
2.46am: The men walk in to the reception area of the Newham Hotel in Romford Road, Forest Gate.
3.14am: The car is towed to the Park Lane car pound and is later traced by police where it is disarmed by expert officers.
3.30am The bomb is finally made safe
1.34am Ahmed uploads his will and suicide note in to the drafts folder of his Google Mail account.JULY 1: Police begin searches of Neuk Crescent. There is so much material it takes 14 days to complete.
5.29am: Abdulla sends an email to his consultant at the Royal Alexandra Hospital, purporting to be from his sister, in which he claims to have been severely injured while on holiday and is unlikely to walk again.
Just after 8am the two men, having packed the Jeep with fuel and shrapnel, drive north from Houston to Loch Lomond where they remain until 2pm. During this time Ahmed sends a text message to his brother explaining how to access the Google Mail documents.
3.04pm: CCTV cameras at Glasgow airport capture the Jeep arriving.
3.13pm: Ahmed smashes the Jeep in to the entrance doors of the terminal, impaling the front of the vehicle on a metal post. He tries desperately to free the Jeep but is unable to do so. Abdulla throws petrol bombs from the passenger seats, before Ahmed douses himself in petrol and sets it alight. CCTV from inside the terminal shows hundreds of holidaymakers and passengers running for safety, many abandoning luggage to escape.
The two men are tackled by members of the public and police officers. They are eventually detained and arrested.
9pm: Asha is arrested as he drives with his wife and son north up the M6. He has been under surveillance since around 11am and has been watched nervously dumping documents linking him to Abdulla in bins at two supermarkets in Stoke. Police begin searches at his home.
JULY 6: Abdulla is charged with conspiracy to cause explosions
JULY 14: Sabeel Ahmed is charged having information which he knew or believed may be of material assistance in preventing the commission by another of an act of terrorism'.
JULY 19: - Asha is charged with conspiracy to cause explosions.
AUGUST 2: Ahmed dies from severe burns. He has been in the Royal Alexandra hospital and the Glasgow Royal Infirmary for five weeks.
APRIL 11 2008 - Sabeel Ahmed, 26, Ahmed's brother and a doctor working in Liverpool, was jailed for 18 months at the Old Bailey for failing to disclose information. He followed his brother's instructions and refused to inform police about what he knew of the plot, details of which had been emailed to him. He has since been released and deported to India.
DECEMBER 16 2008 - Abdulla is convicted of conspiracy to cause murder and explosions. His co-defendant Dr Asha is clearedGlasgow Airport terror attack: Profile Mohammed Asha
Profile of Mohammed Asha
Regarded as an outstanding junior neurologist by staff at the University Hospital of North Staffordshire, Mohammad Asha was accused of working behind the scenes to support the terrorist conspiracy, providing advice and cash to pay for some of the equipment.
But in court the Saudi born Jordanian doctor sought to portray himself as a completely different man from his co-defendant Abdulla, whom he had met as a student in Cambridge. Dr Asha was described as a pacifist, a decent man devoted to his young family and dedicated to his medical career.
In the immediate aftermath of the failed London bombings Dr Asha was the first person called by the bombers. Dr Asha claimed he was "completely unaware" of the conspiracy even when the bombers visited him en-route from the failed London explosion to Glasgow.He was today cleared of all the charges he faced. Glasgow Airport terror attack: Profiles of the bombers
Profile of Bilal Abdulla Bilal Abdulla, who worked as a diabetes specialist at the Royal Alexandra Hospital, was arrested at the scene at Glasgow airport.
His guilt was not in doubt but he denied the charges against him and claimed he wanted to make a spectacular protest without harming people.
The nails packed around the bombs left outside the Tiger Tiger nightclub suggested otherwise.The 29 year old British born Iraq came from a middle-class Sunni Muslim family with a long tradition in medicine and regarded England as his second home.
As an elite student in Iraq he came to Britain to pursue medicine where he met his co-conspirators. He had to leave the UK after failing to secure funding to complete a medical degree.
Frustrated he returned to Iraq and was radicalised, he claimed, by the insurgency that followed the US and British invasion in 2003. Police believe Abdulla may have fought coalition troops after joining a band of Mujihadeen fighters in 2006.
Profile of Kafeel Ahmed Kafeel Ahmed, the driver of the Green Jeep, died from severe burns four weeks after the attacks on Glasgow airport. The image of him ablaze from head to foot created the defining symbol of the Glasgow airport bombing.
A PhD engineer Ahmed was the brains' in the terror cell who spent months in India working on a design for the car bombs.
He modelled the devices on those used by insurgent forces in Iraq, and designed an electrical circuit which would enable the bombs to be triggered by mobile phone detonators.
The eldest of three children, Ahmed was born in Bangalore in the Karnataka region of India in 1979. His parents Maqbool and Zakia are both doctors and worked in Saudi Arabia and Iran.
He arrived in the UK as a student on October 1 2001, studying in Belfast and Cambridge.During his time in Cambridge he became radicalised and mixed with members of the now outlawed Islamic group Hizb ut-Tahrir. It was here he also met Abdulla, who would become one of his closest friends.
Terror police 'a road away from stopping bombers'
By Chris Greenwood, Press Association (PA)
Tuesday, 16 December 2008
Counter terrorist police were "a road away" from intercepting the Glasgow Airport bombers as they set off on their suicide mission. Detectives chasing the on-the-run Islamic extremists were moments from preventing the terrifying car bomb attack on the airport terminal.
Police sources said officers reached the al-Qa'ida-inspired terror cell's bomb factory just moments after Bilal Abdulla and Kafeel Ahmed left on 30 June last year.
The address was traced after "urgent and frantic" examination of mobile phones found in two West End car bombs that failed to explode the previous day.
But the men had already left for Loch Lomond in a powerful four-wheel drive Jeep Cherokee hastily loaded with gas cylinders, petrol and nails.
The men spent eight hours at the beauty spot praying and preparing for a suicide attack as police continued their massive manhunt.
Officers traced them to the area of the loch but, armed only with poor quality CCTV images and no description of their vehicle, could not find them.
Meanwhile the semi-detached family home at Neuk Crescent, near Houston, was put under surveillance.
Hours later, after the airport attack, the front door was smashed down to reveal an astonishing hoard of bomb-making materials.
Officers discovered the conspirators planned a wave of car bombings with enough materials for at least two more devices.
One senior detective said: "We were literally a road away from them at the time they left for the next attack. That shows we very nearly got it right. We were very close to finding them at Neuk Crescent."
During the trial Abdulla said he joked "those guys are useless" as he and Ahmed were not stopped by police as they drove away from the bomb factory.
The discovery of two car bombs in the heart of London's West End the previous day caught counter terrorist police completely by surprise.
Officers were shocked to link four highly-educated professionals, including three NHS doctors, to the conspiracy.
The discovery prompted Prime Minister Gordon Brown to review health service recruitment and raised questions about the UK's dependence on foreign medics.
Abdulla was a junior doctor at the Royal Alexandra Hospital, Paisley, while Ahmed was an Indian PhD aeronautical engineering student.
Asha, a high-flying neurologist at the University Hospital of North Staffordshire, was also arrested.
He was acquitted of terrorist offences today at Woolwich Crown Court and is expected to return to Jordan.
Ahmed's brother Sabeel, then an NHS doctor working at hospitals in Warrington and Halton, Cheshire, was also held.
He admitted withholding information about the attacks from police earlier this year but was not involved in the plot.
Investigators said they were shocked to learn of the men's responsible, health sector backgrounds. The detective added: "Just the whole idea of people who take the Hippocratic oath who then go on to wantonly seek to destroy human life in the most horrific way imaginable. That is what I find shocking, on a personal level, as well as a professional."
Police discovered Abdulla and Ahmed were driven by an intoxicating combination of jihadi rhetoric and rage at the suffering of fellow Muslims.
Abdulla joined militia fighters in Baghdad as the city descended into chaos following the 2003 invasion by coalition forces.
Ahmed, whose family live in Bangalore, was inspired by rebel fighters in disputed Kashmir and on fundamentalist websites.
In their wills, both Abdulla and Ahmed admitted acting on behalf of a mystery "emir" [leader].
Security services suspect Abdulla was sent to London by senior insurgent figures who saw his British passport as his greatest weapon.
They have not revealed if they traced any communications between Abdulla and other figures in Iraq since he first travelled here.
Nevertheless, just hours before the attacks, one chat room often used by al-Qa'ida supporters posted a prophetic message.
A frequent visitor to the al Hesbah website wrote: "Today I say: 'Rejoice, by Allah, London shall be bombed."'
The terrorists spent hours online meticulously researching improvised vehicle bombs using gas cylinders on Islamic extremist websites.
The Mercedes cars, packed with gas cylinders, petrol and nails, were modelled on improvised bombs deployed to deadly effect by insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan.
One was left outside the entrance to Tiger, Tiger, a trendy night-spot in Haymarket, close to Piccadilly Circus, packed with 550 late-night revellers.
The second car, parked in adjoining Cockspur Street near a night bus stop, was designed to kill and maim those fleeing the first blast.
Two sophisticated mobile phone initiators, each showing up to four missed calls, were found in each vehicle. The carefully-adapted phones were the centrepiece of the bombmakers' deadly plan to launch an extended bombing campaign across Britain.
But they gifted vital clues to police when the cars failed to explode through a combination of loose wiring and the smothering effects of the petrol and gas vapour.
Their final strategy bore chilling echoes of a series of previous al Qaida-inspired terrorist attacks.
Terrorist Dhiren Barot plotted to park limousines packed with gas cylinders and petrol in underground car parks.
The choice of nightclubs as targets was also reminiscent of the so-called fertiliser bomb gang led by Omar Khyam.
One member of his cell dreamed of slaughtering "slags" as they danced in a West End nightclub.
Police found evidence the cell considered targeting music festivals in Cambridge, Leeds and Manchester as well as Soho pubs and events in Cambridge.
Abdulla also wanted to launch the attacks on a significant date at the start of Mr Brown's term in Downing Street but it was delayed because he was so busy at work.
The police source added: "These men were intending to commit murder on an indiscriminate and wholesale scale.
"In addition to killing innocent members of the public, their objective was to seize publicity both here and abroad.
"We believe the defendants knew the public would be gripped by fear, not knowing when there would be another terrorist attack.
"If successful, we believe that many people would have died and been seriously injured, particularly young people who would have been enjoying themselves or on their way home after a night out.
"The repeated attempts to detonate the cars failed not through lack of effort, it was more a matter of luck than judgment that no one died that night."
One mystery that remains is whether the men recorded martyrdom videos for distribution on the internet.
Both Ahmed and Abdulla wrote wills intended to explain their actions to their families and other extremist followers.
Investigators discovered a badly-damaged video recorder in the shell of the burnt-out Jeep, but no tapes were found.
This item is available on the Militant Islam Monitor website, at http://www.militantislammonitor.org/article/id/3754