Thursday, August 09, 2007

Al-Qaida seeks hospital chemicals
Terrorists target agent in radiotherapy to use as mass killer
Publishing Date:
06.08.07 12:19
By Gordon Thomas
LONDON - The British intelligence agency MI5 warns al-Qaida terrorists have been ordered to obtain a hospital chemical used in radiotherapy equipment for cancer treatment in UK hospitals and specialist clinics.
The chemical is cesium-137 and "would be almost certain to kill hundreds once ingested," states the MI5 warning. The chemical is used in the treatment of gynecological cancers and is stocked in all of Britain's oncology centers.
Since the latest foiled Glasgow and London car bombings, which were organized by six doctors later identified as al-Qaida supporters, MI5 has focused on the threat posed to Britain by the tens of thousands of foreign medical students and qualified doctors in the country. A growing number come from the Middle East and Pakistan.
One was Dr. Kafeel Ahmed, described by his colleagues as "a brilliant surgeon". He was the driver of the Cherokee Jeep which he tried to crash into the crowded terminal at Glasgow airport last month. He died last week from the burns he received when his vehicle, filled with gasoline, exploded. Part of his medical duties included working in the oncology unit of his hospital.
MI5 has established all the doctors arrested had easy contact with cesium-137 as part of their daily duties.
His brother Saheel Ahmed, also a plotter, qualified as a doctor in Bangalore, India. On his website, he called himself "mujadid" - holy warrior. And, in an embarrassment to the Security Service, information has surfaced that one doctor, Bilal Abdulla, was on MI5's Watch List, suspected of having had contacts with al-Qaida in Pakistan.
Dr. Mohammed Asha, another plotter arrested over the Glasgow bombing, worked at Royal Shrewsbury Hospital in the North of England. His wife, Mara, worked as a lab technician handling cancer biopsy tests. Before coming to Britain to work in hospitals while completing their qualifications for higher degrees, the plotting doctors had visited al-Qaida's heartland in the northern mountains of Pakistan.
"Until now, we had never regarded foreign doctors as posing any terrorist threat. Since the Glasgow attacks, we have begun to urgently check the background of all foreign doctors and students," said a senior MI5 officer.
In the meantime, Britain's National Health Service has ordered all hospitals to place cesium-137 in a restricted area and the chemical has to be signed for before use.
Professor Peter Zimmerman at Kings College Hospital in London said: "Used by a terrorist to create chemical ingestion through inhalation would lead to almost certain hundreds of people being killed."
Gordon Thomas is the author of "Gideon's Spies: The Secret History of the Mossad," published in a new edition in January. He specializes in international intelligence matters.


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