July 2, 2007 / 6:25 PM / 12 years ago

Two Arab doctors among bomb plot suspects

LONDON (Reuters) - Two Arab doctors, both licensed to work in Britain, are among seven people arrested in connection with two failed London car bombs and an attack on the Glasgow airport, a police source said on Monday.

The source named Bilal Abdulla, who qualified as a doctor in Baghdad in 2004, as one of the men held after ramming a jeep into the airport terminal and setting it alight in a spectacular fireball on Saturday.

Mohammed Asha, 26, a second doctor who qualified in Jordan the same year, was arrested with his wife on Saturday evening when unmarked police cars blocked a motorway in northern England to stop their car.

Scotland Yard police declined to comment on a report on the Web site Muslim News that another suspect, arrested in Liverpool, was also a doctor, from India. Authorities say the Glasgow attack and the London bombs are linked, and suspect radical Islamists of being behind them. None of the suspects has been charged, and police have up to four weeks to question them.

A security source told Reuters there was no indication the alleged plot involved bioterrorism or required specialist medical knowledge.

The source declined to discuss the individuals arrested but said that in previous investigations “we have seen people who are well educated, from good middle-class backgrounds. I don’t think it’s a surprise.”

The National Health Service employs large numbers of foreign doctors.

A spokeswoman for the General Medical Council, with whom both Abdulla and Asha are registered to work in Britain, said: “We are in contact with the police and will be cooperating with them where it’s appropriate to do so.”

Foreign doctors coming to Britain must pass written tests and a clinical examination, and inquiries are also made with their home universities.

“We validate your medical qualifications with the university where you studied, we validate your identity, we go through a series of checks,” spokeswoman Tanya Royer said.

Successful applicants gain ‘limited registration’, entitling them to work as junior doctors in Britain typically for six months to one year, with a maximum of five years, she said.

Royer said security vetting would be an issue for Britain’s Home Office, which has required visas only since last year for foreign doctors coming to work in the country.

A switchboard operator at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley, near Glasgow, said Abdulla worked there. Media reports said Asha worked as a neurologist at North Staffordshire Hospital in central England.

Police were carrying out searches at both sites on Monday.

Asha’s father Jameel said his son was a good Muslim who had never shown any interest in political Islam. “He prayed like any Muslim but was not a fanatic,” he told Reuters in Jordan, where Mohammed was raised, having been born in Saudi Arabia.

He said Mohammed and his wife arrived in Britain in late 2004 and had a son, Anas, who was nearly 18 months old.

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