3 doctors detained in British plots

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LONDON — At least three physicians were among the suspects arrested in Britain’s car-bomb plots, and authorities announced three new arrests — including a doctor in Australia — as the investigation spread overseas yesterday.

British media reports said an Indian doctor was among the eight persons in custody, and another outlet said at least five of the detainees in Britain were physicians. British police confirmed that a Palestinian doctor and Iraqi physician were among those held, and Australian officials said a foreign doctor working there had been detained in the case.

Officers used heightened stop-and-search powers and armed response vehicles to hunt for anyone who might have been involved in the plot, and police put on a show of force to bolster security at airports and train stations and on city streets.

Hours after police announced the arrests of two more persons in the Glasgow area, Australian authorities said they had detained an eighth suspect trying to leave the country from the airport in the eastern city of Brisbane.

Queensland state Premier Peter Beattie described the suspect as a 27-year-old “model citizen” but withheld his identity.

Australian Attorney General Philip Ruddock said the detained suspect was a doctor at a hospital in Queensland state and was not a citizen. Authorities said he was recruited in Liverpool, England, but completed his medical internship in India.

A British security official said earlier in the day that Pakistan and several other nations were asked to check for links to the suspects. British-born terrorists behind the bloody 2005 London transit bombings and others in thwarted plots here were linked to terror training camps and foreign radicals in Pakistan.

“We have asked partners overseas to check possible links and that work has begun,” the security official said, adding that it was still possible that some British-born people were involved in the plot. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case.

Authorities said police searched at least 19 locations as part of the “fast-moving investigation,” which has come at a time of already high vigilance before the anniversary of the suicide bombings in London that killed 52 persons on July 7, 2005.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who has said the group behind the weekend attacks was “associated with al Qaeda,”got a call from President Bush commending him for Britain’s response.

“President Bush concluded by reiterating that the United States is prepared to offer any assistance desired and noted the importance of continued cooperation,” said Gordon Johndroe, spokesman for the White House’s National Security Council.

Two U.S. counterterrorism officials, who agreed to discuss the case only if not quoted by name, said the attackers in Britain were Islamic extremists sympathetic to al Qaeda, but investigators were still trying to figure out whether there were any direct links.

One of the officials also said there continued to be concerns about possible plots to attack the United States, including the potential for a large-scale assault by al Qaeda.

In the latest attacks, two car bombs failed to explode in Central London on Friday and two men rammed a Jeep Cherokee loaded with gas cylinders into the entrance of Glasgow Airport and then set it on fire Saturday.

The British government security official said investigators were working on a theory that the same people may have driven the explosives-laden cars into London and the blazing sport utility vehicle in Glasgow.

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