Doctors 'plotted to kill hundreds in terror attack'

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The Independent Online

Two doctors plotted to kill hundreds in a wave of car bombings across Britain, a court was told today.

Iraqi Bilal Abdulla, 28, and Jordanian Mohammed Asha, 29, were respected doctors at hospitals in Glasgow and Staffordshire.

But prosecutors said the pair were secretly members of a small cell of Islamic terrorists.

They turned their attention from treating illnesses to planning "indiscriminate and wholesale" murder, London's Woolwich Crown Court heard.

Prosecutor Jonathan Laidlaw QC said only "good fortune" saved people from attacks on London's West End and Glasgow Airport.

He said the men wanted people to be "gripped by fear" as they were in the wake of attacks on the London transport network in July 2005.

Mr Laidlaw said the plotters had access to extra bomb materials and at least two more vehicles for further attacks.

It was claimed they conspired with a third man, Kafeel Ahmed, 28, who died in the suicide attack on Glasgow Airport.

Mr Laidlaw said: "Their plan was to carry out a series of attacks on the public using bombs concealed in vehicles.

"No warnings were to be given and the cars were to be positioned in busy urban areas.

"In short, these men were intent on committing murder on an indiscriminate and a wholesale scale.

"In addition to the killing of the innocent, the objective of course was to seize public attention both here in this country and internationally."

Mr Laidlaw added: "The terrorists knew perfectly well that the public here would be gripped by fear - they would not know when and where the terrorists would strike next."

The court was told the men shared the same extremist ideologies as other Islamic terrorists who have struck in Britain and overseas.

They were motivated by what they saw as the persecution of Muslims in Iraq, Palestine and Afghanistan.

Abdulla worked at the Royal Alexandra Hospital, Paisley, and Asha worked at the University Hospital of North Staffordshire.

Mr Laidlaw said: "Apart from the shocking nature of the activity that these two defendants were engaged in, the extraordinary thing about this case is that both these defendants are doctors."

The two men spent at least six months preparing their terrorist "spectacular", the jury was told.

Members of the cell conducted a reconnaissance trip in May last year to the West End and the area around the Old Bailey.

A house with a garage in a quiet residential area near Paisley, on the outskirts of Glasgow, was rented and used as a bomb factory.

Abdulla and Ahmed drove two Mercedes cars from the property to the West End on June 29 last year.

The cars had been transformed into deadly improvised bombs, packed with gas cylinders, petrol and nails.

One vehicle was left outside the busy Tiger Tiger nightclub in Haymarket, near Piccadilly Circus, with a second vehicle at a nearby bus stop.

The court heard the second car might have been deliberately placed in the path of those evacuated from the first blast.

But the terrorists' plans began to unravel when the improvised bombs failed to detonate.

Prosecutors said two hand-made mobile phone triggers left in each vehicle did not work, despite repeated attempts.

Mr Laidlaw said a number of calls were made but there was not enough oxygen in the cars for the petrol and gas to ignite.

This unexpected failure led to a dramatic change in tactics, the court was told.

As police closed in, Abdulla and Ahmed travelled to Glasgow and prepared a Jeep for the airport attack.

Mr Laidlaw said: "On this occasion there was no remote detonation device incorporated in the Jeep.

"For the attack in Scotland, the driver and the passenger, by using petrol bombs and by spraying petrol around, were going to try and blow the car up with themselves inside.

"This was, for all intent and purposes, a mobile incendiary bomb with specific explosive content in the form of mobile gas canisters."

The vehicle was driven at speed at the airport's main terminal doors by Ahmed but became stuck in the entrance, the court heard.

Despite the men using their petrol bombs and pouring petrol around the Jeep, it did not explode.

Ahmed died from burns four weeks later and Abdulla, who was in the front passenger seat, was arrested.

The court heard Abdulla was a central player in the conspiracy, who helped Ahmed buy cars and parts for the bombs.

Mr Laidlaw said: "This is a man determined on committing murder.

"It was simply good fortune that the bombs did not go off in London. Equally, it was simply luck that protected the people of Scotland."

Asha did not have a front-line role in the terrorist conspiracy, but was a behind-the-scenes mastermind, the court heard.

Mr Laidlaw said Abdulla contacted him at every key stage of his preparations, by telephone and in personal meetings.

The prosecutor said Asha was held in "very high esteem" by Abdulla and paid for some of the vehicles and other materials.

Mr Laidlaw said: "The second man Dr Asha's role is a less obvious and less visible one although he was obviously, suggest the prosecution, an important member of this terrorist cell."

The case continues.