LONDON (AFP) – Police held up to six doctors in connection with the failed bombings in London and Glasgow after an Indian physician was detained Tuesday in Australia, officials and reports said.
A Jordanian neurosurgeon and an Iraqi doctor were also among the eight suspects now under questioning as the investigation spread around the world.
With Britain still on top alert for a new Al-Qaeda style attack, police carried out a controlled explosion on a car near a Glasgow mosque early Tuesday. A British security source told AFP that the group had a bomb factory in the Scottish city.
The source also said all of the people implicated in the plot so far were working in the British state health system and that all the suspects were from Middle East countries.
British newspapers said up to five of the suspects already held in Britain were doctors.
A 27-year-old Indian, detained in Australia, became the sixth doctor implicated in the plot.
Following a British police tip, the man was arrested at Brisbane airport as he tried to leave the country, Australian officials said.
The Indian had been working since September in the Gold Coast Hospital in eastern Queensland state. Australian police were also questioning a second doctor, Queensland Premier Peter Beattie told reporters. Both were recruited from the English city of Liverpool.
Beattie told reporters “the doctor was regarded by the hospital in many senses to be a model citizen.”
The suspects in custody include a Jordanian surgeon named by officials in Amman as Mohammed Jamil Abdelkader Asha, and his wife. The Jordanian’s offices in a British hospital were searched Monday.
British media identified one of the two Glasgow attackers as an Iraqi doctor named Bilal Abdulla.
Police refused to comment on BBC reports that all those arrested were from the Middle East.
They said however there are “ever clearer” links between the Glasgow attack and the failed bombings in London, adding that both investigations were now under the control of the London police’s Counter-Terrorism Command.
The first arrests were made Saturday when police detained two men who drove a blazing Jeep Cherokee loaded with gas canisters into the doors of Glasgow airport’s main terminal. One of them remains in critical condition in hospital with severe burns.
That attack came just a day after two Mercedes cars laden with gas canisters and nails were found abandoned in London’s entertainment district.
Britain remains on the highest national security threat level, meaning another attack is feared to be imminent.
Anti-terrorist officers later arrested a 26-year-old man and a 27-year-old woman, believed to be Asha and his wife, on a motorway in northwest England. They are now being questioned in London.
A fifth suspect, a 26-year-old man, was arrested in Liverpool on Saturday night. On Sunday, two other men, aged 25 and 28, were detained outside Glasgow.
Police were given permission Monday to detain five of the suspects so far arrested until Saturday under anti-terror laws.
“I’m very encouraged by the progress” made in the investigation, said Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, who made a defiant statement to lawmakers. “It is through our unity that the terrorists will eventually be defeated,” she said.
Seeking to ease fears of a new Al-Qaeda-style campaign, the government called a new meeting of its so-called COBRA crisis cell, the fifth in four days.
The security source told AFP that the “bomb factory” which produced the explosive ingredients for both the London and Glasgow attacks was near the Scottish city.
Some commentators have cast doubt on how well-trained the London and Glasgow attackers were.
London’s Evening Standard newspaper reported that the London bombings failed to explode because of a technical problem with mobile phones, left in the cars, that were supposed to detonate the gas canisters.
The perpetrators called one of the mobiles twice and the other four times. Neither bomb detonated, and detectives used the calls logged to trace those responsible, the paper said.