Indian doctors held as terror suspects identified


London : The Indian doctor arrested on Sunday in Liverpool has been identified as Sabeel Ahmed as fast-moving investigations into last week's attempted car bombs revealed that all the eight persons arrested had links with Britain's National Health Service (NHS).

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Mohammed Haneef, the Indian doctor arrested in Australia, and his fellow Indian doctor colleague Mohammed Asif Ali, who has been detained, also worked in Liverpool before moving to Australia.

Indeed, the two, along with Sabeel Ahmed, have come to be dubbed in the media here as the 'Liverpool cell' of Indian doctors. Haneef and Ali are reported to have moved to Australia after responding to a job advertisement in the British Medical Journal.

The eight people arrested so far include doctors or health professionals from India, Iraq and Jordan.

Sian Thomas, deputy director of NHS Employers, said she wanted to reassure the public there were "thorough and robust checks" in place before doctors were employed by NHS trusts. The most recent figures show that almost 128,000 of the 277,000 doctors on the General Medical Council register have been trained outside Britain.

Abdula Shehu, member of the Muslim Doctors Association and chairman of the Muslim Council of Britain's health committee, said he was worried about a possible backlash against Muslim doctors.

He told the BBC: "To generalise for an event like this and think that Muslim doctors generally should have a different kind of treatment or perception in a negative way should not be the issue here."

Edwin Borman, chairman of the British Medical Association's international committee, said if allegations were proven against doctors it would be a "betrayal" of society because of the oath they sign up to promising to do no harm. He added: "It must be remembered that the NHS has benefited from doctors [from abroad]."

On Tuesday evening, Heathrow Airport's Terminal 4 was reopened after a suspect bag sparked a security alert. The British Airports Authority said that the departure lounge was partially evacuated, leaving thousands of people facing delays.

Meanwhile, the British government has decided to ban two extreme Islamist groups accused of carrying out terrorist attacks in South Asia. The groups are Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh and Tehreek Nifaz-e-Shariat Mohammadi.

The groups would be added to the list of organisations proscribed under the Terrorism Act. The development was unconnected with the attempted car bombings in London and Glasgow, a Home Office statement said.

The minister for counter-terrorism and security, Tony McNulty, published a draft order in parliament Tuesday. Once passed, it will be an offence to belong to or encourage support for either group.

McNulty said in a statement: "As events over the last few days have shown only too clearly, the threat we face from terrorism remains real and serious. Proscription powers are a key tool in the fight against terrorism, creating a hostile environment in which terrorists find it increasingly difficult to operate, whether in this country or abroad."

Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh is banned in Bangladesh, where it has claimed responsibility for attacks, including a wave of bombings in 2005 that killed at least 30 people. The group's leader, Shaikh Abdur Rahman, and his deputy were among six people hanged in March for their role in the violence.

Tehreek Nifaz-e-Shariat Mohammadi is reported to be active in tribal areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan. The group "regularly attacks coalition and Afghan government forces in Afghanistan and provides direct support to Al-Qaeda and the Taliban", according to the draft order.

The group was blamed for a suicide bombing that killed 44 Pakistani military cadets in November 2006. So far, 44 primarily Islamist organisations have been banned in the UK, along with 14 groups in Northern Ireland outlawed under earlier legislation.