Page last updated at 15:45 GMT, Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Doctor guilty of car bomb attacks

Bilal Abdulla

An NHS doctor has been convicted of plotting to bring chaos and murder to London and Glasgow Airport by setting off massive car bombs.

A jury at Woolwich Crown Court found Bilal Abdulla guilty of plotting the home-made bomb attacks in 2007.

Another NHS doctor, Mohammed Asha, was cleared of helping Abdulla and a second attacker, Kafeel Ahmed.

Ahmed died following the Glasgow attack on 30 June 2007, a day after he and Abdulla had attacked London's West End.

Prosecutor Jonathan Laidlaw told the jury the men had been intent on "committing murder on an indiscriminate and wholesale scale" in attacks that would occur without warning, spreading panic among the public.

Abdulla will be sentenced on Wednesday. Meanwhile, lawyers for Dr Asha said he had been served with deportation papers - but would fight to remain in the UK and rebuild his medical career.

'Kill and maim'

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said she was "pleased" with the conviction.

"The attack on Glasgow Airport and the planned bomb in central London sought to kill and maim through attacks of an indiscriminate nature," she said.

"This conviction underlines again the serious and sustained threat we face in the UK from terrorism - which is a threat we must face and deal with together."

The first attack involved two failed car bombs left in London's West End. Then a burning Jeep filled with gas canisters was driven into Glasgow Airport on its busiest day of the year.

In each case, said prosecutors, it was good fortune alone that there had been no loss of innocent life.

Abdulla, an Iraqi who was born in the UK, was one of two bombers along with Kafeel Ahmed. The 29-year-old was arrested near the Jeep at Glasgow Airport terminal building.

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CCTV footage of a car bomb attack at Glasgow airport

Indian-born PhD aeronautical engineering student Ahmed, 28, suffered serious burns and died five weeks later.

Detectives believe the Glasgow attack was a suicide bomb attempt on holidaymakers in the wake of the two botched attacks on London.

Abdulla admitted in court that he was "a terrorist" as defined by English law. He went on to say he believed the British government and Army could equally be accused of terrorism for their actions in Iraq.

But he added he had wanted to frighten people rather than murder them.

At the time of the attacks he was a junior doctor at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley.

The jury at Woolwich Crown Court found Abdulla guilty of conspiracy to murder and conspiracy to cause explosions. He faces a life sentence but showed no reaction as the jury's verdict was read out.

Investigators said they had been shocked to learn of Abdulla's responsible, health sector background.

One senior detective added: "Just the whole idea of people who take the Hippocratic oath who then go on to wantonly seek to destroy human life in the most horrific way imaginable, that is what I find shocking."

Dr Asha, 28, a neurologist at the University Hospital of North Staffordshire, admitted knowing the two bombers but denied any knowledge of their attacks. He was found not guilty of conspiracy to murder and conspiracy to cause explosions.

It was more luck than judgement that their repeated attempts to detonate the two car bombs by mobile phone failed
John McDowall
Metropolitan Police deputy assistant commissioner

He leaned back in his seat, his hands clasped behind his neck in apparent relief as the verdict was read out. Before Dr Asha left the dock the two men embraced and shook hands.

Jim Sturman QC, for Abdulla, said his crimes were motivated by politics, not religion.

"This is not a case where his intention was driven by religious faith but by his frustration with what he saw as an unjust war," he said.

The barrister said his client needed time "to allow the consequences of conviction to sink in".

Speaking after the trial, Crown Prosecution Service lawyer Karen Jones said: "If you are planning to scare people you do not pack cars with petrol, gas and nails.

"If the cars had blown up those nails would not only have killed people but maimed others for life."

Tory MP and security expert Patrick Mercer said it was wrong to call the attacks "amateurish" and said Britain was vulnerable to similar incidents.

"These sort of attacks are relatively easily put together. The materials are relatively easily obtained.

'Highly vulnerable'

"Whilst we have seen highly sophisticated attacks in places like Mumbai in recent weeks, we are still highly vulnerable to the lower end of the lower scale of these sort of attacks being put together without very much central guidance from core al-Qaeda operatives."

Deputy Assistant Commissioner John McDowall, a national counter terrorism co-ordinator at the Metropolitan Police, said he believed the London bombs were to have been the first in a series of similar attacks.

"Abdulla and Kafeel Ahmed had at least two other vehicles and further supplies of gas, petrol and other items for constructing bombs," he said.

"It was more luck than judgement that their repeated attempts to detonate the two car bombs by mobile phone failed."

Strathclyde Police Chief Constable Stephen House said he was "delighted" with the result and grateful for the "solid ties" between the force, community leaders and the area's ethnic minority communities.

Amanda McMillan, managing director of Glasgow Airport, paid tribute to the bravery of airport workers, passengers and the emergency services.

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