London Bombers Sped to Glasgow,
By SERGE F. KOVALESKI and ALAN COWELL
Published: July 6, 2007
HOUSTON, Scotland, July 5 — British investigators
have concluded that the two men who carried out an
attack at Glasgow’s international airport last
Saturday had sped there after a failed attempt to
bomb a nightclub in central London, a British
security official said Thursday.
And, for the first time, witnesses, a neighbor and
the police have provided descriptions of the two men
— Dr. Bilal Abdulla and Dr. Khalil Ahmed — saying
they may have lived together intermittently in this
placid neighborhood outside Glasgow and that a Jeep
Cherokee similar to the one used to crash into an
airport terminal was seen speeding around in the
weeks before the botched bombings.
A week after the intended bombings in London and
Glasgow — with the potential to kill scores of
late-night revelers and travelers — law enforcement
officials say that the evidence emerging is that the
two doctors were the main operatives, if not the
leaders, of a network of other medical
The manager of a local cab company said in an
interview on Thursday that on two occasions over a
five-week period from the end of May to the end of
June a taxi picked up the two men together,
suggesting that they could have been sharing a home
here from time to time.
In one of those instances, according to Denis
O’Donnell, the manager of the Paisley Cab Company,
the taxi driver dropped off a man whom he now
believes to be Dr. Ahmed at a local Asda
supermarket, about halfway between the house Dr.
Abdulla had been renting since April on Neuk
Crescent here and the Royal Alexandra Hospital in
nearby Paisley where he worked.
Much still remains unknown about the plot, including
whether it was planned inside Britain, in Iraq or
elsewhere. Altogether, eight suspects are in police
custody in the case.
Charles MacPherson, 34, who lives in a development
near the Nuek Crescent cul-de-sac where Dr. Abdulla
rented his home, said Thursday that the
neighborhood’s tranquillity recently was roiled by a
speeding vehicle resembling the one used in the
“Someone has been driving this green Jeep at high
speeds up and down the road,” he said. “It stands
out because it’s the only Jeep in the area.”
A British security official, who spoke anonymously
under government rules, said investigators now
believed that Dr. Abdulla and Dr. Ahmed had also
tried to set off two car bombs in London a day
before the fiery airport attack in Glasgow.
In the early hours of last Friday, the police
discovered a silver green Mercedes outside the Tiger
Tiger nightclub in London’s Haymarket. An ambulance
crew saw what was thought to be smoke in the vehicle
and called the police. A police officer removed a
detonation device that used a cellphone, police
officials said at the time. The Mercedes was packed
with gasoline, gas canisters and nails.
A short time later, a second Mercedes laden with the
same dangerous cargo was discovered in a “no
parking” zone near Haymarket and towed away.
Afterward, the police said that this vehicle, a navy
blue Mercedes, had also been primed to explode but
had failed to detonate.
An American visitor, Eric Wolff, who saw the blue
car, wrote in an e-mail message to The New York
Times: “I just missed a 2:34 a.m. bus to Marylebone
Road and ended up waiting until 3:34 for the next
bus to arrive. I was standing at the bus stop in
front of the blue Mercedes when it was towed.”
“The car was small and squarish, probably more than
a few years old. The city came in with a ‘tow truck’
that lifted the car straight up with a crane
mechanism and placed it on the truck bed,” Mr. Wolff
wrote. “One of the tow guys took several pictures of
the car with a digital camera as the car was being
As depicted by British security officials, the
events unfolded after Dr. Abdulla and Dr. Ahmed
drove the Mercedes down the 400 miles of highway
from Glasgow to London, possibly on a route that led
close to towns like Halton in Cheshire and
Newcastle-Under-Lyme in Staffordshire, linked to
other people believed to be associated with the
But their plan went awry when the explosives failed
to detonate for reasons that have not been made
public. The two men returned to Glasgow and resolved
to use the green Jeep Cherokee in an attack they
might have rehearsed a few days earlier when they
took a Paisley cab to Glasgow’s airport, according
to the authorities.
The motives behind the second attack remain opaque.
“They probably knew they were going to be discovered
and made one last attempt to execute a switch to
Glasgow,” said another law enforcement official with
knowledge of the investigation, who spoke on
condition of anonymity.
But, this official said, investigators are not sure
whether the Glasgow episode was a reaction to the
failure of the first attack or had been planned all
along. “It may have been a knee-jerk reaction to a
failed attack,” the official said.
“If this was Plan B” in Glasgow, the British
security official said, “I’m not sure what Plan A
was.” Dr. Ahmed was so badly burned from the attack
that he has not been questioned, while Dr. Abdulla
has spoken to investigators.
There were suggestions Thursday that those now under
suspicion of attempting attacks on London and
Glasgow had spent time together in Cambridge — one
of Britain’s premier university towns. The BBC
reported that four of those being questioned were in
the city in 2005 and that a “Cambridge connection”
had been identified.
Hicham Kweider, secretary of the Cambridge Muslim
Welfare Society, said he had met Dr. Abdulla in the
city in 2005.
Speaking to the BBC, Shiraz Maher, who described
himself as a former member of the radical Islamic
group Hizb ut-Tahrir, said he recognized both Dr.
Abdulla and Dr. Ahmed from his days in Cambridge.
Mohammed Asha, who was also arrested by the police
heading north on an English motorway, was reported
by the British news media to have worked at
Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge.
Another suspect, Sabeel Ahmed, possibly the brother
of Dr. Ahmed, was also reported to have been in the
city at the time.
A British official speaking on condition of
anonymity said, “What the authorities are trying to
piece together is whether there is a point in this
country where they were all active, but that’s an
angle they are exploring.”
He added that the security services “will be looking
at family connections, association — business and
social; they will be building up concentric circles
around each and seeing where they cross.”
In Houston, Mr. O’Donnell, the cab company manager,
said that Paisley Cab had provided the police with a
CD containing all recordings of its phone
conversations with the Neuk Crescent household. The
company digitally stores such information for 90
days, he said.
Mr. O’Donnell said the company picked up Dr. Abdulla
going to or from work about 20 times from May 22 to
June 28. During the two times that Dr. Abdulla and
Dr. Ahmed were passengers together in his taxis, Mr.
O’Donnell said, “both men were well dressed and had
a good command of the English language. They were
pleasant and made small talk with my drivers.”
Daniel Gardiner, 41, the owner of the Let-It
property leasing company in Paisley — which rented
the two-bedroom brick and cement home on Neuk
Crescent to Dr. Abdulla — said Dr. Abdulla took out
a six-month lease at the end of April. He was paying
$1,150 monthly rent.
“The whole thing was normal in every way,” Mr.
Gardiner said. “We ran a full credit check and since
he had a British passport, it was easy.”
He said that Dr. Abdulla had provided a reference
from an employer and that two different Let-It
employees interviewed Dr. Abdulla as part of the
application process. Mr. Gardiner said that Dr.
Abdulla paid for the next month’s rent last week by
This has led Mr. Gardiner to speculate that the
Glasgow attack was a hastily planned reaction to the
failure of the London plot.
“Would you have paid your last rent check knowing
you were going to kill yourself?” he asked.
Let-It has turned over to the police both the
photocopies and originals of the documentation used
for Dr. Abdulla’s lease, Mr. Gardiner said. “The
police are looking for fingerprints,” he said.
Dr. Abdulla’s property was due a visit from Let-It
at the end of July. “It’s standard to inspect our
rental properties every three months,” Mr. Gardiner
“It makes sense that only Dr. Abdulla would have
wanted to be on the lease, even though anyone living
in the home is supposed to be on the lease,” Mr.
Gardiner said. “His British passport made clearance