LONDON — Three days after British police stumbled upon the first of what would be three attempted car bombs around the United Kingdom, the investigation Sunday was moving swiftly but growing more complicated.
By early Sunday, police had arrested five people, none of whom, police said privately, was British-born.
Two were reported by local media to be doctors employed at British hospitals.
If that turns out to be true, it will be a sharp departure from the past two summers in which home-grown terrorists were held responsible --first for the deadly mass transit attacks of July 7, 2005, the unsuccessful attacks two weeks later, and finally the plot to blow up trans-Atlantic commercial jets that was broken up at this time last summer.
Magnus Ranstorp, chief scientist at the Swedish Defense College, said that the weekend attacks had the markings of being a highly organized effort, carried out by people who were not particularly well-trained. But he said there appeared to be elements of panic in the events.
Police found the first car bomb early Friday morning, after emergency medical personnel were called to a London night club where a young man had fallen and hurt himself. While there, they noticed smoke coming from a car parked nearby. A police bomb squad disarmed the car bomb, which had been packed with gas and gasoline canisters, and nails to cause maximum injury.
That set off a search for other cars, and one was found in a police towing lot, where officers had noticed a strong smell of gasoline coming from a car that had been illegally parked.
"They made a mistake in where they parked the cars in London," Ranstorp said. "At that point, the attack on the Glasgow airport appears to be the desperate act of people who believe time is running out before they're caught."
He added, however, that the men who rammed their flaming vehicle through the glass of the airport terminal, poured gasoline on themselves, and shouted "Allahu Akbar" (God is Great) as they burned and resisted arrest, showed intense commitment.
British police moved quickly. Two men were arrested from a burning Jeep Cherokee — one with burns over 90 percent of his body. Another two — reported to be a 26-year-old doctor and a 27-year-old woman_were arrested early Sunday after a high-speed chase on the M-6 highway near Liverpool. And the fifth was arrested early Sunday in central Liverpool.
Police said privately they were searching for as many as three other prime suspects.
British media reports said police this time believed that most, if not all, of the five terror suspects arrested in connection with three cars bombs in Britain this weekend were not British. A spokesman for New Scotland Yard said only: "unfortunately, we're not discussing nationalities."
As for the investigation, Deputy Assistant Police Commissioner Peter Clarke said he was "absolutely confident" of uncovering detail of the attackers' methods and network.
Gordon Brown, Britain's new Labor Prime Minister, blamed the incidents on al Qaida.
It's "clear that we are dealing, in general terms, with people who are associated with al Qaida," he said. "It's obvious that we have a group of people - not just in this country, but round the world - who're prepared at any time to inflict what they want to be maximum damage on civilians, irrespective of the religion of these people who are killed or maimed are to be."
Former Prime Minister Tony Blair, who just stepped down from the post last week, said in a documentary aired Sunday that the foundation of the argument radical Muslims are using — that they are oppressed in the West — is absurd.
"We're not actually standing up to these people and saying," he said, adding, "'It's not just your methods that are wrong, your ideas are absurd. Nobody is oppressing you. Your sense of grievance isn't justified.'"
Blair went on to say that criticism of anti-terror law as curbing civil liberties was "loopy-loo."