Britain marked the second anniversary of the London suicide bombings Saturday, a grim reminder as the country confronted a new wave of terrorism, and an Iraqi doctor appeared in court on charges linked to the most recent foiled attacks.
Bilal Abdullah, a 27-year-old doctor born in Britain and raised in Iraq, appeared in a London court amid tight security after he and another man allegedly crashed a gas-laden Jeep Cherokee into the main terminal of Scotland’s largest airport.
Accused of conspiring to cause explosions, he is the first to be charged of eight suspects arrested over foiled car bomb attacks in London and Glasgow a week ago. Abdullah, who spoke only to confirm his name and birth date, was ordered to appear at London’s Central Criminal Court on July 27.
Two cars packed with gas cylinders and nails were discovered in London — one outside a crowded nightclub, the other near Trafalgar Square. The Jeep Cherokee smashed into the security barriers at Glasgow airport, Scotland’s busiest.
The charge against Abdullah refers to a plot taking place between Jan. 1 and July 1, suggesting prosecutors believe the attacks were planned well in advance. Two of the suspects had made inquiries about working in the United States, the FBI said Friday.
Prosecutors suspect Abdullah and Kafeel Ahmed, believed to be the driver of the Jeep, carried out the attempted bombings in London — in which two explosives-packed Mercedes were left in the heart of the city — before returning to Scotland and attacking the airport the next day. In India, a lawyer for the Ahmed family confirmed that Kafeel’s brother, Sabeel, was detained in the attack.
Britain remains on “severe” terrorism alert — the second-highest level — in the wake of the attacks. Police added patrols around the capital, where the first leg of the Tour de France bicycle race was taking place Saturday, along with the July 7 bombing anniversary, the Wimbledon tennis tournament, and a Live Earth concert starring Madonna.
‘My memories are all so fresh’
Brown and other government ministers left wreaths outside King’s Cross rail and subway station in a somber remembrance of the bombings.
“It’s amazing that it was two years ago,” said John Salding, 63, whose girlfriend was among the 52 people killed in the 2005 suicide bombings. “My memories are all so fresh.”
Beverli Rhodes, 46, was on one of the trains when a bomb exploded. She was thrown against a metal pole and suffered brain damage. She says she’s still haunted by the bombings.
“I (still) won’t go on the Underground,” she said.
The four suicide bombers struck three underground trains and one double-decker bus in 2005 in an attack with a trail leading back to al-Qaida training camps in Pakistan. More than 700 people were injured in the rush-hour attacks.
Counterterrorism agents say they have foiled several attacks since then in Britain — a trans-Atlantic airliner plot last August in which a group planned to blow up as many as 10 airplanes and the most recent failed car bomb attacks in London and Glasgow.
Besides Abdullah, seven other suspects remain in custody in the latest foiled attacks, including Kafeel Ahmed, who is hospitalized in critical condition in Scotland with severe burns. They have not been charged.
In India, the Ahmed family’s lawyer, Mohammed Javed, said the family talked to the other brother, Sabeel, several days ago while he was in detention, and he told them he was fine. He declined to comment further.
Connection to U.S.
An FBI spokeswoman said Mohammed Asha and another suspect had contacted the Philadelphia-based Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates.
Asha, a Jordanian physician of Palestinian heritage, contacted the agency within the last year, but apparently did not take the test for foreign medical school graduates, said the spokeswoman, Nancy O’Dowd.
Most of the suspects worked for Britain’s health service. They come from countries in the Middle East and India. Seven of the suspects are being held in Britain and one in Australia.
Asha was arrested on a highway Saturday night along with his wife. In Jordan, security officials said he had no criminal record.
Britain’s intelligence agencies are focusing on the suspects’ international links, said one British intelligence official and another government official. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to the media.
Kafeel Ahmed was initially identified as Khalid Ahmed, a doctor from Lebanon, but later as Kafeel Ahmed from Bangalore, India.
In Australia, police seized computers from two hospitals Friday as they explored connections between the British plotters and Muhammad Haneef, an Indian doctor arrested there.
In Glasgow, several hundred people — from Muslims to Quakers, teenagers to trade unionists — demonstrated Saturday against terrorism. Some held placards reading “One Scotland, One Message — No to Terrorism” and “Scotland United Against Terror.”