Australian police arrest doctor in U.K. terror plot

Posted in Terrorism | 03-Jul-07 | Source: International Herald Tribune

Armed British police patrol through Glasgow Airport in Scotland.

BRISBANE, Australia: Police in Australia arrested an Indian doctor in connection with the foiled terror attacks in London and Glasgow as he tried to leave the country and were interviewing a second doctor in the case, officials said Tuesday.

Police seized the 27-year-old Indian man, whose name was not immediately released, at the international airport in the eastern city of Brisbane, where he was trying to board a flight with a one-way ticket late Monday, Attorney General Philip Ruddock told reporters in the national capital, Canberra.

Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio reported that a state medical board official had confirmed the suspect's name was Muhammad Haneef. A Medical Board of Queensland spokesman was not immediately available for comment.

No charges have been filed yet. Under federal counterterrorism laws, terror suspects can be held without charge for three days, and for longer periods with court approval.

Prime Minister John Howard identified the arrested man as an Indian national who was granted a temporary work visa after he was hired to work as a doctor at a hospital in eastern Australia last year.

A second doctor at the hospital was being questioned by authorities because of information divulged by the arrested man, Howard said. Authorities did not immediately reveal the nationality of the second man.

The Indian doctor is one of eight people — including at least two other doctors identified by British authorities — arrested over a string of failed terror attacks in Britain. The attack plots include two car bombs that failed to explode in central London on Friday, and two men who rammed a vehicle with gas cylinders into an airport entrance in Glasgow, Scotland, and then set it on fire Saturday.

Officials would not say what the man's alleged involvement in the British terror plots was, but said they detained him on advice from British officials. They also declined to tell reporters where the man had been heading when he was arrested.

The prime minister refused to say whether British authorities have asked for his extradition.

Queensland state leader Peter Beattie said the suspect completed his medical studies in India but came to Australia from Liverpool, Britain.

Records showed he graduated in 2002 from Rajiv Ganghi University of Health Sciences at Bangalore, in the state of Karnataka, the ABC reported.

The man had answered an advertisement in the British Medical Journal for a position at the Gold Coast Hospital in eastern Queensland, where he had worked since September last year.

"The doctor was regarded by the hospital as, in many senses, a model citizen — excellent references and so on," Beattie said, adding that the doctor had not resigned before attempting to leave the country.

Beattie, speaking to reporters in Brisbane, said that police also were interviewing a second doctor in the case, but that authorities are not aware of any specific link between the man and the foiled attacks.

The second doctor also was recruited from Liverpool, Beattie said. It was not clear where he completed his studies.

Local media reports said the arrested man was about to board a flight to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, intending to get a connecting flight to India, but officials would not confirm the reports.

Police executed a number of search warrants across Queensland overnight, including at the hospital where the man worked, but there was no sign that Australia was a possible target for attack, Ruddock said.

"While a terrorist attack could certainly be possible in Australia, we have no specific information about any such planned action here," Ruddock said.