PHILADELPHIA – Two doctors accused of plotting last weekend's failed terror bombings in London and Glasgow inquired about coming to the United States to continue their medical studies, the FBI confirmed Friday.
FBI spokeswoman Nancy O'Dowd confirmed a report in The Philadelphia Inquirer that the pair took preliminary steps to apply for graduate medical programs in the U.S.
This is the first suggestion that any of the suspected Islamic terrorists in Britain wanted to come to the United States.
One of the doctors was identified as Mohammed Jamil Asha, 26, a neurologist from Jordan who was arrested in a car on the M6 Highway near Manchester, England, with his wife and 1 1/2-year-old son after the failed attacks.
The Inquirer could not determine the identity of the second doctor.
According to the report, FBI agents visited the Philadelphia headquarters of the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates after the failed terror attack on the Glasgow airport. The commission certifies the qualifications of foreign-trained doctors to work as medical residents in the U.S.
The agents found records there of Asha and the other unidentified doctor alleged to have plotted the attacks in London and Glasgow, the Inquirer reported.
O'Dowd said Asha contacted the agency within the last year, but apparently did not take the test for foreign medical school graduates.
"He was applying, (but) we don't believe he took the test," she said.
A spokesman for the Education Commission, citing privacy rules, told the Inquirer he could not discuss the FBI visit or confirm any reports that the doctors had applied to come to the U.S.
As British police continue to question the eight suspects -- six Middle Easterners and two Indian nationals -- Britain's intelligence agencies are focusing on their international links, one British intelligence official and another government official said speaking on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to the press.
"We've known for quite some time of Al Qaeda's growth in Iraq," a government official told The Associated Press. "Iraq is an obvious place to look for connections, but it's not the only country link we're investigating."
MI5, Britain's domestic intelligence agency, said on its Web site that some Britons had joined the Iraqi insurgency.
"In the longer term, it is possible that they may later return to the UK and consider mounting attacks here," the Web site said. "British and foreign nationals linked to or sympathetic with al-Qaida are known to be present within the UK. They are supporting the activities of terrorist groups in a range of ways."
Metropolitan police, who are leading the investigation into the failed bombing attacks in London and Glasgow, Scotland, refused on Friday to confirm or deny the role the MI5 and MI6 are playing in the probe.
Al Qaeda in Iraq is believed to have become better organized since Abu Ayyub al-Masri, an Egyptian, took it over from Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian who was killed by coalition forces a year ago. Iraqi officials also have said the terrorist group is now delegating more authority to sympathetic cells in other countries.
The eight suspects arrested in Saturday's airport attack and two failed car bombings a day earlier in London were all foreigners working for Britain's state health system, and investigators are pressing to find what brought them together.
In Australia, police seized computers from two hospitals Friday as they explored connections between the British plotters and Muhammad Haneef, an Indian doctor arrested there.
"There are a number of people now being interviewed as part of this investigation; it doesn't mean that they're all suspects but it is quite a complex investigation and the links to the U.K. are becoming more concrete," said Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty.
Muslim groups in Britain placed advertisements in British national newspapers in praise of the emergency services and to declare that terrorism is "not in our name," borrowing the slogan from the mass protests in Britain against the invasion of Iraq.
The ads from the Muslims United coalition also quoted the Quran: "Whoever kills an innocent soul, it is as if he killed the whole of mankind. And whoever saves one, it is as if he saved the whole of mankind."
The eight suspects arrested in Britain following Saturday's airport attack and two failed car bombings a day earlier in London were all foreigners employed in the National Health Service.
Brown said the British public could expect intensified security checks in the weeks ahead.
"Crowded places and airports, I think people will have to accept that the security will be more intense," Brown said. "We have got to avoid the possibility -- and it is very, very difficult -- that people can use these crowded places for explosions."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.