Immigrants scrutinized in wake of terror plots
July 4, 2007 at 10:32 AM EDT
LONDON Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Wednesday the government will expand checks on immigrants taking skilled jobs and review recruiting for the National Health Service, which employed all eight suspects in last week's foiled terror plots.
A government security official said several of the men had been on a British intelligence watch list.
One of the suspects on the list had posted a comment on an Internet chat room condemning cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad published last year in Danish newspapers, The Evening Standard reported, citing unidentified intelligence sources.
A senior U.S. counterterrorism official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said none of the eight suspects was on any American lists of potential terror suspects.
It was unclear why the other suspects might have been put on the British list. One suspect, Iraqi doctor Bilal Abdulla, reportedly had links to radical Islamic groups, and several others were linked to extremist radicals listed on the database of MI5, the domestic intelligence agency, The Times of London reported.
The suspects were arrested in a series of raids across Britain after two car bombs failed to explode in London on Friday and two men tried to drive a vehicle loaded with gas cylinders into the main terminal at Glasgow's airport on Saturday.
Some, but not all, have turned up in a check of the databases, but they are not linked to any previous incident, the official said on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the material. The official said Britain's security services are currently watching around 1,600 people and have details logged of hundreds more.
Shiraz Maher, a former member of a radical Islamic group, said he knew Dr. Abdulla at Cambridge University.
He was certainly very angry about what was happening in Iraq. … He supported the insurgency in Iraq. He actively cheered the deaths of British and American troops in Iraq, he told BBC television's Newsnight.
He said Dr. Abdulla berated a Muslim roommate for not being devout enough, showing him a beheading video and warning this could happen to him. He also said he had a number of videos of al-Qaeda's former leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was killed by a U.S. airstrike last year.
Dr. Abdulla had been disciplined at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley, outside Glasgow, for spending too much time on the Internet, according to the Evening Standard.
Meanwhile, a senior British cleric working in Baghdad said Wednesday that he met with a suspected al-Qaeda leader in Jordan in April who warned of several British attacks and issued a cryptic warning.
It was so awful that, in my update for the day, I wrote that I have met with the devil today, Canon Andrew White told British Broadcasting Corp. radio. At one moment in the meeting he said, 'Those who cure you are going to kill you.'
Rev. White who runs Baghdad's only Anglican parish and has been involved in several hostage negotiations in Iraq said he did not understand the threat's significance at the time. Although he said he passed the general threat warning on to Britain's Foreign Office, Rev. White said he did not mention the comment, who could be interpreted as hinting at the involvement of doctors.
All eight of the suspects arrested following the car bombing attempts in London and Glasgow were employed or previously employed by Britain's National Health Service.
The suspects, whose names have not been confirmed by police, include two doctors from India, and one doctor apiece from Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan. The Jordanian doctor's wife also arrested is a medical assistant. Another doctor and a medical student are thought to be from the Mideast.
Some of the suspects worked as colleagues at hospitals in England and Scotland. Officials say the evidence points to the plot being hatched after they met in Britain, rather than overseas.
We'll expand the background checks that have been done where there are highly skilled migrant workers coming into this country, Brown told the House of Commons in his first appearance at the weekly prime minister's questions.
As a result of what has happened in the National Health Service, I have asked Lord West, the new terrorism minister, to conduct an immediate review as to what arrangements we must make in relation to recruitment, Brown said.
Investigators believe the main plotters have been rounded up, though others involved on the periphery, including at least one British-born suspect, were still being hunted, the British security official said.
The family of one suspect Muhammad Haneef, a 27-year-old doctor from India arrested Monday in Brisbane, Australia professed his innocence. He had worked at Liverpool before.
He has been detained unnecessarily. He is innocent, Qurat-ul-ain, Dr. Haneef's mother, told The Associated Press in the southern Indian city of Bangalore.
Ms. Sumaiya, Dr. Haneef's sister, said Wednesday he was coming to Bangalore to see his daughter, who was born a week ago. Ms. Sumaiya uses one name.
Dr. Haneef worked in 2005 at Halton Hospital near Liverpool in northern England, hospital spokesman Mark Shone said.
Another suspect arrested in Liverpool was named in British media as Sabeel Ahmed, but police refused to confirm his identity. He is believed to be a 26-year-old doctor.
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THE EIGHT: SOME BACKGROUND
The Globe and Mail