UK airport bomber was 'shy, nervous student'
UK, Aug 8: HE WAS the face of the foiled terrorist attack on Scotland, a man engulfed in
fire who raged against police and members of the public as flames consumed his
flesh and sealed his fate.
The death of Kafeel Ahmed, after 33 days in hospital intensive care units is
a blow to the authorities who have lost the opportunity to discover what drove a
brilliant engineer to turn his car into a bomb and himself into a fireball.
Too ill to even be charged with his act of terrorism, Kafeel Ahmed, a
28-year-old Indian, was the driver of the Jeep Cherokee that smashed into the
entrance of Glasgow Airport last month after he left a rented house in the
village of Houston, a few miles from his final target.
Stewart Ferguson, an off-duty police officer who trained a fire extinguisher
on Ahmed as he lay burning outside the terminal, later spoke of being taken
aback at how little the suspect was moving, despite his body being engulfed in
"He was well ablaze - clothing, hair, skin - and from the attitude that he
was in, lying on his back, there was a kind of resignation about him," Constable
In the days after the thwarted attack, the focus fell on a ring of young
doctors, among whom Ahmed was believed to have worked.
In a welter of speculation, during which he was identified initially as being
of Lebanese origin, Kafeel - or, as he was also originally referred to, Khalid -
was thought to have been a doctor at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley.
But a week after the attack, his true identity and alleged part in the plot
The son of Maqbool Ahmed and his wife, Zakhia, both doctors, he was raised in
a home in the wealthy Banashankari area of Bangalore, south-eastern India. His
parents have now retired after closing down a nursing home they ran for several
Kafeel and his brother, Sabeel, were born in Saudi Arabia, where their
parents worked for a few years.
Sabeel Ahmed has been charged with withholding information that could prevent
an act of terrorism.
Kafeel was revealed to be a doctor, but of engineering, not medicine, and
possessed the knowledge with which to construct explosive devices.
He initially obtained a degree in engineering at a college in Davangere,
about 300 miles north-west of Bangalore.
Fellow students remembered him as a nervous young man, painfully shy, and who
rarely mentioned religion, but wept when mocked. "He was always very nervous
during that time and once or twice he even started crying," said KV Arun, a
former classmate. "But no-one can deny that he was brilliant."
Ahmed provided false information for admission to the college, stating he was
a Hindu rather than a Muslim.
His college record shows he ranked fifth in a graduating class of nearly 400,
earning a degree in mechanical engineering in 2000.
He then travelled to Belfast where he completed a master of philosophy degree
in aeronautical engineering at Queen's University in 2003.
He later specialised for a doctorate in computational fluid dynamics, gained
at Anglia Polytechnic University, later renamed Anglia Ruskin University, in
Cambridge. A complex subject, it involves using computers to simulate the flow
of fluids and gases over structures.
Professor Derek Sheldon, who supervised Ahmed during his time at Anglia
Ruskin and was cited by the young man as a referee, expressed shock at hearing
of his alleged involvement in a terrorist plot, but suggested he may have been
radicalised in recent times.
Prof Sheldon said: "I can't believe it is the same boy. He was a lovely
person when I knew him. I was in constant contact with him until last December,
During Ahmed's time in Belfast, where he lived in Hampton Place between 2001
and 2004, he was a member of the Islamic Student Society of Northern Ireland.
Jamal Iweida, of the Belfast Islamic Centre, also put forward the image of a
friendly, polite student. He said: "He was a very pleasant, very placid, and
friendly guy. He was very polite, intelligent, and intellectual. He was one of
the main people in the society who organised very good activities about
multiculturalism, inter-faith integration, and the like. They would invite
speakers from other religions."
It is believed the fight to keep Ahmed alive involved a pioneering skin graft
procedure, using a skin substitute made from shark cartilage and cow tendons.
The implants cost an estimated £20,000.
SOME ANSWERS GO TO GRAVE
WHILE long expected, the death of Ahmed will render an already difficult
investigation all the more problematic.
Police were unable to question him and in his final days his guard was
reduced to a single officer.
It will now be more difficult to discover who and what converted a quiet,
nervous young man into a radical terrorist who was prepared to sacrifice his
life and that of many innocent travellers. There are, however, clues.
Police have already examined his computer and CDs seized from his house in
Banashankari in India.
It is understood that information gathered so far from the hard disc and the
CDs show that he was interested in Jihad literature and the plight of the
Muslims in Iraq, Afghanistan and Chechnya.
They will also have prepared a portrait of him by analysing his telephone
records, his e-mails and from carefully scrutinising the contents of the burnt
out Jeep as well as the house in Houston where he allegedly prepared the
improvised bombs. Yet the anti-terrorism officers can now only speculate on what
he might have provided had he lived and talked.