BIRMINGHAM, England – British counter-terrorism police arrested nine men Wednesday for allegedly plotting to kidnap a British Muslim soldier and post his beheading on the Internet.
Police said the "Iraq-style" plot involved the abduction of a "not high-profile" British Muslim soldier who had served in Afghanistan. Police did not reveal the name of the intended target, reportedly in his 20s, but said he was in police protective custody.
Eight suspects were arrested in a series of raids across Birmingham, England's second-largest city. The arrest of a ninth was announced later, but police did not say where the man was apprehended.
"The threat of terrorism has been growing over the years," David Shaw, of the West Midlands Police, said in announcing the arrest.
The suspects — all believed to be of Pakistani origin — wanted to film his torture and beheading and post it on the Internet for propaganda purposes, police said. A source said two suspects were males aged 31 and 29; the latter has been named locally as Amjad Mahmood.
Birmingham streets were sealed off as authorities searched at least 12 locations in a predominantly Pakistani neighborhood, including an Islamic bookstore and a grocery store.
Birmingham has been the site of several terrorism sweeps. Summer raids turned up an alleged plot that involved several suspects from Birmingham, London and other British cities who allegedly planned to use liquid explosives to blow up as many as 10 trans-Atlantic flights.
Birmingham was also the hometown of Britain's first Muslim soldier to be killed in Afghanistan last year — a death prompting some militant Islamists to denounce on the Internet Cpl. Jabron Hashmi, 24, as a traitor. Extremist British sect al-Ghurabaa's site posted an image of the soldier surrounded by flames.
The Defense Ministry said 330 Muslim personnel are serving in the British armed forces. It would not comment on reports that the intended victim of alleged kidnapping plot was a Muslim soldier.
Dozens of people have been kidnapped in Iraq, and captors often have broadcast their pictures on the Internet.
One widely publicized kidnapping-execution was that of 62-year-old Kenneth Bigley from Liverpool. He was kidnapped from a Baghdad suburb where he was working in September 2004 and beheaded three weeks later. His death was captured on video.
The arrests follow a six-month investigation, Scotland Yard sources said, and the targets of the plot are thought to be "not principally in London." Police said that plan was not meant to inflict "significant numbers of casualties" and is being described as a "different approach" to terror.
The operation, led by the Midlands Counterterrorism unit, is ongoing and authorities said more arrests may be coming.
The Associated Press and Sky News contributed to this report.
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