Thu, Feb 01, 2007 - Page 7 News List

UK police arrest nine in `Iraq-style kidnapping plot'


British counter-terrorism police arrested nine men in an alleged kidnapping plot in Birmingham yesterday, police said. The men were to behead a British Muslim soldier and then show it on the Internet, Sky News and CNN said.

Police would not comment on the report of a beheading plan, but counterterrorism officials speaking on condition of anonymity said the kidnapping plot was the first of its kind to be uncovered in Britain.

The potential victim was in protective police custody, Sky reported, saying the kidnapping was going to be an "Iraq-style" execution. The network did not reveal the identity of its sources.

Police were searching 12 homes in the predominantly Pakistani neighborhood in the central England city. Two Islamic book stores were also cordoned off.

The arrested were accused of committing, preparing or instigating terrorist acts, police said.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair's spokesman declined to comment on the ongoing police operation.

Sky TV reported that British investigators contacted Pakistani intelligence agents four days ago about the plot. Britain's Foreign Office would not confirm there were such discussions.

In Islamabad, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam said: "The British authorities have confirmed to us that there is no Pakistan connection."

Birmingham has been the site of recent terrorism sweeps. Raids in the summer 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 militant Islamist Web sites to denounce Corporal Jabron Hashmi, 24, as a traitor. The Web site for extremist British sect al-Ghurabaa posted an image of the soldier surrounded by flames.

Additional reporting by staff writer

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