- The Washington Times - Friday, July 6, 2007

LONDON — Two suspects in the failed car bombings in Britain had contacted a clearinghouse for foreign doctors about working in the United States, the FBI said today, and British officials probed links between the attacks and al Qaeda in Iraq.

An FBI spokeswoman said Mohammed Asha and another suspect had contacted the Philadelphia-based Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates, as first reported in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Dr. Asha, a Jordanian physician of Palestinian heritage, contacted the agency within the past year but apparently did not take the test for foreign medical school graduates, said the spokeswoman, Nancy O’Dowd.

“He was applying, [but] we don’t believe he took the test,” she said.

Miss O’Dowd could not immediately confirm the name of the second suspect.

The FBI visited the organization’s office in West Philadelphia this week, she said.

On June 29, authorities defused two car bombs that had been set to explode near packed nightclubs and pubs in central London. The next day, two persons rammed a car loaded with gas canisters into the airport terminal in Glasgow, Scotland. The car ignited, seriously injuring one of the suspects. Both men in the car have been arrested.

“From what I know, we are getting to the bottom of this cell that has been responsible for what is happening,” Prime Minister Gordon Brown said in an interview with British Broadcasting Corp. television.

Dr. Asha was arrested on the M6 highway Saturday night along with his wife. In Jordan, security officials said Dr. Asha had no criminal record, and friends and family said they found it hard to believe either he or his wife was connected with terrorism.

Mr. Brown said Britons could expect intensified security checks in the weeks ahead with the country’s terrorism threat level at “severe,” meaning more attacks are considered likely.

A host of major public events are under way now or about to begin, including the Wimbledon tennis tournament, the Tour de France in London, and a Live Earth concert.

The country also is planning several ceremonies tomorrow to mark the second anniversary of London suicide bombings that killed 52 persons and wounded more than 700 on July 7, 2005.

As police continue to question the eight suspects — six Middle Easterners and two Indian nationals — Britain’s intelligence agencies are focusing on their international links, one British intelligence official and another government official said.

The eight suspects arrested in Saturday’s airport attack and two failed car bombings a day earlier in London were all foreigners working for Britain’s state health system, and investigators are pressing to find what brought them together.

Police also reportedly are trying to determine whether the two suspects arrested during the Glasgow attack, Bilal Abdulla and Khalid Ahmed, had taken part in the attempted bombings in London and whether they were the ringleaders of a cell containing all the suspects.

Dr. Ahmed, identified by staff at Glasgow’s Royal Alexandra Hospital as a Lebanese physician employed there, is being treated for horrific burns suffered when he set himself on fire after crashing the Jeep loaded with rudimentary bombs into the airport.

Dr. Abdulla, a passenger in the Jeep, is an Iraqi doctor employed by Royal Alexandra Hospital.

Dr. Ahmed, who was burned over 90 percent of his body, was admitted to Royal Alexandra in critical condition. When he stabilized today, he was sedated and moved to a burn unit at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, a city government spokesman said.

In Australia, police today seized computers from two hospitals as they explored connections between the British plotters and Muhammad Haneef, an Indian doctor arrested there.

“There are a number of people now being interviewed as part of this investigation; it doesn’t mean that they’re all suspects, but it is quite a complex investigation, and the links to the U.K. are becoming more concrete,” said Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty.

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