Man in London court on car bomb charge

10:10 PM, Jul 7, 2007   |    comments
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Bilal Abdullah, a 27-year-old doctor born in Britain and raised in Iraq, was the only person in City of Westminster Magistrates Court to remain seated when the judge entered the room to the customary cry of "All rise!"

Abdullah was asked to stand, and did, as the charge of conspiring to cause explosions was read out. 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.

Stocky, unshaven and wearing a white sweat shirt, he sat expressionless in the dock, speaking only to confirm his name and date of birth during the brief hearing. Seven other suspects have been detained over the foiled car bomb attacks.

His lawyers did not seek bail, and judge Anthony Evans ordered Abdullah held at a high-security prison until his next hearing, at London's Central Criminal Court on July 27.

Prosecutors suspect Abdullah and Kafeel Ahmed, believed to be the driver of the Jeep, carried out the attempted bombings in London before they returned to Scotland -- where Abdullah worked at a Glasgow-area hospital -- and attacked the airport.

One of the suspects is being held in Australia. There are seven detained in Britain, including a man hospitalized in critical condition in Scotland with severe burns from the attack on the airport.

He has been identified as 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. Abdullah also lived for a time in Cambridge, the quiet university city north of London.

Another suspect is Sabeel Ahmed, 26, an Indian doctor arrested in Liverpool, whom relatives confirmed is the brother of Kafeel Ahmed. In India, the Ahmed family's lawyer, Mohammed Javed, said the family spoke to Sabeel several days ago while he was in detention, and he told them he was fine. He declined to comment further.

Most of the suspects worked for Britain's health service and come from countries in the Middle East and 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. Police also questioned five other foreign doctors but later released them, said Australian attorney general Phillip Ruddock.

Ruddock said he could not rule out a report that attackers planned to trigger the London car bombs with mobile phone calls from Australia, though he said it was unlikely.

"It probably misstates what is in the public arena," Ruddock told Nine Network television of the theory reported in Britain's Daily Star tabloid newspaper.

Reports and officials say Haneef knew at least some of the suspects held in Britain and may have left a mobile phone with them when he moved to Australia last year.

"Some of the people who had been in the United Kingdom who had now come to Australia as temporary residents left behind telephones and SIM cards which other people were using," Ruddock said.

"I'm not sure there is a direct connection but look, I wouldn't want to foreclose any avenue of inquiry that the police are taking," he said.

The others in custody are Mohammed Asha, 26, a doctor arrested in central England; his wife, Marwa Asha; and two men aged 25 and 28 arrested at the hospital near Glasgow where Abdullah also worked. They have not been identified.

An Iraqi Interior Ministry spokesman said authorities were gathering information about Abdullah.

"This is the name of an Iraqi man and it is important for us to gather information about him and there will be cooperation between us and British authorities," Maj. Gen. Abdul-Karim Khalaf told The Associated Press.

Britain remains on "severe" terrorism alert -- the second-highest level -- in the wake of the attacks.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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