18 Dec 2008

Iraqi doctor jailed for 32 years over failed UK attacks

7:17 am on 18 December 2008

A British court has jailed an Iraqi doctor for 32 years for trying to murder hundreds of people in failed car bombings in London and Glasgow last year.

British-born Bilal Abdulla, 29, had been found guilty of conspiracy to cause explosions in June 2007.

His co-defendant Jordanian neurologist Mohammed Asha, 28, was cleared, and said he would fight efforts to deport him.

Judge Colin Crichton Mackay told Abdulla at Woolwich Crown Court in southeast London that he was a "religious extremist and a bigot" before passing two life sentences on him.

He said Abdulla's anger at the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 could not justify such actions by an educated and well-paid medical professional.

Indian doctor Mohammed Haneef was also charged over the plot after being detained in Brisbane in July last year, but the charge of supporting a terrorist organisation was later withdrawn because of a lack of evidence.

Bomb plot

Police discovered two Mercedes cars loaded with bombs made of gas cylinders, petrol and nails left outside the Tiger Tiger nightclub and a bus stop in a bid to target late-night revellers in London's West End on 29 June 2007.

The devices failed to explode because of faulty connections in mobile phones being used as detonators and the smothering effect of petrol and gas fumes, jurors heard.

The next day a Jeep carrying a similar deadly cargo was crashed into the front of the main terminal at Glasgow airport in Scotland in an alleged suicide attack.

Hundreds of travellers fled in terror after the vehicle caught fire and thick smoke filled the terminal, although there was no explosion.

Abdulla, who, along with Asha, worked in Britain's National Health Service, was arrested at the scene after throwing petrol bombs and fighting with police, while Asha was arrested as he travelled on a motorway with his wife and young son several hours later.

The attacks prompted British security services to raise the national terror threat level to "critical", the highest of five levels, on 30 June.

Also detained at the site of the Glasgow attack was Kafeel Ahmed, the driver of the blazing Jeep, who died a month after the Glasgow attack from burns suffered at the time.

His brother Sabeel was found guilty by a British court in April of withholding information from police about the failed attacks, and sentenced to 18 months in jail.

He was deported to his home country India in May after being released from custody as a result of the amount of time he had already served in jail.