Sat, Jul 07, 2007 - Page 6 News List

UK police examine links between bombing suspects

INVESTIGATIVE FOCUS On Thursday, police were still examining a house that authorities believe was the site where the plotters made the bombs

AP , GLASGOW, SCOTLAND

When two doctors crashed a Jeep Cherokee into Glasgow's Airport and then set it on fire in a desperate attempt to ignite crude bombs, it was clear to a policeman on the scene that they were on a suicide mission.

"They did not have a plan B," said Sergeant Torquil Campbell, who apprehended suspects Bilal Abdulla and Khalid Ahmed after the botched attempt to wreak havoc among Scottish vacationers packing the airport terminal.

"They both appeared very calm and collected, very assured of themselves," Campbell said on Thursday on Sky TV. "They had nothing else to do -- it was as if they were waiting there to get blown up."

Baggage handler John Smeaton jumped into the fray, helping police grappling with the suspects.

"I got a kick in," he told the Guardian newspaper. "Other passengers were getting kicks in, too. The flames were going in two directions."

The eight suspects arrested in last Saturday's airport attack and two failed car bombings a day earlier in London were all foreigners working for Britain's state health system, and investigators are pressing to find what brought them together. They are also looking for links between the six Middle Eastern suspects and two Indian nationals arrested in the case.

Police have refused to release "operational details" of the case. But the investigation would now be at the analysis stage, said Bob Ayers, a former US intelligence officer now at Chatham House, an international affairs think tank in London.

"They've got all the evidence they're ever going to have. There may still information coming in, but it will be based on what they've already got, like DNA from the cars," Ayers said.

Using mobile phones recovered from two Mercedes sedans loaded with gasoline and propane tanks in London and other telephone records, authorities are building up a "link analysis" of what calls were made, Ayers said.

"They're recreating the network of all the people involved and building that network using cellphone records, computer records, DNA, fingerprints -- anything that will establish who was communicating with whom," he said.

At least five of those in custody appear to have some link to Glasgow's Royal Alexandra Hospital.

Ahmed, identified by staff at the hospital as a Lebanese physician employed there, is now being treated at the facility for horrific burns suffered when he set himself on fire after crashing the Jeep loaded with rudimentary bombs into the airport's main terminal last Saturday.

Abdulla, a passenger in the Jeep, is an Iraqi doctor employed by Royal Alexandra, and a doctor there has said a Jordanian physician held in the case had an office at the hospital.

Two other suspects, men aged 25 and 28 whose identities have not been revealed, were arrested at the hospital's residences. Staff described them as a junior doctor and a medical student.

On Thursday, police were still examining a Glasgow house rented by Abdulla, which a British security official said authorities believed was the site where the plotters made the bombs used in both the London and the airport attacks.

Neighbor Susan Hay said that police said they were "stripping" the home on Thursday morning to look for fingerprints and other forensic materials. A large tent -- set up last Sunday -- screened the garage.

Shiraz Maher, a former member of a radical Islamic group, said earlier this week that he knew Abdulla at Cambridge University and described the suspect as a hardline Muslim.

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