LONDON (AP) – 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 was charged in the most recent foiled attacks.
Bilal Abdullah, a 27-year-old doctor born in Britain and raised in Iraq, was to appear in a London court after he and another man allegedly crashed a gas-laden Jeep Cherokee outside the main terminal of Scotland’s largest airport. He is one of eight suspects accused in foiled car bomb attacks in London and Glasgow a week ago.
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, not far from where British Prime Minister Gordon Brown was born.
Police added patrols around the capital where the first leg of the Tour de France cycle race was taking place Saturday, along with the July 7 bombing anniversary, the Wimbledon tennis tournament, and a Live Earth concert starring Madonna.
“It’s amazing that it was two years ago,” said John Salding, 63, whose girlfriend was amongst the 52 people killed in the 2005 suicide bombings. “My memories are all so fresh.”
Brown and other government ministers left wreaths at the King’s Cross subway station in a somber remembrance of the bombings.
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, killing 52 people and themselves in an attack with a trail leading back to al-Qaeda training camps in Pakistan. More than 700 people were injured in the rush-hour attacks.
Counter-terrorism agents have foiled several attacks since then in Britain, a trans-Atlantic airliner plot last August where 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 a man hospitalized in critical condition in Scotland with severe burns.
Two of the suspects had made inquiries about working in the United States, the FBI said Friday. 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 Asha 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.
Police also are reportedly trying to determine if Abdullah and the alleged driver of the Jeep, Kafeel Ahmed, had taken part in the attempted bombings in London and whether they were the ringleaders of a cell containing all the suspects.
Ahmed was initially identified as Khalid Ahmed, a doctor from Lebanon, but later as Kafeel Ahmed from Bangalore, India, who holds a doctorate in aeronautical engineering and studied at Queen’s University in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and Anglia Polytechnic University in Cambridge, England.
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.